Liberal Democrats and squishy Republicans are renewing their push for legislation that would reduce sentences for federal drug traffickers and release felons from prison early. Majority Leader McConnell reportedly says he will bring such legislation to the floor, after the midterm elections, if it has the support of 60 Senators. If so, leniency legislation could pass even if the vast majority of the GOP caucus opposes it.
There’s a good reason why McConnell wants to wait until after the midterms. The American electorate is dead set against leniency for drug felons.
A new survey of American adults, commissioned by the Foundation for Safeguarding Justice (FSJ), shows that the public overwhelmingly opposes sentencing and prison and “reforms” that would reduce federal criminal penalties for drug traffickers and allow the early release of prisoners to “home confinement.”
In fact, three out of four Americans surveyed (74 percent) said they oppose proposals that reduce penalties for criminals involved in the trafficking of heroin, fentanyl, and similar drugs. Yet, this is what Team Leniency, seemingly oblivious to the high recidivism rates for drug felons, wants desperately to do.
Quite apart from the public safety consequences of such legislation, there’s an enormous amount of political risk to supporting legislation the public so adamantly opposes. The survey finds that two-thirds (66 percent) of the survey respondents would think less highly of their congressional representatives for supporting a proposal that would (1) reduce penalties for trafficking in heroin, fentanyl, and similar drugs and (2) allow convicted drug traffickers and other criminals to be released to home confinement before completing their sentences.
Not surprisingly, Republican voters are even more dead set against leniency legislation than is the general population. When asked whether they would support or oppose a proposal to reduce federal government penalties for traffickers in heroin, fentanyl, and similar drugs, 87 percent of Republicans said they would oppose such a proposal, while only nine percent said they would support it.
Republican legislators who back this approach are completely out-of-step with the wishes of Republican voters. This is another case of Washington GOP elitists defying the common sense views of their constituents.
Democratic voters haven’t taken leave of their senses on this matter, either. 70 percent of them say they oppose reducing sentences for traffickers in heroin, fentanyl, etc. Only 22 percent say they support it.
On the underlying issue of whether the government is too tough or too lenient on drug felons, the result, resoundingly, is that Americans believe the government isn’t tough enough. Only 14 percent of survey respondents think that the federal government is too tough in its handling of drug trafficking — the premise of leniency legislation. 51 percent believe the federal government isn’t tough enough. 25 percent believe that the current approach is about right.
Women are slightly more likely to believe the government is not tough enough, as are Whites. However, majorities of Black and Hispanic respondents said the government was at the right amount of harshness or insufficiently harsh in dealing with drug traffickers. They too reject the premise of the push for leniency.
Apparently, you have to be a liberal Democrat, a Lindsey Graham/Jeff Flake Republican, a denizen of the Heritage Foundation, or someone who likes to hang out with Kim Kardashian to believe the government is being too harsh in sentencing drug traffickers.
Since very few Americans fall into any of these categories, Republican legislators support leniency for drug traffickers at their peril.