Bill Otis reports that Opinion Research Corporation, in a poll taken during the period Nov. 19-22, asked a sample of 1008 adults the following question:
Thinking about the criminal justice system, which comes closer to your view — that we have too many drug traffickers in prison for too long, or that we don’t do enough to keep drug traffickers off the street?
It was no contest. Only 30 percent picked “we have too many traffickers in prison for too long.” Nearly twice as many — 58 percent — picked “we don’t do enough to keep to keep drug traffickers off the street.”
In other words, the American public, by a margin any presidential candidate would envy, wants more done to keep traffickers off the street, not more done to put them back there.
This poll should be devastating to the sentencing “reform” bills now pending in both chambers of Congress. Those bills would reduce sentences for drug convictions (the Senate bill would do so retroactively as well), and the overwhelming majority of prison sentences imposed for federal drug offenses are for trafficking, not mere possession or use.
In a well-functioning democracy, legislators would not think seriously about enacting legislation that would reduce the time newly-convicted drug traffickers spend in prison, much less release those who have already been sentenced back into the streets. But in our democracy, the elites — including important precincts of the conservative elite — are more than willing to cram unpopular policies down the public’s throat, and to place the public’s safety at risk in the name of ideology.
No wonder Donald Trump has gained so much traction.
One hopes that Congress will jump off the leniency express before it’s too late. If it doesn’t, what do you think the response to the same survey question will be the first time one of the drug dealers released pursuant to “sentencing reform” commits a gruesome crime during the period in which, absent “reform” legislation, he would still be behind bars?
And how do you think the public will view those who voted, in effect, to put the felon back on the streets early?
Even if Republican legislators aren’t mindful of the risk sentencing reform poses to the public, they should be mindful of the political risk it poses to them.