Arkansas Sen. [crscore]Tom Cotton[/crscore] ripped the Senate’s proposed criminal justice reform bill, arguing that instead of reforming the system, it would provide “criminal leniency” by “releasing violent felons early.”
Appearing on the Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” on Thursday, Cotton said that the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 would give “federal judges more discretion at a time when the Democrats broke the rules in the Senate specifically to pack the lower courts with liberal Obama judges.”
“I would not call it [a] sentencing reform bill or criminal justice reform. I call it criminal leniency,” Cotton explained. “The proposal, as passed under the Senate Judiciary Committee and discussed by many in the House of Representatives, would substantially reduce mandatory minimum sentences. It would reduce the number of predicate offenses that can be used to invoke three strikes laws or sentencing enhancements.”
“It would gift federal judges more discretion at a time when the Democrats broke the rules in the Senate specifically to pack the lower courts with liberal Obama judges, and it would make all of that retroactive,” Cotton said.
Cotton argued that the “entire premise of this proposal is based on a myth. It’s the myth of mass incarceration of low level, nonviolent drug offenders. That myth is simply not true in federal prison. Only 1/8 of all prisoners are in the federal system, and more importantly, less than one half of one percent of those prisoners are there for drug possession charges. And that’s probably because they plea bargained down. If you’re in federal prison for drug crimes, you’re almost certainly a dealer and a trafficker, which is build on an entire edifice of violence. And I just don’t think we should let violent felons out of prison early or we should reduce their sentences in the future.”
Regarding the fact that drug offenders are being let out early, as Bennett said, “Thanks to President Obama,” Cotton agreed saying, “Yes, the Sentencing Commission has issued new guidelines and applied those retroactively, and thousands of felons have been let out of the federal system over the last several years. That’s one reason why our federal prison system is at its lowest population since 2008.”
“And it’s one reason why you have the kind of heinous crime that happened earlier in Ohio, a man who would still be in prison today, but he was released early because of sentencing guideline reforms and just a few weeks ago he brutally murdered, with a knife, a woman and her two young children. Now, I recognize that there are a few instances of unjust sentences, that the law doesn’t always work in every particular case,” Cotton acknowledged. “The president can pardon someone who has a manifestly unjust sentence. The president cannot bring that women and her two children back to life.”
Cotton then directed his attention to the Republicans on the judiciary committee, saying, “Republicans on the committee were deeply split, Bill. They split six to five, for this bill. In my conversations with other senators who aren’t on the committee or who have not engaged deeply on this issue yet, they were surprised to learn that the bill would release violent felons early and reduce sentences in the future for violent felons.” Obama Was Just Asked About The All White Oscars. You’ve Got To See His Answer
“They were also surprised to learn the facts. I think as more senators and congressmen dig in to this issue, they’ll realize leniency in sentencing is the last thing we should do. There are, however, genuine criminal justice reforms I would propose we undertake. One is Sen. Cornyn’s proposal, which is part of this bill which would help reform prisons. Prisons should not be an anarchic jungle that are a danger to prisoners and guards alike. They should be a place to punish for past crimes … and deter future crimes, while also offering rehabilitation and redemption to those who want it,” Cotton insisted.
“Second, we should be focused on rehabilitation for anyone who doesn’t get life without parole or death sentence, they’re going to return to society, and we want to get them treatment if they’re drug addicts. We want to turn them away from a life of crime,” Sen. Cotton argued. “And then there’s other areas of criminal justice reform on which we could also focus, like over-criminalization, or the requirement of a state-of-mind element in most federal crimes. Those three areas combined would be a very robust, very sound criminal justice reform package. Sentencing leniency is not part of that.”