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A Requiem for Sentencing Reform

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Mass sentencing reduction had a chance in Congress for only as long as our country's galloping murder and heroin spikes could be shoved behind the media curtain, and before evidence surfaced of how grisly the human toll of early release would be.

When Wendell Callahan was given early release courtesy of a less ambitious 2010 version of sentencing reform and then, four months ago. sliced up two little girls and their mother, the current legislation suffered what may have been its mortal blow. Sentencing reformers had no answer.  Mostly the response was to refuse to discuss it.  The best a flummoxed Senate staffer could squeak out was, hey, look, we can't catch everything.  No wonder he and his boss refused to be quoted for attribution.

In addition, the shocking acceleration in murder and heroin overdose deaths is now at the point where even the pro-criminal lobby cannot ignore it; the best they can do is profess head-scratching befuddlement at how it could have happened. (It never occurs to them  --  or, more likely, it's precisely because it does occur to them  -- that this is the outcropping of their police-are-Nazis campaign).

Thus today  --  and as usual refusing to admit what they're doing  --  the SRCA's backers admitted defeat.
In Washington, of course, you have to read carefully to understand when an admission of defeat is what you're seeing.  It comes in this Huffington Post piece:

Senators pushing for bipartisan criminal justice reform are running out of time to pass the legislation through both chambers before the election year's long summer recess begins.  If lawmakers don't find a way to move the bill before they leave in July, the chances of it passing this year dwindle significantly. 


In Washingtonese, "dwindle significantly" means "dwindle to, for example, the point that Hillary will cooperate with the Inspector General's investigation."


Still, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who helped author the Senate package, said Tuesday that he and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are waiting for the House to move first. Cornyn wouldn't say whether the two lawmakers had talked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who dictates what comes to the floor, about the latest version of the bill.


Translation:  They won't talk to McConnell because they already know the answer. I strongly suspect they've known if for weeks if not months.


And looking to the House bill is a transparent shake-and-jive.  As House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte has made clear, there isn't going to be a bill without mens rea reform, something the Democrats will never buy.  If the Senate SRCA backers are actually waiting for the House, they're waiting for the Twelfth of Never.


Thus, as if on cue:


So far, the House Judiciary Committee has pushed through a slew of criminal justice bills, but no floor time has been arranged by Republican leaders for the package despite the interest they have expressed in passing it. When asked about the bill's prospects, Goodlatte referred HuffPost to his press office, which didn't immediately respond.


Even outside Washington, I think readers will be able to figure that one out.


The Senate is scheduled to adjourn July 15 and reconvene in September, at which point it is scheduled to be in session just 43 days through the end of the year.


Late last month, proponents of the bill unveiled changes to the text, strengthening language applying to violent offenders to win over more Republicans and convince McConnell it has enough votes for passage. But after finalizing the latest revisions and announcing the new co-sponsors, talk of votes on the package has all but stopped in the Senate -- an indication that McConnell hasn't warmed to the idea. 


What it's "an indication of" is that good ideas beat bad ones if they can only be heard. Because of the courageous leadership and brilliant advocacy of Senators Jeff Sessions, Tom Cotton, David Perdue and others, the message got out:  Mass sentencing reduction, and the national loss of nerve it bespeaks, has a cost a sober and humane electorate will not pay.


It's a heartbreaking outrage that the little girls Wendell Callahan killed had to die a gruesome death because of the delusion that vicious drug dealers are really victims of Puritanical Amerika.  But if we've learned something, a glimmer of good has come from it.   



1 Comment

"In addition, the shocking acceleration in murder and heroin overdose deaths is now at the point where even the pro-criminal lobby cannot ignore it; the best they can do is profess head-scratching befuddlement at how it could have happened. (It never occurs to them -- or, more likely, it's precisely because it does occur to them -- that this is the outcropping of their police-are-Nazis campaign). Thus today -- and as usual refusing to admit what they're doing -- the SRCA's backers admitted defeat."

Just to be clear, you're calling those who support the SRCA part of a "pro-criminal lobby" that views police as Nazis?

-Jim

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