Even if you agree with prison reform, it should not include violent crimes. If you are sentenced for nonviolent crimes need revamping, you will find allies in every political stripe but not if it includes violent criminals.
You must remember that no bill is finalized and these concerns could be addressed later unless it drags out to the next Congress, in which case the Democrats will insist they remain. GOP staffers sent out a message that included the 22 classes of violent felons that would be eligible for early release.
I wanted to share some additional information about the FIRST STEP Act that may be of interest to your office. As the Department of Justice has confirmed, the bill creates a new time credit system that allows inmates to earn early release worth up to one-third of their sentence. Some offenders are ineligible to receive these early release time credits because the offense is listed on an ‘exclusion list’. But here is a partial list of crimes that an offender can commit and still be eligible for significant early release, according to Department of Justice Attorneys.
From there, the letter goes on to list the 20 violent crimes that would be eligible for early release under the bill:
Trafficking cocaine or methamphetamines, even if convicted as a kingpin (18 U.S.C § 841(b)
Strangling a spouse or an intimate partner (18 U.S.C. §113(a)(8)
Trafficking fentanyl, except in rare cases (18 U.S.C. § 841(b))
Providing or possessing contraband, including firearms, in prison (18 U.S.C. § 1791)
Felonies committed while in a criminal street gang (18 U.S.C. § 521)
Escape of prisoners (18 U.S.C. § 751)
Rioting in a correctional facility (18 U.S.C. § 1792)
Importing aliens for prostitution (18 U.S.C. § 1328)
Assault with intent to commit rape or sexual abuse (18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)(2)(F))
Threatening to murder a congressman, senator, or government official (18 U.S.C. § 115(a)(1)
Drug-related robberies involving assault with a dangerous weapon (18 U.S.C. § 2118(c)(1)
Violent carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury (18 U.S.C. § 2119(2))
Stealing immigration documents for the purpose of keeping an immigrant in slavery (18 U.S.C. § 1592)
Attempt or conspiracy to engage in human smuggling (18 U.S.C. § 1592)
Failing to register as a sex offender (18 U.S.C. § 2250)
Arson (18 U.S.C. § 81)
Blackmail (18 U.S.C. § 873)
Domestic assault by a habitual offender (18 U.S.C. § 117)
Hate crimes (18 U.S.C. § 249)
Assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon (18 U.S.C. § 111(b))
At that point, the GOP Senate document lists a series of questions for proponents of the bill:
- Would you consider these low-level or non-violent crimes?
- How can we trust the BOP to correctly categorize who is high vs. low risk?
- If the reasons these are not on the list is because they are obscure crimes, why is drug trafficking – the single most common offense – missing?
- Why are obscure violations of the Atomic Energy Code on the exclusion list but not these crimes?
- If you added provisions to the bill that Senator Booker and Democrats wanted, why won’t you add more violent crimes to the ‘exclusion from early release’ list that Republicans want?
- Why have an exclusion list in the first place if these crimes are missing from it?
- Can you promise that no offender who commits these crimes will ever be released early?
- How many offenders are in prison for each of these crimes and how many will be eligible to be released into my home state?