Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has joined the growing GOP opposition to a bipartisan bill that would reduce prison sentences for dangerous criminals, saying that he can’t support the sentencing reform bill while violent crime rises in many American cities.
“I just have too many concerns about the spike in violent crime in this country and what impact that law would have on it,” Rubio said to the Washington Examiner. “I just can’t support it,” he said:
There are people who are supporting this proposal who I have a lot of respect for, and so I took the time to review it. I think, unfortunately, if you apply it to some of the cases I’ve asked prosecutors to look at, it could result in the release of dangerous people who, maybe, pled down to a lower charge but ultimately are very dangerous.
Rubio’s statement comes after press conference headed by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions highlighted growing opposition to the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (SRCA).
Rubio tried and failed to win the GOP presidential nomination for 2016. He’s now expected to retire from his Florida Senate seat this year, but he may announce that he will run for re-election.
With crime on the rise and with President Barack Obama working to free tens of thousands of prisoners, passing more sentencing reduction laws is ill-advised, GOP legislators say.
“We just released under current policies over 46,000 federal drug trafficking offenders and drug gun felons, and we don’t know the impact of that yet” on national crime rates, Sessions announced at a Capitol Hill press conference. “What we’re doing today, is asking: Should we go even further? I don’t think at this point in history now is the time to reduce punishment further.”
“Federal drug prosecutions have dropped 21 percent since 2011. Actual prosecutions are down. And if you ask the Attorney General as I did a few months ago: ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Well, we’re working bigger cases,’” he said. “But sentencing is down, too, so they must not have been a lot bigger cases. So that’s always an excuse for prosecutors. I’ve heard that song for 30 years.”
Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter also cautioned against letting more convicts back into the courts to demand early releases from federal prison.
[M]ultiple rounds of reductions of sentences in the federal system, and this including the latest revision of sentencing guidelines downward, is going to release 46,000 federal prisoners over time. Now, that’s 46,000 out of a present total of about a 196,000, including about 25 percent. That is a major, major downsizing of the federal prison population of the present system that’s going on right now, without any of this legislation.
“That is a major shift already — we should make sure that is done properly, that that’s not going too far, before we pass the sort of legislation that’s being proposed,” he said.