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May 27, 2023

New GOP Prez candidate DeSantis pledges to repeal FIRST STEP Act

I noted in this post a few month ago a press report that Florida Gov Ron DeSantis was planning to assail former Prez Trump for his support of the FIRST STEP Act back in 2018. And, sure enough, with days of announcing his candidacy for President, Gov DeSantis has attacked Trump's signature criminal justice reform achievement. This Fox News piece, headlined "Ron DeSantis rips Trump over First Step Act, vows to repeal it: 'Basically a jailbreak bill'," provides these details:

Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed Friday to seek a repeal of President Trump's signature First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that aimed to reduce recidivism, allowed a pathway for non-violent prisoners to shorten their sentences, and reduced mandatory minimum sentences.

"Under the Trump administration — he enacted a bill, basically a jailbreak bill, it's called the First Step Act. It has allowed dangerous people out of prison who have now re-offended, and really, really hurt a number of people," DeSantis said in an interview with the Daily Wire.

"So one of the things I would want to do as president is go to Congress and seek the repeal of the First Step Act. If you are in jail, you should serve your time. And the idea that they're releasing people who have not been rehabilitated early, so that they can prey on people in our society is a huge, huge mistake," he added.

DeSantis voted for the first version of the bill as a member of the House of Representatives in 2018, the same year he was elected as Florida's governor, but had resigned before the final, more moderate version of the bill came to a vote in the chamber.

Trump's campaign responded to DeSantis by pointing to his original vote, and argued he was basically criticizing his own supporters in Congress who also voted for the bill. "Lyin' Ron. He voted for the First Step Act. Would be a shame if there was video of him praising it in an interview with a local FL television station..." Trump campaign spokesperson Stephen Cheung tweeted following the DeSantis' interview.

"DeSantis supporter [Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.] voted for the bill as well. DeSantis is calling out his own Congressional supporters and throwing them under the bus," he later added in a separate tweet.

May 27, 2023 at 11:22 PM | Permalink


There were lots and lots of reasons to prefer DeSantis to DJT and this is one more. Note that Trump's spokesman does not even make an effort to defend the FSA on the merits.

Posted by: Bill Otisw | May 28, 2023 1:19:00 PM

Bill - what is your specific objection to the First Step Act? It was a noteworthy and commendable piece of legislation that attempted to serve a laudable societal goal (reducing excessive sentences and attempt to allow more and more former prisoners to return back to society without reoffending)

Posted by: Brett Miler | May 28, 2023 3:25:07 PM


Your comment is based on the assumptions that the sentences are “excessive” and these people will not reoffend if let out earlier.

I reject both.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 28, 2023 5:10:35 PM

Unfortunately, there are always a handful of people granted clemency who reoffend and make the world far more difficult for politicians and other inmates. Recently, Alton Mills, 54, was charged with 3 counts of attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm, following a road rage incident where he fired a pistol into another car on I-57 (in Illinois), seriously wounding a man in the back seat, but narrowly missing the other 2 occupants. In 2015, Mills was serving a life sentence for dealing crack cocaine, when his sentence was commuted to "time served" (23 years) by President Obama. Since then, Mills has had his pic taken with several Congressmen and Senators, but now he is embarrassing everyone by behaving most badly. IT seems that this small number who reoffend ruin the idea of mercy and clemency for everyone else.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | May 28, 2023 6:04:04 PM

To Bill Otis,

We were engaged in back and forth postings on May 23. If you recall, you had asked me, amongst other things, of my "record in court as an attorney", which you well know that I am not. You also summarily dismissed the three cases that I had cited of innocent men who had been executed. After responding to your inquiries, you quite rudely failed to acknowledge or repsond in kind. Of course, you either forgot, overlooked my posting, got busy with something else, etc. etc. In the end, I'm SURE there was good reason not to answer. So, I am taking the liberty to re-post my response to you, for your benefit and to give you another opportunity to repsond. Here it is:

SG previously wrote to Mr. Otis:

"I assume you will contest these 3 cases as "inconclusive", or "faulty" in some respect. No shock there."

And sure enough...and as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west...

As to your question re: murderers who murder....duh. Doesn't take a genius, or even a former AUSA to figure this one out.

