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April 28, 2016

Senator Jeff Sessions (and thus Donald Trump?) comes out swinging against revised SRCA

Yh_3216_aAlabama's US Senator Jeff Sessions, whom I believe was the first notabe elected federal official to endorse Prez candidate Donald Trump, has wasted no time condemning, in intricate detail, the just-released revised version of the Senate's Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (noted here).   This press release, which runs over 1500 words and has too many criticisms to readily summarize, includes these passages:

The changes made to the criminal sentencing bill fail to fix the bill and leave us with legislation that still would release thousands of violent felons and endanger millions of Americans whose safety is increasingly threatened by rising crime rates.  While visiting concern on prisoners is an important and valuable act, we must understand a core responsibility of the government is safety of the public.  The wise approach is to slow down and evaluate the trends before accelerating prison population decline. 

Since 2011, the federal prison population has decreased by over 20,000 (over 9 percent), bringing it to its lowest level since 2006. It will continue to decline by another 10,000 over the next year, bringing it to its lowest level since 2004.  Drug prosecutions have dropped 21 percent since 2011.  The Sentencing Commission recently ordered the release of 46,276 federal drug trafficking felons from federal prison, including those who carried semi-automatic weapons, participated in international heroin smuggling rings, and have violent criminal histories.  And just last year, the Obama Administration released 90,000 criminal illegal aliens from custody.

Meanwhile, homicides in the 50 largest U.S. cities rose nearly 17 percent in 2015 — the largest single-year increase since at least 1960.  In medium-sized cities, violent crime increased 5.3 percent.  The country is in the midst of a historic heroin epidemic where 120 people die each day from overdoses. 

Federal drug and sentencing laws have already been considerably relaxed.  Congress must examine the potential far-reaching consequences of what has occurred before going any further.  It is counterintuitive to further weaken penalties for drug traffickers, especially heroin traffickers, and to enable the release of several thousand more incarcerated drug and gun felons, particularly at this time....

According to Gallup, Americans are more concerned about crime than they have been in 15 years.  If ever there was a time to release more violent felons into our communities, it most certainly is not now.  Passing this legislation would not only be unwise, it would be unsafe....

Despite assurances otherwise, the revised bill still shortens mandatory minimums for repeat drug traffickers, including those who carried a gun, and would allow for early release of those currently in federal prison.... Moreover, this proposal would provide for leniency for illegal alien drug traffickers....  

The revised bill adds a provision to shorten mandatory minimums for drug traffickers who smuggle drugs into the U.S. by boat or submarine.  These criminals have never been eligible for such leniency and are rarely if ever U.S. citizens.  This provision has already been tagged as the “Scarface” provision.  Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that other than the Southern border, the majority of drugs come into the U.S. by maritime routes....

Before, the bill had a pro-law enforcement provision described by the sponsors as expanding the reach of the enhanced mandatory minimum for firearms offenses to those with prior state firearms offenses.  That provision was removed entirely.

The revised bill further expands the statutory “safety valve” to major drug traffickers, including those with multiple prior criminal convictions....  The bill still provides leniency for illegal alien drug traffickers.

I am not sure if this criticism will keep the revised SRCA from being brought up for a vote, but I do think the connection between Senator Sessions and presumptive GOP Prez candidate Trump provides yet another significant impediment to this bill becoming law.

Prior related post:

April 28, 2016 at 10:35 PM | Permalink


Sessions is clueless, hes just grand standing and likes the attention.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 29, 2016 12:12:47 AM


That fact that what Session said was true, should have some reconsidering.

No one doubts that we can be more efficient with our incarceration problems.

Nietiher does anyone doubt that release of criminals equals more crimes on the streets.

So far, California, as seems required, is a stark example of how to get it wrong with mass release.

The non violent moniker for drug dealers seems like a late night show joke. Everyone knows that violence and threats of violence are how drug dealers protect their business..

And, as about 95% of all state cases are pled out, meaning of course, they are pled down from their original sentence, which may mean that either violence or gun possession was removed from the charge to accommodate the plea.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Apr 29, 2016 7:16:24 AM

given that over 25% of the beneficiaries of this idiotic lenience will be illegal aliens, I am totally wondering why the GOP would help the Democrats get voters . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Apr 29, 2016 10:10:10 AM

My understanding is that the Bill, as originally conceived,, was supposed to provide some relief from mandatory minimum sentences. While making some progress toward that goal, the revised Bill, according to an earlier posting,"now includes a new mandatory minimum sentence for crimes involving the opiate fentanyl, mirroring parallel sentencing reforms that await a floor vote in the U.S. House of Representatives." I've always subscribed to the maxim that the best is the enemy of the good, but I'm beginning to rethink my views.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Apr 29, 2016 12:48:13 PM

Michael, anyone who thinks this will get any easier after the election does not understand reality and thus I continue to think all sentencing reform advocates should embrace whatever can get passed. I say this in part because even very modest Congressional reforms (e.g., the FSA in 2010) can and will create important ripples via work by the USSC and judges and DOJ --- e.g., lowering the crack guidelines after the FSA made it easier to lower all the drug guidelines a few years later and to make them all retroactive.

In addition, the corrections part of the SRCA still is the biggest and most consequential aspect of all of this and should have the most important long-term impact and value for a healthy federal criminal justice system.

Long story short, I understand why so many wanting more will find this latest proposal not what they want/hope. But if getting something more done was easy, it would already be done. Everyone, in my opinion, should be pushing to get something done --- anything done --- ASAP as we still have thousands of folks beeing subject to the current problematic sentencing system every week and have hundreds of thousands in federal prisons who need been corrections laws.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 29, 2016 1:12:41 PM

I agree with Doug. Baby steps are better than no steps at all.

Posted by: xafpd | Apr 29, 2016 1:49:34 PM

I have not been able to find the amended version of the bill on the judiciary committee website. Can you post a link to it if you have it?

Posted by: defendergirl | Apr 29, 2016 1:57:07 PM

O.K. The other maxim is that the Professor is always right. So, I'm back on board: I agree with XAFPD that a baby step is better than nothing.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Apr 29, 2016 4:52:54 PM

I also agree that any steps forward is great. But I think if they pass this, it wont get looked at for a very long time.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 29, 2016 7:58:39 PM

So guys, why should we be hooking up illegal aliens? Especially when many will walk our streets at some point after their release . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Apr 29, 2016 9:21:37 PM

federalist: this is not about "hooking up illegal aliens," but rather about modifying federal investments in imprisonment.

MidWestGuy: If something does not pass, and we have an election, and we have continued stalemates in Congress (which seems likely no matter how the election goes), I doubt that this will be a priority for anyone again until at least 2019. And if it does pass and proves "successful" (especially the corrections pieces), I would expect additional useful baby steps to be taken by DOJ, USSC, BOP and the states to follow.

Notably, the echoes and impact of the VERY BABY steps of the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) has helped reduce the federal prison population from a 2013 max of about 220,000 to the current level of just over 195,000. Passage of the SRCA in just about any form makes getting this down to 150,000 by the end of the decade a real possibility, I think.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 30, 2016 11:53:11 AM

it may not be about hooking up illegals, but it will inexorably lead to more of them on our streets, which we don't need.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 30, 2016 3:29:46 PM

And, Doug, they are hooking them up--just a side benefit for the Democrats.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 30, 2016 3:51:49 PM

defendergirl: The proposed amendment was entered into the Congressional Record on April 28 -- which you can access via Congress.gov.

Posted by: Jeremy | Apr 30, 2016 6:34:16 PM

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