Leftists, and some conservatives, like to talk about over-incarceration in America. But many of the high-profile horrific crimes we read about suggest that we have an under-incarceration problem (in theory, it’s possible we could have both).
The latest such crime is the attempted assassination of Philadelphia police officer Jesse Hartnett. A few days ago, he was ambushed in his patrol car and shot at more than a dozen times. Though severely wounded, he was able to chase his assailant and call for help. Thus, the would-be assassin was captured.
He turns out to be Edward Archer. In a properly functioning legal system, Archer would have been in jail. According to this report, he pleaded guilty in 2013 to an armed assault that apparently took place just a few blocks from where he later tried to kill Officer Hartnett. In addition, Archer was found guilty in November 2015 of charges of fraud and forgery. He was awaiting sentencing for these crimes.
The 2013 guilty plea stemmed from an incident in which Archer pulled a gun on victim and pointed it towards his stomach while grabbing his shirt and threatening him. The charges against Archer included aggravated assault, conspiracy, terrorist threats, simple assault, and firearm offenses. He pleaded down to carrying a gun without a license, a third-degree felony, and simple assault, a second-degree misdemeanor.
According to court documents, Archer was sentenced to nine to 13 months in prison, allowed to count time served, and immediately paroled. Nine to 13 months is way too lenient for assaulting someone with a gun. (In what universe should assaulting someone with a gun be “simple assault”) Archer’s criminal acts showed him to be an obvious menace. He should have been in prison instead of free to shoot Officer Hartnett.
There’s another angle to Archer’s story that should give pause to those behind the bipartisan push to pass legislation that would result in thousands — and maybe tens of thousands — of drug dealers being released from federal prison.
Archer says he shot Hartnett in the name of Islam. Reportedly, he traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2011 and to Egypt in 2012.
There are also reports that Archer may have picked up his radical Islamic ideology while serving in prison. I haven’t seen confirmation that this is so. Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t.
But there’s no serious dispute that many prisoners do become radicalized Muslims while serving in prison. Thus, the more drug dealers we let out of prison early, the more radical Islamists with prison records (including in some instances for gun offenses) will be on our streets sooner (sometimes much sooner) than would otherwise be he case.
A “redemption narrative” is driving many conservatives and evangelicals to want to release prisoners early. There is, I sense, the expectation (or at least the hope) that many of the released prisoners will have seen the light thanks to Christian ministries like the Prison Fellowship started by Chuck Colson.
But what about radically Islamic ministries within prison walls? Who believes they aren’t influential? And who believes the government can see to it that criminals who have converted to radical Islam won’t be among those released under the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015?
Indeed, who believes that the government would even attempt to prevent the release of the converted? To screen prisoners based on religious belief would be miles too politically incorrect to contemplate, I suspect.
To me, then, the shooting of Officer Hartnett by ex-con Archer reinforces the view (1) that we have an under-incarceration problem and (2) that we shouldn’t be looking for new ways to let any felons out of prison.