But if you should ask the critical question, "How could this have been prevented?" Yes, the criminal could have not murderered. Again, duh.

That IS but one answer.
Other answers:
You (collectively, those running the 'system') had your bite at the apple and failed. If the system had been effective, and the 'system' worked the way you envision, then the murderer would hvae been sentenced to death, or at minimum, LWOP.
So who shares in the responsibility besides the criminal and their dastardly, evil defense attorneys (as well as all those liberal politicians and soft-on-crime judges)?

Either the evidence was just not there to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, OR there was some type of failure or errors on the part of the police/prosecution (most typically police misconduct or prosecutorial misconduct. Rarely is it judicial misconduct or jury misconduct).

And so in the final analysis, your system failed not only the criminals, but all of society, and most importantly the subsequent victims.

Do those running this system ('tough on crime politicians', law enforcement, prosecutors, parole/probation, govt. experts, judges and justices, media surrogates, etc.) EVER publicly admit fault, or take a shred of responsibility for their role in the subsequent murders? No way, Jose. Almost to a person, they will sit back and point their collective fingers at the criminal and defense attorney, and anyone else that may get in their way.

We'll soon read it in one of your postings, I'm sure: "It's ALL their fault, not thine. We are the heroes wearing the white hats. Don't you dare ever challenge us, fault us, or criticize us". Come on, Bill. You can admit it. We all know.

Oh, as far as my record in court as a defense attorney? I do have one case that I can tell you about. I was conscripted by the Federal court judge to act as the pro per defendant's investigator (deft. was a young alleged neo-Nazi prison gang member [and me, an old Jew. We got along famously], who was in doing double-life sentences for a murder and attempted murder. He was certainly no saint). He was accused of attempted murder in a federal prison (allegedly attacked another inmate with a shiv). After I investigated the case, I sat with him throughout the trial, coaching him along the way, acting as a surrogate defense attorney, in effect. The jury was out 45 minutes. Came back with a 'not guilty'. The veteran prosecutor and FBI agent investigator were certainly 'disappointed' to say the least. They just couldn't prove their (weak) case.

So I am batting 1.000. Not bad for a HS drop out/recovered addict, eh?

Now you may respond. Or not.

Posted by: SG | May 28, 2023 6:50:07 PM


Correction. Our posting communiques were on May 24th. SG

Posted by: SG | May 28, 2023 6:54:15 PM

SG --

I have found that from time to time I'm able to talk to you and have done so repeatedly. So I feel like now I should tell you this: I do not owe you or anyone else here any sort of communication, ever. I like some back-and-forth with people who are honest, polite, and respectful. Knowing the field doesn't hurt either. If what I'm getting back meets those criteria, there's a decent chance I'll respond, given, however, the constraints of my time and interest. If you want more than that, my time bills out at $1400 an hour, with ten hours payable in advance as a retainer.

There are lots and lots of people in my world who are plenty honest, polite, respectful and knowledgeable for whom I regret that I don't have nearly enough time. Your recent remarks to me don't put you in their category, so you can figure out for yourself how much of my time from now on you're going to get. If the character of your remarks to me changes, I might reconsider.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 28, 2023 10:20:40 PM


I suggest you review ALL of your previous comments to me.

I have been no more uncivil to you than you have been to me. And in some instances, I was far more civil and polite. This is a fact, not opinion.

Posted by: SG | May 29, 2023 8:14:19 AM

Alton Mills' 1994 life sentence was based on a crack conspiracy involving less than 5 grams of crack. Mills also had 2 prior felony drug convictions, also for small amounts of crack. He had no record of violence then. He probably received a section 851 life sentence enhancement because he wouldn't debrief and tell on the people above him in the drug distribution conspiracy. He never even had 5 grams or more of crack, which would have triggered a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence (20 years for the second crack conviction). He may not have deserved a life sentence in 1994, but he does now. He killed a woman (she is brain dead already) and almost killed 2 others in a road rage incident -- impulsive and sheer stupidity. No more sympathy for him, but much anger over what he has done to hurt those who should receive clemency and shorting sentences. And pity for the politicians who trusted him and had their pictures taken with him after his life sentence was commuted.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | May 29, 2023 1:58:22 PM

Jim Gormley --

Alton Mills is a particularly bad case and my colleague Associate Professor Shon Hopwood is a particularly good one. Because each is exceptional, neither should tell the tale on clemency.

