Last July, the Obama administration’s U.S. Sentencing Commission decided it would be retroactively reducing federal criminal sentences. Let’s call it what it is: Mass early criminal release.
The change, which took effect Nov. 1, 2014 — that is to say, Congress failed to overturn the decision by the prescribed statutory deadline — will allow for the early release starting Nov. 1, 2015 of as many as 46,290 drug offenders currently in federal prison, the commission estimates.
As a result, Congress once again finds itself behind an eight ball of its own creation. For, it was Congress that in 1984 delegated sentencing guidelines to a commission in the first place — another abdication of its lawmaking powers that made the criminal release program possible.
In response to this fully predictable crisis, the Senate is now attempting to pass so-called criminal justice reform legislation at break-neck speed. We’ve known about the commission’s action since July 2014, and only now is Congress getting to the issue, and not for the right reason.
Why? Here’s the important part. The legislation Congress is now considering will not be undoing the retroactive sentencing reductions, arguably the heart of the matter. Again, those actually took effect on Nov. 1, 2014.
Instead, what the law will do in part is further reduce mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenses, and apply some of those retroactively, too. So, the number of inmates who will be hitting the streets as a result will be even higher than the initial 46,290 baseline reported by the commission.
The Senate bill also includes retroactive reductions for criminals who had guns in their possession when the crime was committed. Ironically, these were the same criminals that the Obama release of up to 46,290 drug offenders was supposed to make room for in federal prisons.
As Commission Chairwoman Chief Judge Patti B. Saris stated in July 2014 in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, “[E]xisting sentencing enhancements for offenders who possess firearms, use violence, have an aggravating role in the offense, or are repeat or career offenders, ensure that the most dangerous or serious offenders will continue to receive appropriately severe sentences.”
So much for that. The Senate apparently wants to let the gun-wielding criminals loose early, too.
Then we must also take into account any other retroactive sentence reductions the commission might revisit in light of the Senate bill taking effect.
But, suffice to say, thousands of criminals will be leaving federal prison early as a result of the bill, and in a very short span of time. And, for that, there will be consequences.
For starters, the timing could not be worse, notes Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning, who said, “The Obama administration is flooding our cities with MS 13 and Mexican Cartel members due to his failure to secure the borders and to enforce immigration law, and on top of this, he is releasing as many as 46,000 drug offenders early starting Nov. 1. Talk about a bad Halloween hangover. To make matters even more dangerous, Obama is bringing into America potentially hundreds of thousands of Muslim ‘refugees’ many of whom are likely to be adherents of Islamic State, al Qaeda and followers of Sharia Law. In the meantime, the Left’s war on the police has left the thin blue line that protects our cities from entering into chaos frayed and the cops demoralized, making the situation all the more dangerous. And now, apparently some Senate Republicans in a quest for bipartisanship are set to retroactively reduce federal prison sentences, resulting in an additional flooding of our cities with thousands more convicted criminals out of penitentiaries. What could go wrong?”
Manning added, “Given the volatile mix of massive increases of Muslim refugees, the influx of Central American gangs and Mexican drug cartel members, and the disarming of our police, what could go wrong with releasing tens of thousands of convicted criminals early into the already violent cities? Why would Republicans vote for that?”
Indeed. This is the wrong time to engage in social experimentation on such a wide scale, and it is states and cities already overwhelmed that will directly bear the costs. If anything, the only reform Congress should be considering is not letting tens of thousands of criminals go early.
Instead, the Senate appears to be doubling down on that madness.
Nor is this simply a matter of federalism, since the legislation has nothing to do with whether the feds or the states should be prosecuting these criminals. Federal penitentiaries will remain open. Criminal prosecutions of federal crimes will continue. This is not reform in that sense.
And it has little to do with criminal justice reform. This is really all about piggybacking on Obama’s decision to set already sentenced criminals loose early without any context — by letting even more criminals go early.
For Congress to come in and give its imprimatur to that decision sends precisely the wrong message to criminals that the punishments are not so bad anymore. This undermines deterrence in the most obvious way. What will the early-released criminals tell their buddies when they get home?
Can you say crime wave? More importantly, how many innocents will be murdered because of this mass criminal release program?
“From a political perspective, the opponent’s campaign ad writes itself should just one of these early released criminals commit a murder. Each and every member of Congress who votes for mass early criminal release can and will be targeted, and no amount of explaining will protect them from being Willie Hortoned. And that is the truth,” Manning warned.
This is a guest post by Robert Romano senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.