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About That Money We'd Save from "Smart Sentencing"...

Sen. Chuck Grassley, along with Sen. Jeff Sessions, has been taking the lead in exposing the truth about the now-quite-dead Smarter Sentencing Act.  Today, he put a hole in one of the main arguments for it  --  that it will save a bunch of money.

Of course, we can always save money, in the short run, by cutting the prison population and thus incarceration costs.  In this sense, the more we cut, the more we'll save.  Think of the boatload we would save if we just let 90% of them loose!

The problem with this argument, as with most borne of the blinkered ideology that sees felons as victims who'd massively contribute to society if we'd just shovel social services at them, is that it sees only one side of the ledger while ignoring or trivializing the other.  Senator Grassley put some reality (and honesty) into the debate by his announcement today citing none other than the CBO.  It turns out that a goodly chunk of the money we'd save on one end would be paid out through the other.  Imagine that. 
WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a senior member of the Budget Committee, said that the Smarter Sentencing Act not only risks a rise in crime, but the bill will put taxpayers on the hook for close to $1 billion in entitlement spending.

A new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that enacting the Smarter Sentencing Act would "Increase direct spending by about $1 billion and would reduce revenues by $42 million" over the 10-year budget window. The CBO wrote that releasing an estimated 250,000 prisoners would lead to higher entitlement spending on Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and food stamp costs.

"This is like throwing salt in an open wound. Mandatory sentencing guidelines have proven to increase sentences, decrease crime and lessen disparities. Now throw in a $1 billion entitlement cost of the Smarter Sentencing Act, and you've got legislation that should never see the light of day," Grassley said. "The 'smarter' in the bill title clearly doesn't mean 'smarter' budgeting or crime reduction."

Grassley said the bill's high price tag comes on the entitlement side which is far more dangerous than the dollars that proponents say may be saved on the appropriations ledger. 

Obama administration officials have stated in testimony before the Judiciary Committee that mandatory minimums help law enforcement in a number of ways to reduce crime and keep bad guys off the streets. The National Narcotics Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys have all written in opposition to the bill.

The analysis by CBO can be found here.

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