There are three main reasons that politicians should mostly leave judicial outcomes where the are. The first is that politicians have an established track record of grandstanding the issue -- Trump and Obama both did, and of course Bill Clinton. The second is that most inmates, on release, do not become big contributors to society and the majority recidivate. BJS statistics are unambiguous on this point. The third is that "second look" theory runs in only one direction, i.e., we don't look at those who have become worse and more dangerous in prison and only look at those who (their side will argue) have improved. Second look theory would have more of a claim on broad support if it operated to protect the public from inmates who've gotten worse and well as to seek public benefit from those who on release would probably contribute to the public good.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 29, 2023 3:20:55 PM

Bill Otis is an unmitigated elderly racist. He has apparently had a bitter life and may have sadistic tendencies, which may explain his incessant pleas for harsher sentencing. For those who don't know, he was rejected as a nominee for the Sentencing Commission because of his draconian views and suspected Nazi tendencies (despite being married to -- an apparently self-hating -- Jew). Bill you are a disgrace to well-educated people, should know better, and are a coward who disgracefully caters to rubes and ignorant scumbags.

Posted by: Mark | May 29, 2023 4:23:24 PM

One way in which Otis caters to the rubes and scumbags is by relying on stories of the occasional person who was granted clemency and then re-offended in a notable way. Bill, you cite no evidence that the First Step Act, was a bad piece of legislation. Of course, any program of leniency is going to result in some unfortunate events. But that obviously does not prove anything about the widsdom of the program.
You, of course, understand that an occasional bad story does not make it a bad piece of legislation. What evidence do you have that, on the whole, the Act has been a bad thing. Go back to your self-hating Jewish wife and spare us the bullshit and pandering and feeding false information to white working class racists and rubes, who unlike you can't be expected to know better. What is your problem, you old white racist? Nothing better to do with yourself? Go earn some keep at $1400/hour you bitter old bastard.

Posted by: Mark | May 29, 2023 4:31:32 PM

Mark --

Hey, look, I love you too.

There are lots of commenters here who have reason to hide their last name, but I have to admit you're at the head of the pack. On the other hand, it's only Monday.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 29, 2023 5:53:30 PM


I once had to go to the local hospital for some medical tests at the same time I was working in the prison. I was walking from the dressing room to the radiology department with my a$$ sticking out of a gown, and I suddenly hear, “Hey! Mr. G!” I turn to see one of my inmate students who was brought to the same place for his medical appointment. It was quite awkward.

This is your awkward moment. You clearly just ran into someone you kept in prison.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 30, 2023 12:02:19 AM

Bill: I am just now seeing the vitriol from Mark. I would be inclined to delete his comments if you wanted me to do so, notwithstanding my general hands-off approach to comments, though I generally sense that you see the virtues of allowing ugliness to show itself. I know in the past that ugly family attacks led you to leave this forum, and I am especially disinclined to foster heckler vetoes.

Posted by: Doug B | May 30, 2023 8:59:11 AM

Doug --

Thank you very much for your comment. It's unfortunate that you should have to deal with something like this on such a wonderful day for you and the Bermans.

On reflection, I think the best among bad choices is to leave it up, perhaps with a note to commenters that ugly references to another commenter's family are not welcome and not appropriate to the kind of discussion you want to encourage here.

If you're fully committed to free speech, as you and I are, there's a price to be paid. "Mark," if that's his name, shows us the price, and it's disgusting but educational.

Again, I appreciate your concern, and I hope (and am quite sure) that the rest of your day will be a gloriously happy celebration.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 30, 2023 9:21:27 AM

TarlsQtr --

Those hospital gowns are an invention of the Devil. When I'm in the hospital, which I'm happy to say is next to never, I wear two of them just to make sure everything that needs covering gets covered.

I doubt "Mark" was one of my "clients." The crooks I dealt with were generally better behaved and not that bitter. They understood that possibly going to the slammer was part of the cost of doing business and took it in stride. Of course more than a few of them had been there before.

