November 16, 2018

First Step Act

The holidays are just around the corner. Now’s a GREAT time to forward us to friends and family, and not let politics ruin Thanksgiving dinner!

Washington Post

On Wednesday, President Trump formally endorsed a new bipartisan bill to support criminal justice reform, called the First Step Act. This new act aims to increase employment options for inmates, and enact more lenient sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left fully supports the bill and is glad it’s receiving bipartisan support.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) states, "this deal represents a meaningful break from the decades of failed policies that led to mass incarceration, which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, drained our economy, compromised public safety, hurt our children, and disproportionately harmed communities of color while devaluing the very idea of justice in America."

Booker.senate.gov

“Millions of Americans have come to realize that our nation’s long experiment with harsh sentences has failed. It has filled our prisons and made it extremely difficult for ex-inmates to successfully re-enter society. They leave prison after serving long sentences with no understanding of modern technology. Some have never even touched a smartphone...

"When they turn to crime again, nobody should be surprised. Our nation locks up too many people for too long, and it’s just got to end. Welcome to the cause, President Trump. Show us you mean it.”

Chicago Sun Times

CNN’s Van Jones tweeted: “Give the man his due: @realDonaldTrump is on his way to becoming the uniter-in-Chief on an issue that has divided America for generations. Congrats to everyone on both sides who fought for this."

Twitter

“A crucial feature of the Senate plan... is the inclusion of so-called front-end reforms with the goal of a more rational sentencing process. The House version, passed in May, focused solely on ‘back end’ reforms, such as improving prison conditions and easing inmates’ re-entry into society. But tending to the existing prison population without tempering the draconian sentencing laws that caused that population to explode in recent decades is, as Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has put it, ‘naïve and unproductive’...

“Sessions is out. Trump is on board. It’s time to put these necessary changes into action.”

New York Times

Trump's “goal, it seems, is to put so much pressure on Tehran that it has no choice but to completely change its behavior — but he could end up leading the countries to the brink of war in the process… Now is typically the time when cooler heads prevail, but it’s unclear if there are cooler heads around… It’s hard to overstate how avoidable this situation was.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“In theory, there’s no reason why a bad businessman can’t go on to become a good president. But a commander-in-chief whose signature legislative achievement expanded tax loopholes that he himself describes as grossly unfair is pretty much a bad president, by definition.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

From the Right

The right is divided; some criticize the bill's reduced sentences for drug traffickers, while others posit that imprisoning non-violent offenders is counterproductive.

From the Right

The right is divided; some criticize the bill's reduced sentences for drug traffickers, while others posit that imprisoning non-violent offenders is counterproductive.

Critics, such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), argue that the bill “is just a misguided effort to let serious felons out of prison... [it] goes soft on some of the worst crimes — trafficking heroin and fentanyl — by allowing most traffickers to spend up to a third of their sentence at home, where many of them will no doubt return to dealing drugs.”

USA Today

“Current law mandates a prison sentence of at least 20 years for a repeat fentanyl drug trafficker. The First Step Act automatically reduces that sentence by five years and further cuts the penalty through a number of changes... [to] less than half of the time that the drug trafficker would have served under current law. This sentencing reduction could apply to a repeat drug trafficker who trafficked more than 400 grams of fentanyl into the U.S., enough to kill 100,000 Americans. The First Step Act also will result in the immediate release of 4,000 felons from prisons.”

Breitbart

Supporters, such as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), point out that while “Incarceration is an essential law enforcement tool that protects communities and keeps families safe... it also inflicts costs on communities and families, and at some point the negative impact of incarceration on marriage and family can become too stark to ignore. And for non-violent offenders, especially those with no prior criminal history, excessive sentences often do far more harm than good.”

Fox News

“Super-long sentences are a good means for protecting society long-term from its scariest and most violent criminals. But long sentences are not in themselves a terribly effective deterrent against crime – not nearly as effective as swift and certain punishment. A prison sentence is a wakeup for anyone. But for a nonviolent offender, the tail-end years he spends living at taxpayers’ expense often end up just making him less fit for the real world.”

Washington Examiner

Some argue, “It stands to reason that if Kim is willing to starve his own people, deprive his economy of any growth, and pour billions of dollars into missile tech, he will, at some point, develop weapons America and its allies mastered decades ago. And short of an invasion or a diplomatic agreement, under the present circumstances, there is very little we can do to stop him… Taking a hardline approach—what many call the ‘big deal’—or only granting sanctions relief after full denuclearization and the end of Kim’s missile programs is completely impractical and something North Korea would never agree to… only a step-by-step process of disarming Pyongyang, where each side gets a benefit for making a concession, will work.”
Harry J. Kazianis, The American Conservative

Others posit that “the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea… If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan…

“After an exhausting two weeks [between North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and others], one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not the time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, ‘Why is this our problem?’”
Pat Buchanan, Townhall

Counterpoint: “after the War of 1812, President Madison… enacted the Tariff of 1816 to price British textiles out of competition, so Americans would build the new factories and capture the booming U.S. market. It worked. Tariffs [also] financed Mr. Lincoln’s War. The Tariff of 1890 bears the name of Ohio Congressman and future President William McKinley, who said that a foreign manufacturer ‘has no right or claim to equality with our own… He pays no taxes. He performs no civil duties’… [A tariff’s] purpose is not just to raise revenue but to make a nation economically independent of others, and to bring its citizens to rely upon each other rather than foreign entities.”
Patrick J. Buchanan, The American Conservative

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

On the bright side...

Philly’s first snow: Camel roams highway, winter widens Gritty’s eyes.

The Inquirer

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