Earlier today, Obama announced the commutation of sentences for 61 drug traffickers who will be released from federal prison in July. According to the Associated Press, “The latest tranche of commutations brings to 248 the total number of inmates whose sentences Obama has commuted — more than the past six presidents combined.” As we’ve noted in a series of articles this past year, the federal prison population is actually relatively small, hovering at roughly 160,000. And most of those in federal prison, as opposed to state penitentiaries, are indeed violent criminals who likely committed other crimes but pleaded down to and were sentenced for drug trafficking. Also, up to 30% are non-citizens and should be deported instead of released into our population.
Republicans should have defunded these commutations during last year’s budget battle, but instead they have signaled to Obama that they will drop every other important issue and focus on enshrining his last remaining domestic policy agenda item for the remainder of his term. Paul Ryan has promised to bring to the floor a bill that will retroactively release thousands more from federal prisons, including MS-13 gang members who were convicted to up to 20 years in federal prison for violent crimes.
Jailbreak, along with the Puerto Rico bailout, will likely be the biggest legislative battles of Spring 2016. This is something both conservatives and libertarians need to fight. There is nothing libertarian about this effort. It’s not as if Congress is prospectively reforming the drug laws by devolving them to the states. This is all about retroactively reducing prison population and handing more discretion to liberal judges; the same people who exacerbated the crime wave of last generation with their lenient sentences.
This is not rooted in a libertarian agenda and will not result in a libertarian outcome of getting the federal government out of drug enforcement. There is a reason the ACLU, La Raza, and the AFL-CIO are championing this bill with the same vigor as the Gang of Eight. It will result in chaos, more crime, and the ultimate goal of registering more Democrat voters.
Honest people can debate the utility of federal narcotics statutes going forward, but most of those already serving time in federal prison are heavy duty cocaine, meth or heroin dealers and have often committed other violent crimes and will commit violent crimes upon release. Let’s first deal with border security and stop the flow of both illegal immigrants and destructive narcotics and we will see a huge reduction in the federal prison population and proliferation of drugs.
Conservatives should spend the next few months embarrassing Obama on immigration, Cuba, Iran, religious liberty, and homeland security, not peddle the jailbreak agenda of the far left.