"Mark's" kind of bile is something you see mostly from ideologues who've stayed in the game too long. There may be some mental disturbance issues too, but I don't know.

The main thing I'm curious about is how "Mark's" fellow soft-on-crime folks will react. My guess is that most will just pretend they didn't see it. It's possible a very few will say that I (and my wife) have it coming. A few will criticize it. Like I say, I'll be curious.

P.S. Mark is right about one thing, though: I'm old. That's what you get to be if you're lucky.

P.P.S. I guess I'll take this opportunity to brag about my wife, since she seems to be of interest. She's a cum laude Yale grad, Chicago Law, a co-founder and Director of the Federalist Society, former clerk to Judge Antonin Scalia of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia of SCOTUS, former Associate White House Counsel (George H. W. Bush), former General Counsel of the Department of Energy, former Associate Deputy Attorney General, an elected member of the American Law Institute (ALI), and presently Director of the Federalist Society's Faculty Division and (with me) Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University. In other words, she is more intelligent and accomplished than anyone who has ever written in the comments section here, certainly including me.

Her father, also a Yale grad, fought in WW II and later became the name partner in a successful Manhattan law firm.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 30, 2023 9:48:17 AM

Although I completely disagree with Mark's personal attacks on Bill's family, doesn't he make fair points about Bill's method of argument? To begin, Bill labels anyone who disagrees with his point of view as "soft on crime." That is just rhetoric and shows disdain for those of use who are advocating for what we see as the right balance in the criminal justice system. Bill, at what point is someone who favors lower incarceration rates than you do "soft on crime" and therefore easily dismissed? Is it everyone? Also, Mark is right to call out Bill's approach of just condemning any piece of legislation that relaxes incarceration rates or duration as a "jail break." Bill, you have to admit that you are not providing any empirical-based or other reasoned basis for claiming that the First Step Act was bad legislation. You are just engaging in bald rhetoric. Finally, why does the fact that second look legislation might be one-way mean that the legislation is bad? Are folks who deserve a second look -- and the benefits that can come to society from lessening sentences for those who are good bets to become productive citizens and not reoffend -- to be sacrificed because there might be something to say for making second looks a two way ratchet? What does the lack of appetite for two-way have to do with considerations regarding a one-way reform? At bottom, Bill, I deplore the personal attacks, but you engage in an awful lot of ad hominem attacks and unsupported attacks on reforms and reformers, which I think can be rightly called out.

Phil Shapiro

Posted by: Philip Shapiro | May 30, 2023 11:10:26 AM

Phil Shapiro --

1. "To begin, Bill labels anyone who disagrees with his point of view as 'soft on crime.'"

False. I disagree with a number of federalist's more libertarian stances, but have never called him soft on crime (since he isn't). Your side routinely calls my side "tuff and tuffer," but I understand that is shorthand. You should (and I suspect do) have a similar understanding.

And then there's the fact that there ARE people fairly described as soft on crime -- people who think the whole American model, lock-stock-and-barrel, is cruel and punitive and that a softer medical model ought to replace it in toto.

2. "Jailbreak bill" is similar shorthand. When I support tougher sentencing, it's routinely called "and throw away the key." Again, it's shorthand, and no one who follows these debates is confused by it. I might add that the true extremist positions are on your side -- for example, the issue of the HLR about four or five years ago devoted to the theme that prison should be abolished. Not reduced, abolished. It would hardly be unfair to call that "jailbreak," would it?

The basic divide is between people who see incarceration as the problem (your side) and those who see it as part of the solution (my side). But it's convenient to have a short label for that.

3. "Bill, you have to admit that you are not providing any empirical-based or other reasoned basis for claiming that the First Step Act was bad legislation." The FSA lowers sentences and thus reduces incarceration (which is its whole point). But incarceration incapacitates criminals and thus enhances safety in civil society, as it did in spades for an entire generation starting in the early Nineties. I have produced the documentation for this dozens of times and it's plenty easy to find in any event. I'm not required to keep repeating myself and decline to do so simply because you're a late comer to the debate.

4. "Finally, why does the fact that second look legislation might be one-way mean that the legislation is bad?" Principally because it's dishonest and, on account of its dishonesty, ignores a big part of the problem.

