Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Trump's First Step Act falters under Biden

By William Haupt | The Center Square Contributor

Courtesy The Center Square

"Americans from across the political spectrum must unite around prison reform legislation that will reduce crime and give our fellow citizens redemption as they reenter society.'' – Donald Trump

When Bill Clinton signed the Tough On Crime bill of 1994, it dramatically increased incarceration. America imprisons more people than any other country in the world. The 1994 crime bill obligated states to pass more tough-on-crime laws. By 1995, every state passed mandatory sentencing laws.

With less than 5% of the world’s population, we have 25% of the total global prison population. The collateral damage of Tough On Crime has cut back on plea bargaining and probation for first time offenders. Class "C" felonies and some class "A" misdemeanors are now subject to strict penalties.

The 1994 crime bill encouraged more punitive laws and harsher penalties for all crimes. Since 90% of the imprisoned are in the states custody, in an effort to lock up people longer, the states passed 'tougher' sentencing laws. Department of Justice data shows under the rubric of “tough on crime,'' between 1980 and 2015, the 222% increase in the rate of incarceration was a consequence of changes in policy, and not changes in crime rates. This affected all felons in all states, especially many Black offenders.

In 2016, Donald Trump campaigned to address prison and justice reform to ease the over crowding of our detention centers. His goal was to enact several changes in U.S. federal criminal laws aimed at reforming federal prisons and sentencing laws and reduce recidivism. He developed a bipartisan plan with Congress to decrease the federal inmate population, while maintaining the public's safety.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) headed the bipartisan effort of The First Step Act in the Senate. A bipartisan House coalition led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote similar legislation. The bill passed in both houses and was signed into law by Trump in December 2018.

"The First Step Act proved we could significantly overhaul America's criminal justice system." – Brett Tolman, Right on Crime.

The First Step Act was the first criminal justice reform bill passed in a decade. It did two things: cut long prison sentences and it better prepared offenders to return to society. With a disproportionate number of imprisoned Blacks, they benefited most from The First Act. The U.S. Sentencing Commission revealed 91% of the 1,051 prisoners who had their sentences vastly reduced were Black inmates.

On Oct 25, 2019, Trump was honored at a criminal justice conference held in South Carolina's historic Black Benedict College for passing the First Step Act. The Bipartisan Justice Center, the event’s organizer, presented Trump with The National Criminal Justice Reform award for his work reforming criminal justice.

"This bill is great for inmates and great for America." – Donald Trump

Passage of the First Step Act gave judges more discretion when sentencing some offenders and increased rehabilitation efforts. It allowed some inmates the opportunity to petition for reduced penalties and it increased the "good conduct" time off they received. This was historic bipartisan legislation by the Trump administration, yet it received only a mere footnote of media coverage.

The First Step Act calls for the Bureau of Prisons to have recidivism reduction programs along with productive activities available for all inmates. This includes educational classes, vocational training, and behavioral therapy. Inmates who participate in these programs earn credit used to transfer to halfway houses and even home confinement, which will allow them to finish their sentence at home.

The First Step Act was one of many prison and sentencing reform measures planned by Trump after the pandemic. He had met with key Black leaders and state governors to gain much-needed insight on reforms to move forward that would pass the scrutiny of The Bureau of Prisons.

When Trump lost the 2020 election, Joe Biden inherited a criminal justice system ripe for continued reform. In fact, Biden campaigned to go further than any other candidate in history to fix our antique prison system. Biden claimed he planned to rework the carceral prison state from the bottom up.

Four years later, Biden’s "vote getting" criminal justice pitch has since been scrubbed clean from his website. Today, he faces constant criticism from progressives and criminal justice system reformers for his lack of action. Some on the Prison Bureau say Biden has increased the number of criminals in the U.S. by allowing criminal foreign nationals to cross the border, who then must be prosecuted and imprisoned in U.S. jails.

Biden isn’t the only one criticized for broken campaign promises for criminal justice reform. Voters from both parties and even liberal media is quarrying the lefts motives abandoning criminal justice reform for more illegal immigration. We're importing more problems and not fixing those we have here.

"I've promised to absorb 2 million asylum seekers every year I am in office." – Joe Biden

Dozens of Democrats who staked prominent criminal justice reform positions in 2020 have not spoken publicly about the Democrats' focus on importing more illegals over justice reform. This is the same with criminal justice reform nonprofits that rose to national eminence during the 2020s.

Catholic Charities, a once activist criminal justice reform group, is now pandering to illegal migrants.

Cliff Thurlow wrote, "If you pile lie upon lie the pile gets so high the truth is obscured.” Biden began his campaign as a centrist and ended it as a progressive. He was against busing and LBGTQ marriage, federal abortion funding, school busing and civil rights but flipped sides when it was to his benefit. He supported Clinton's Tough on Crime measure that doubled the number of Black inmates. He traded his criminal justice reform agenda for open borders to bring more criminals into the U.S.

You cannot have both criminal justice reform and open borders. Maybe that is why the Democrats removed any mention of criminal justice reform from Biden's website. Biden’s border policies are not just a human rights disaster, but his policies have also provided cover for terrorists, child sex offenders, drug traffickers and cartels to enter into America illegally. Although only a small group of these bad guys are apprehended, their crimes are so seriously violent they must be incarcerated.

A decade after Bill Clinton's tough on crime bill doubled the prison population, people across the nation were crying for criminal justice reform. Donald Trump heard them and formed a bipartisan coalition and passed the biggest criminal justice reform bill in decades. Biden said he'd continue those reforms. Biden not only broke his promise to reduce the number of prisoners in our jails, he opened our borders to terrorists and cartels .

Biden flip flopped again on prison reform since his party wanted to fill America with migrants.

"Many states can no longer afford to support public education, public benefits, or public services without doing something about the exorbitant costs of mass incarceration have created." – Bryan Stevenson