Sentencing Reform

McConnell will bring leniency legislation to Senate floor for vote

Featured image Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today that he will bring First Step — i.e., leniency legislation for federal felons — to the Senate floor. It has more than enough votes to pass. McConnell’s move follows some concessions to the bill’s critics. Although the concessions don’t come close to curing the legislation, they were enough, combined with pressure from the White House and from wealthy Republican donors, to move some GOP »

Trump’s tepid support for leniency legislation

Featured image Last month, President Trump announced his support for FIRST STEP. This legislation provides leniency for federal drug felons by shortening some sentences at the front end, and leniency for federal felons of many stripes at the back end by enabling early release from prison. It wasn’t clear why Trump made this decision, which is inconsistent with his promise to get tougher with fentanyl dealers. Perhaps it was constant pestering from »

FIRST STEP bitterly divides Senate Republicans

Featured image FIRST STEP, the leniency for federal felons legislation being supported by President Trump, may or may not pass the Senate this year. Either way, it has split the Republican caucus. This Washington Post report leaves no doubt about that. The division is encapsulated in dueling National Review articles — one by Sen. Tom Cotton opposing the jailbreak and the other by Sen. Mike Lee supporting it. In another NRO article, »

Trump’s flip-flop on sentencing of drug traffickers

Featured image Conservatives applaud President Trump for keeping his promises. And we are justified in doing so. Trump has indeed kept many of his non-hyperbolic promises. Unfortunately, Trump has violated one of his most important promises: getting tougher on drug dealers. Here is what Trump said just eight months ago: Every day, 116 Americans die from an opioid-related overdose. In New Hampshire, the overdose, really, death rate — I mean, can you »

Just hours after release, “non-violent” criminal kills woman

Featured image Fox News reports on the arrest of a man suspected of killing a woman just hours after being released from state prison. David Bohart, 34, had been released from the Tucson state prison complex after serving a three-year stint for possession or use of dangerous drugs, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections. He had served two previous terms in prison on convictions for forgery and possession or use of »

Getting to like Matt Whitaker, courtesy of the Washington Post

Featured image I’m still unhappy about President Trump’s removal of Jeff Sessions. But the more I read about acting attorney general Matt Whitaker in the Washington Post, the more I like him. Yesterday, the Post’s big reveal about Whitaker was that he spent a few years working for the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a conservative-leaning nonprofit dedicated to exposing unethical conduct by public officials. In that capacity, he often »

Trump backs leniency for fentanyl dealers, etc. Part Two

Featured image Yesterday, I wrote about President Trump’s support for what Sen. Tom Cotton calls jailbreak legislation. That legislation, known as FIRST STEP, enables the early release from federal prison of most categories of federal felons and sets lower mandatory minimum sentences for many federal drug felons. Yesterday’s post focused on the politics of FIRST STEP. Today, I want to focus on how the legislation would affect fentanyl dealers. I focus on »

Team Leniency extends its generosity to child pornographers

Featured image FIRST STEP — the leniency legislation being pushed by the left, by some conservatives, and by Jared Kushner — is the gift that keeps on giving to federal felons of all stripes. Much of the leniency is extended to federal drug felons, a group that does not include citizens who merely possessed marijuana. But it also encompasses many sex offenders. FIRST STEP provides for the early release from prison of »

Key law enforcement groups oppose FIRST STEP

Featured image Team leniency — the folks who favor shorter sentences for federal drug felons and favor letting federal felons of all stripes out of jail before their sentences have been fully served — promised it would push for such legislation as soon as the elections were over. They have kept this promise by renewing the drive to enact FIRST STEP legislation. Whether leniency legislation is enacted ultimately depends, I think, on »

Media alert

Featured image Later this afternoon, I will be the guest of Seth Leibsohn on KKNT 960—”The Patriot”—in Arizona. I’m schedule to appear at 6:30 Eastern Time. We will be discussing FIRST STEP, the leniency for drug felons legislation I wrote about yesterday. »

Team leniency sells a bill of goods on FIRST STEP

Featured image Team leniency — the folks who favor shorter sentences for federal drug felon and favor letting these felons out of jail before their sentences have been fully served — promised it would push for such legislation as soon as the elections were over. They weren’t going to push for it before the elections because leniency legislation is massively unpopular. Now that the elections are safely behind them, leniency supporters have »

Pye in the sky, Part Two

Featured image I wrote here about Jason Pye’s attack on those who oppose leniency legislation for federal drug felons. One of my arguments addressed his claim that we shouldn’t fear that leniency legislation will cause dangerous felons to be released from prison early. Why is this not a valid concern? Because, says Pye, decisions about releasing felons will use “risk and needs assessment to determine [a prisoner’s] risk of reoffending.” I countered »

Pye in the sky

Featured image Jason Pye of Freedom Works has a column in the Hill defending the First Step Act. . .sort of. It’s mostly an attack on those who oppose this leniency legislation. Pye calls opponents “reactionaries” and accuses us of dishonesty and fear-mongering. But name-calling is no substitute for argument, and when Pye gets around to actually arguing, he consistently hides the ball. Pye writes: Opponents claim that violent crime is rising »

Our under-incarceration problem, explosive packages edition

Featured image Inevitably, Democrats and their partners in the mainstream media want to focus on the political leanings of the man suspected of sending packages to leading leftists. However, Daniel Horowitz contends that the real story here is “jailbreak,” i.e., the failure to put criminals behind bars and keep them there. I agree that this is a key element of the story. The suspect apparently has a lengthy rap sheet that included »

Is the White House turning criminal justice policy over to Van Jones and Kim Kardashian?

Featured image I hope not, but there’s reason for concern. This morning, the White House announced: Members of the Administration are hosting a listening session about the clemency process. The discussion is mainly focused on ways to improve that process to ensure deserving cases receive a fair review. Here is the list of those who were to participate: INTERNAL ATTENDEES: Jared Kushner Ja’Ron Smith Brooke Rollins Chris Liddell EXTERNAL ATTENDEES: Rachel Barkow »

The folly of leniency-for-felons legislation: A response to John Malcolm

Featured image John Malcolm of the Heritage Foundation has responded to my critique of his article defending the leniency-for-criminals legislation being pushed in the Senate. I appreciate his response. Like a good lawyer writing a reply brief, Malcolm begins by citing the points he made that I didn’t dispute. Let me begin by returning the favor. Here are points I made that Malcolm does not dispute. I consider them decisive. First, Malcolm »

Report: Trump strongly opposes lenient sentencing legislation

Featured image Last week, it was determined that the leniency-for-drug felons legislation being pushed by Democrats and some Republicans will not be brought to the Senate floor before the November elections. Left open was the question of whether it will be brought to the Senate floor afterwards. The answer to that question lies, I believe, in the position President Trump takes. If he supports leniency-for-felons legislation, it might well get a floor »