Attorney General Eric Holder is planning to use his broad executive powers to free tens of thousands of criminals from federal prisons and to encourage states to do likewise.
Under the guise of releasing “non-violent” and “low level” criminals, the Attorney General is going to let drug dealers back out on the street, having completed their graduate education in crime during their incarceration. By the time drug offenses are pled, they often end up as “non-violent” crimes, but frequently those classified as such are really quite violent and dangerous. To presuppose that these men and women are low level and just caught up in the system is a very dangerous and self-defeating position.
Holder gets his powers from the Supreme Court decision invalidating the 1986 mandatory sentencing federal law — one of the most successful in history. The Court loosened the mandatory sentencing framework and gave judges back some of the latitude they had enjoyed before which led to turnstile justice, freeing criminals as fast as we locked them up. The 1986 law passed the Senate unanimously, sponsored by Jesse Helms and Ted Kennedy, a pairing which suggested the shared frustration of all Americans with the slap-on-the-wrist sentences being handed out.
But after the Court struck down this law, judges and prosecutors still used the sentencing requirements as guidelines and suggestions and tough sentences have remained the norm. Until Holder.
Two key phenomena have happened simultaneous with a 25% drop in felony crime in the past twenty years and a halving of the murder rate: Federal sentencing guidelines and increased gun possession. As a result of federal guidelines (and the similar truth-in-sentencing laws at the state level), the prison population has doubled during this period and now approximates 2.5 million. Gun possession, in this same period, has gone up 20%. Where in the mid-nineties, only 41% of American households reported owning guns, now 48% do today.
The twin deterrents of a criminal justice system that means business and widespread mean of self-protection have joined to cut the crime rate dramatically. But now Obama and Holder want to strike at the twin pillars of this progress: tough sentencing and gun possession.
They will reap what they sow. We can expect crime to rise again under the Holder guidelines. Once again, it will be the threat it was twenty years ago on the streets of our cities. The pendulum is swinging again.
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