The insight that some people in prison warrant a second look because they've changed is true, but is deceitful if we refuse to recognize the known fact that, while some get better, others get worse, and thus should be kept away from society for LONGER than originally thought wise. Accordingly, I won't be buying a theory of second-look sentencing that, for pro-defendant ideological purposes only, ignores half of its own reality.

5. If you want facts, fine. Here are the two main ones: The recidivism rate is through the roof (https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2019/may/3/long-term-recidivism-studies-show-high-arrest-rates/) and crime fell massively during the time when we substantially increased incarceration (https://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm). Over the past nine years, however (starting in 2014), the number of persons incarcerated is significantly down and the number of crimes committed is significantly up.

The people on your side routinely dismiss or minimize these facts, but it's not because they're not true. It's because of the ideology that criminals are victims (of racism, militarism, capitalism, class structure and on and on) rather than victimizers. That is not an ideology I share because it does not comport with the actual reasons people behave as they do. But it's an ideology that people like Mark buy, and so I'm to be run off the blog (he erroneously thinks) with his filth.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 30, 2023 12:53:51 PM


First, as to Mark...if anyone should be "dismissed" from this website, obviously it should be him, not you. I found his comments to be uncalled for and offensive. And if you think 'the opposition' endorse comments such as that, you are very wrong. And it's equally as wrong for you to assume otherwise.

Secondly, you need to step back just a bit and examine some of your own behaviors, which I have found to be at times (and with just some people who may challenge your philosophies, positions, rationales, etc.) excessive and uncalled for. Remove that timber from your own eye? (You, in the past, have called me 'stupid', 'crazy', 'insane', and various other demeaning and insulting characterizations).

Thirdly, assuming arguendo, that all of your statistics are 100% accurate as to crime rates, incarceration rates, fluctuations thereof, etc....and this is where I believe the argument should be centered upon...where does your 'harsh punishment' scheme, which you vigorously promote, get us? It seems to me that the only benefit of harsh punishments is the "personal satisfaction" one attains, a satisfying of one's desire for vengence. This lust for vengence is understandable, and human. But it is the application of this emotional response that leads us astray.
Critical thinking and analysis seems to be given nothing but 'lip service' from those on 'your side'.

So what is the point if the crime rates are not lowered, and as you have pointed out, are actually rising?? And this is the result after we have spent $$billions over the decades?

And I've made this point time and again...yes, some on the CUSP of criminality are sometimes, but not always, deterred as a result of this scheme. And certainly, the most dangerous and violent are incapacitated, which those on BOTH SIDES of the debate agree is a good thing.

But then, there are the recidivism rates, which I hold as the "true results" of this present scheme. As the harsh sentences increase over the years, shouldn't both the recidivism rates and crime rates GO DOWN? I think you would have to agree it is not working as expected. Sooo..what to do?

(And by the way, suich failure is not the fault of defense attorneys, or those who call for CJ/prison reform, nor a failure on the part of police, prosecutors, or the judiciary).

If you bought an expensive car, and it broke down repeatedly, belched exhaust and used quarts of oil per month, was always in the shop, and turned out to be far more expensive to maintain than you had envisioned, wouldn't you go get a different car?

On a personal note, you can certainly choose not to respond to me as it seems that my prior comments in response to your postings were not of your liking. So be it. I speak my truth irrespective of your likes or dislikes. I'm sure you do the same.

Posted by: SG | May 30, 2023 3:20:07 PM

SG --

1. I explicitly did not call for "Mark" (it that's actually his name) to be kicked off the site. It's worth it for all to see his method of "argument," and think about in whose behalf that method of argument is employed. By contrast, tell me a single time a conservative commenter has taken a crack at someone's wife or made crude references to her religion.

2. I don't know how many of the soft-on-crime crowd (to use shorthand) agree with him. Thus far I've heard only from you and Phil Shapiro. There are lots and lots more out there -- dozens just on this blog.

