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November 29, 2018

Latest chapter of FIRST STEP Act massaging and messaging

Just about day now seems to bring a new development in the saga surrounding a possible Senate vote on some possible version of the FIRST STEP Act.  This new Politico article, headlined "Criminal justice reform bill still alive as McConnell deliberates," reports on the very latest of these developments, and here are excerpts:

Chuck Grassley and other advocates of criminal justice reform are desperately trying to sway Mitch McConnell to stay longer in December to finish their bill. And McConnell isn't ruling it out.

The Senate Judiciary chairman said he's still waiting on an official word from the majority leader on whether he will provide floor time to take up a measure that has drawn heated opposition from some Senate Republicans despite earning President Donald Trump's endorsement....

McConnell said the Senate GOP is still deliberating on whether to move forward, though he left the door open in a brief Thursday interview. “We’re trying to figure out how to proceed on it. We’re still trying to figure that out," the Kentucky Republican said....

Meanwhile, even as a bipartisan group of senators is still working on coming up with a new agreement to win more co-sponsors and the support of the National Sheriffs' Association, a Justice Department draft began circulating on Thursday that rewrites a number of key provisions.

The draft, obtained by POLITICO, would still allow many federal inmates to earn time credits and obtain supervised release but would bar people convicted of violent crimes and major drug trafficking crimes. It would also increase penalties for attacking police officers and fentanyl dealers, a key concern of law enforcement groups and senators from states wracked by the opioid crisis.

But the White House pushed back quickly against the draft, reiterating Trump's call for the criminal justice bill to get a vote this year. "The president has endorsed the Senate compromise on the First Step Act, and the White House is not circulating any other version,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said. “All reporting to the contrary is false. The White House is committed to passing this legislation in the lame duck."

One person working in favor of criminal justice reform also slammed the draft as reflecting the efforts of a "rogue DOJ official who always hated the bill." Democrats and Republicans have been working to overcome objections from Republican senators, but "this is not what is being considered," the person said....

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said supporters are considering excluding people from sentencing reforms that committed arson, certain drug crimes, and "taking care of the sheriffs' concerns" about sex crimes.

November 29, 2018 at 09:21 PM | Permalink


Doug, your views on Acosta and Epstein?

Posted by: federalist | Nov 30, 2018 8:04:24 AM

Ugly stories, federalist, which if true would confirm how the rich and powerful can often (but not always) get very special lenient treatment. It also reinforces my desire for much more transparency and review concerning the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, and reminds us all that mandatory federal sentences are never mandatory if and when a federal prosecutors wants to exercise discretion behind closed doors.

Posted by: Doug B | Nov 30, 2018 9:09:58 AM

What concerns do sheriffs have about sex crimes? Are they afraid people convicted of sex crimes will come home to our communities? They already DO.

Are they afraid people convicted of sex crimes will commit more sex crimes after they come home? All kinds of research shows that this is extremely unlikely; people convicted on sex crimes are among the least likely to commit new crimes after release from prison.

I suspect that the sheriffs want to use sex offenders to prove that they are tough on crime. So what else is new? Who DOESN'T do that?

Families of people convicted of sex crimes are growing tired of taking those punches.

Posted by: marie | Nov 30, 2018 9:36:14 AM

No kidding about sheriffs. They run local jails and poorly police unincorporated areas. And in Alabama, they apparently can divert the jail food budget to their own private purposes.

Why do they have any sway on federal penal policy? Totally absurd.

They are low-level local elected hacks wielding power whose most pressing concern at any given moment is reelection.

Sound familiar?

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Nov 30, 2018 2:51:34 PM

@Fat I like the way you think, see things clearly and simple.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Dec 2, 2018 11:01:36 AM

It is not clear what the Sheriffs Association concerns are. The BOP stats give 16,400 sex offenders in federal prisons and I doubt that very many of them will be released. About 80% of the prison admissions are from 400 counties so the sheriff of a very large population county might have up to a dozen sex offenders to deal with.

The sex offender concern sounds like BS to me.

Posted by: John Neff | Dec 2, 2018 2:19:50 PM

John Neff said:
The BOP stats give 16,400 sex offenders in federal prisons and I doubt that very many of them will be released.

John, are you really saying that most federal SOs will never come home from prison? Almost ALL of them will certainly be released.

Posted by: marie | Dec 4, 2018 5:42:23 PM

My guess is that many of them will be released upon expiration of sentence and the federal sentences are very long. I don't think the first step act was intended to give early release for sex offenders.

One of the outcomes of the classification system is that sex offenders are included in the violent offender offense type and there is only one sex offender subtype. So people think that all sex offenders are violent and some are not. A lot of this bad stuff is the result of legislative hysteria.

Posted by: John Neff | Dec 4, 2018 9:24:52 PM

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