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June 2, 2016

FreedomWorks explains why GOP opposition to federal sentencing reform is "unreasonable"

Writing at FreedomWorks, Jason Pye has this lengthy posting headlined "The Unreasonable Opposition to Justice Reform in the Senate," which gets started this way (with links in the original):

Recently, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) gave a speech at the Hudson Institute in Washington, in which he offered his case against the justice reform effort in Congress led by conservatives like Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).  Apparently unaware of the efforts of more than 30 states, including several traditionally Republican states, Cotton ridiculously labeled the federal push as "criminal leniency."

FreedomWorks has already responded to some of Cotton's hyperbolic statements on justice reform. Unfortunately, even after proposed legislation was improved to address the concerns of a handful of senators, Cotton doubled down on his opposition in his speech. Some of the more egregious comments from his speech are in italics below, immediately followed by a response to set the record straight.

"These policies are not merely wrong. They are dangerous. They threaten a return to the worst days of the 1990s, when law-abiding citizens lived in fear of their lives. Indeed, we may be living through the leading edge of a new crime wave. Over the last two years, murders across 56 of our largest cities are up 17 percent. The numbers are even more shocking in some cities. In Chicago, murders jumped 70 percent in the first quarter of this year alone. In Las Vegas, 81 percent. In Long Beach, 125 percent."

These are deceptive words, to say the least. As Cotton mentioned, crime rates have declined significantly since the early 1990s. Pew Research found that gun-related homicides, including suicides, declined by 31 percent between 1993 and 2014. Excluding suicides, the figure is closer to 49 percent. Over the same period, the nonfatal firearm crime victimization rate declined by nearly 75 percent. A separate report released in 2013 noted that the public was largely unaware that violent crime was on the decline.

There has been much made of a "new crime wave," but it is difficult for anyone to make such a statement based on a short-term look at the data. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) publishes annual reports on crime data that offers more context and insight, rather than anecdote. Even in the midst of the decline in crime rates, the United States experienced two consecutive years in which homicide rates increased, 2005 and 2006. In 2007, the homicide rate began to decline again.

According to the last two full-year reports, crime continued to decline, almost across the board. In 2013, crime, including homicides and other violent crime, was down. The downward trend continued in 2014. The FBI hasn't released data for all of 2015; the report is not due for a few more months. The Brennan Center released a preliminary analysis of crime rates in 2015 and found that the "new crime wave," as Cotton puts it, does not exist. But even if the overall crime rate increased, it does not mean that there is some new crime wave. Again, 2005 and 2006 proved to be outliers, and 2015, if the crime rate does rise, may be just that.

June 2, 2016 at 09:15 AM | Permalink


Frankly surprised a freshman Senator with one previous term in the House would be so vocal against something sponsored by the leadership. He's well educated, but I guess he's pandering to what he believes is his constituency, much like Sessions.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Jun 2, 2016 11:39:06 AM

Cotton is pandering pure and simple. Unfortunately, hyperbolic statements get votes.

Posted by: Darn Cotton | Jun 2, 2016 12:08:32 PM

It would be fascinating to know from where and how Sen. Cotton gets his "facts." Does he go hunt for the facts he wants or are they fed to him? Or does his normal perusal of the news slant that way? Maybe someone is constantly in his ear about these facts. There is one study at least that found lawmakers get their facts from the media. Who controls who? Who controls the law?

Posted by: George | Jun 3, 2016 12:48:09 AM

We must be mindful not to "Cotton" to the mindless dribble of the Senator.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Jun 3, 2016 8:30:19 AM

We must be mindful not to "Cotton" to the mindless dribble of the Senator.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Jun 3, 2016 8:30:20 AM

The conservatives who advocate sentencing reform are admiral, except for their true intentions, if the cost to incarcerate wasn't high, many fiscal conservatives which freedomworks is wouldn't rally around it. Why is the cost high, well its certainly not luxury for the inmate, but staff salaries, and medical costs are frequent. If conservatives had their way in which, staffing was reduced,folks were left to die for simple medical conditions or even serious ones in old age, then the desire to reform may be less. In less developed country it doesn't cost as much to incarcerate, of course due process may be lacking, then again punishment for certain crimes that don't have serious harm to a victim may be much less.

Posted by: pat hunt | Jun 4, 2016 4:35:12 AM

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