3. Some of the things that side has said are in fact crazy. Such as: there's no difference between the USA and Russia or China. Or that all cops lie, it being a "job requirement." You didn't say that, but you did say that I was "specious", "disingenuous", and full of "B.S." for stating that liberal Democrats, and not conservatives in any sense, are in charge of the criminal justice systems of the federal government, New York, California, Illinois and quite a few others. In fact my statement is true unless the governors and state legislatures or all those places changed overnight. Did they?

You also said that I'm "cowardly" -- your exact word -- even though I sign my name to everything I write while you persist in hiding your own name. There's lots more, but it's scarcely worth the time when you just walk past points you prefer not to answer.

4. "Thirdly, assuming arguendo, that all of your statistics are 100% accurate as to crime rates, incarceration rates, fluctuations thereof, etc....and this is where I believe the argument should be centered upon...where does your 'harsh punishment' scheme, which you vigorously promote, get us?"

A massive improvement in public safety, mainly. Unapologetic accountability from criminals also helps.

5. "It seems to me that the only benefit of harsh punishments is the "personal satisfaction" one attains, a satisfying of one's desire for vengence."

Then what seems to you is quite incorrect. And it's notable that you want to ascribe only unworthy, nativist emotions to your adversaries, not anything that might resemble thinking. Profs. James Q. Wilson and Barry Latzer, to name two, might beg to differ. Unless you know more than they.

6. "So what is the point if the crime rates are not lowered, and as you have pointed out, are actually rising??"

But they WERE lowered, and dramatically, when tough-on-crime ideas held sway. Over the last few years they have lost ground under "progressive prosecutors" in many big cities, and you can read about the results in the morgue roster.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 30, 2023 4:51:50 PM

After a wonderful day doing things far more meaningful that wading into blog comment venom, I just wanted to stress that I am always comfortable with sharp comments, especially when they are "on point," and I am always eager to discourage gratuitously noxious comments (especially when they are "off-point" and/or ad hominem). I hope all who comment here will respect --- and ultimately see that positions are bolstered by --- these commitments.

Posted by: Doug B | May 30, 2023 5:00:00 PM

Turning back to substance, here's my problem with Section 404 of the First Step Act: if a judge sentencing a defendant under the Fair Sentencing Act's reduced crack-powder disparity would have given a defendant 10 years, instead of 15, why does the judge get to lower the sentence all the way to time served (maybe 5 years)? That is a windfall remedy no other defendant gets. At least when the Commission lowers a guidelines range and makes the change retroactive, the lowest the judge can go is the bottom of the new Guidelines range. The First Step Act should have contained a similar limitation.

Posted by: Da Man | May 30, 2023 5:20:16 PM

Doug --

You had a day you'll remember for a long time, and, may God be praised, not for anything having to do with blogging.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 30, 2023 5:21:07 PM

Da Man --

I agree with your observation, and would add one more. The FSA was another step away from the original Congressional intent in the SRA of 1984, to wit, to change an indeterminate sentencing system into a determinate one. That goal took its most harmful hit in Booker's remedy of making the Guidelines "advisory only." Since Booker (now 18 years ago) things have continued to slide downhill to the point that we're pretty darn close to being where we started decades ago -- luck of the draw sentencing.

Discretion has a place in sentencing, sure, and it had a place in the Guidelines as originally envisioned. But it's grown back to an unhealthy extent. The FSA continued to push it in the wrong direction.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 30, 2023 6:56:12 PM

ANY GOP in the top seat is a devastation to Democracy in this Country. DEsank will bring more hate and our lives with be similar to "The handmaid's tale" Trump will bring a corrupt Dictator into power and fleece America and it's law into a sink hole...stay away from all GOP and may they all be voted out. GOP=HATE. Period.

Posted by: Randy Cowan | May 30, 2023 7:07:21 PM


If you want to read about hate, look at your own comment. If lucky, you may find the irony.

Kudos for not using the word “fascism.”

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 30, 2023 9:19:37 PM

Well, I think Mark is pretty far out of his element.

By many standards, I would be considered "soft on crime" although I don't see it that way. I believe we have laws falling all over themselves that make it difficult to know what the law is. I also observe that prosecutors determine what laws are prosecuted and thus what the sentence is.

Why would I want to only entertain discussions with people who agree with me? What would I learn about the flaws in my argument - Nothing. Bill Otis has taught me a lot about opposing views and I'm grateful for that. He is a hard push, but that only crystalizes the argument. He is not without compassion and would never use a phrase like "white working class racists and rubes".

