Tom Cotton: Amend First Step

I wrote here about Sen. Tom Cotton’s proposed amendments to First Step — the jailbreak legislation that’s on the verge of passing the Senate. Now, in an article for NRO, Sen. Cotton explains the need for his amendments.

Cotton focuses on the fact that First Step, though it excludes some federal criminals from eligibility for early release, fails to exclude a number of very serious felonies, including violent ones. He writes:

Among those crimes [not excluded] are certain kinds of child molestation and sex trafficking, assaults on law-enforcement officers, violent bank robberies, carjackings, and hate crimes. Fittingly, the First Step Act would even allow early release for the accomplices in jailbreaks.

Another crime still eligible for early release under the bill is 18 U.S.C. § 2422. This is a commonly used statute to prosecute sex offenders who attempt to coerce children into illicit activity, often through the Internet. There are 1,446 sex offenders in federal prison convicted under this statute, and not one of them deserves to be released a day early.

As an example of a felon who deserves to serve his entire sentence in prison, but won’t under First Step as written, Cotton cites former NASCAR driver Richard Crawford:

Crawford is a former NASCAR driver who was convicted in August of trying to force a twelve-year-old girl to have sex with him. Crawford was sentenced to nearly 11 years in federal prison, but the statute he was convicted under does not appear in First Step’s “ineligible prisoners” list. If the bill passes, he will therefore be eligible for time credits that would reduce his time in prison by up to one-third, or nearly four years. At the end of his prison sentence he would be moved into pre-release custody or supervised release. He would essentially be a free man.

Crawford’s sex crime was not obscure, low-level, or “victimless.” Quite the opposite. His crime had the potential to shatter a child’s life. It was punished accordingly by a judge and a jury of his peers. That is how criminal justice ought to work in America. Now a group of politicians and activists are in a position to overturn that public judgment with the First Step Act. Conservatives should resist this revolution.

Another of Sen. Cotton’s amendments would require the Bureau of Prisons to track the recidivism of federal inmates who are granted early release. This, Cotton explains, “would allow the public to see exactly what First Step’s supporters mean when they claim released prisoners will pose ‘minimal or low’ risk of returning to crime.”

It’s telling that supporters of First Step, who describe the programs through which felons can earn credits that will enable them to get out of jail early as “evidence based“, reject a provision that would require the collection of, you know, evidence. If this Cotton amendment is rejected, it will fully expose the label “evidence based” for the euphemistic hoax it is.

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