Bills labeled “criminal justice reform” have circulated in Congress for the past three years, but while they are well-meaning, they would do far more harm than good. This includes a measure sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, titled the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.
The Grassley legislation would make our communities less safe by returning still more convicted criminals from federal prisons to the streets sooner.
In addition, the Grassley bill would tie up hundreds of federal prosecutors, who would be forced to deal with sentencing reduction motions filed by prisoners seeking early release. This means the prosecutors would have less time to handle new cases involving dangerous criminals.
The Grassley bill would reduce federal prison sentences not only for “non-violent, low-level drug offenders” but serious drug traffickers, members of violent drug cartels and people convicted of firearms crimes.
In addition, Grassley’s bill ignores the reality that strong federal sentencing guidelines have another valuable byproduct – squeezing cooperation from reticent criminals so they will testify against other criminals, while incentivizing them to plead guilty to lesser offenses to get shorter prison terms.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons holds nearly 184,000 prisoners. A total of 46.2 percent of them are serving time for serious drug-related offenses; another 17.5 percent have been convicted of weapons, explosive and arson crimes; and 9.4 percent are imprisoned for sex offenses.