Posted by: beth curtis | May 30, 2023 9:40:15 PM

Well, I think Mark is pretty far out of his element.

By many standards, I would be considered "soft on crime" although I don't see it that way. I believe we have laws falling all over themselves that make it difficult to know what the law is. I also observe that prosecutors determine what laws are prosecuted and thus what the sentence is.

Why would I want to only entertain discussions with people who agree with me? What would I learn about the flaws in my argument - Nothing. Bill Otis has taught me a lot about opposing views and I'm grateful for that. He is a hard push, but that only crystalizes the argument. He is not without compassion and would never use a phrase like "white working class racists and rubes".

Posted by: beth curtis | May 30, 2023 9:40:15 PM

Beth --

Thanks. I'm quite sure I've benefited more from getting to know you than you have from getting to know me. And your gentle but unyielding tenacity is a lesson I saw first-hand. Very few people could do it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 30, 2023 9:56:16 PM


Come on. You have walked past many, many points that I have made, just as I have with you.

To respond to your comment as to what we, as a society, get out of your 'harsh punishment scheme', you stated:

"A massive improvement in public safety, mainly. Unapologetic accountability from criminals also helps".

However, we do NOT get a massive improvement in public safety, since crime rates rise according to your numbers, and over-all recidivism rates are (and always have been) hovering around 50-60%. By the way, the lowest recidivism rates are those of sex offenders, aside from murderers (3-5% recidivism rate for first time sex offenders who get slammed harder than just about every other sub-set of offenders). What does society get out of that, other than increasing the risk of these folks re-offending?

So, no - I see no "massive improvement in public safety". In fact, the numbers you site leads one to conclude the opposite.

Parenthetically, I have never argued that violent offenders should be released early or given lighter sentences. Quite the opposite.

As far as your argument as to who has built and presently operate the CJ system, I strongly disagree with your take on it. I think you're wildly wrong, and it's hard to imagine that anyone would endorse your position here.

Politicians (on both sides) have for decades cowtowed to those who lobby for the "prison-industrial complex". They actively seek endorsement from police unions, D.A. unions, and similar 'tough on crime' proponents. In California, the CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association...the prison guard union) as well as the California D.A. Association have weilded "undue influence" over government policy for decades, and have gotten many politicians either elected (e.g., Arnold Schwarzenegger), or defeated and/or recalled (e.g., S.F. D.A. Chesa Boudin).
Should a progressive D.A. get elected, we can count on the local police union and D.A. association, etc. work themselves up in a lather, immediately starting media campaigns to subvert and undermine new 'progressive' policies ASAP.

It's a fact that similar law enforcement and prosecutors' associations/unions weild similar influence on politicians in every state of the Union, as well as influence upon federal office holders.

Posted by: SG | May 30, 2023 10:20:08 PM

The supreme irony of all of this is that FSA was mostly a GOP initiative to begin with before Trumpism took hold. Kushner made this a personal priority because of his personal experience and sold it to Teh Donald as increasing his appeal among African-American voters and getting him some press with other relentless self-promoters like Kardashian and her psycho ex. Trump doesn't mention it because that was a failure, not because FSA was a failure.

Our prison systems are notoriously devoid of rehabilitative programs. At least FSA incents inmates to participate in what rehabilitative programming exists.

So, of course Meatball Ron, in keeping with his and the GQP's current brand of performative nonsense masquerading as policy, is going to speak out against the FSA simply because it shortens prison sentences, without regard for whether that is a bad or a good thing.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | May 31, 2023 8:01:32 AM

Bill -

I agree whole-heartedly. It seems to me like the Sixth Amendment jurisprudence that started with Apprendi and ended with Booker was invented precisely so judges could invalidate statutory limits on their discretion. It was yet another power grab by judges, and Congress lacked the fortitude to override the decision with top-less Guidelines that would have required the imposition of the most severe sentence in the statutory range unless the defendant proved his or her way down from it.

But I guess I'm just old-fashioned.

Da Man

Posted by: Da Man | Jun 6, 2023 5:02:34 PM

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