Tom Cotton: Obama Administration Set to Release 70,000 Felons from Federal Prison Without Any Sentencing Reform Legislation


Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said the Obama administration is already working to release a total of 70,000 felons from federal prison without help from Republicans and the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a bill Cotton declared dead on Thursday.

“I think many of the sentencing reform proponents’ hearts are in the right place,” he told SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon on Friday. “They see poverty, they see broken families and at-risk communities, but they’re just looking for the wrong solution. In my view, the kind of policing techniques we’ve developed over the past 25 years, mandatory minimum sentencing laws, three strikes and you’re out laws, and other reforms have been responsible for the incredible decline in crime for the last 25 years.”

“Unfortunately, we may now be living through the early stages of a new crime wave,” Cotton continued. “Murders and rapes and other violent crimes are up all across America. The American people say they’re more concerned about crime than they have been any time in the last 15 years. This is not the time to start releasing violent felons from prison.”

Cotton said the Obama administration has already released 30,000 felons from federal prison thanks to revisions in sentencing guidelines, and the administration may release another 40,000.  He went on to say:

Some of those have gone on to commit heinous crimes … That’s without any legislation. That’s actions by the Sentencing Commission to reduce past sentencing guidelines. And again, some have already committed crimes — that’s just going to be inevitable given recidivism rates in our society, and ultimately, we’re now down to less than 200,000 prisoners in the federal system. Less than one half of one percent of those — just a small fraction, just a few hundred — are in prison for anything like mere drug possession. And believe me, most of those people pleaded down from more serious crimes.

And even if you grant that, how can legislation claim to be focused on low-level, non-violent offenders if it’s letting out felons, when there’s only a few hundred people in federal prison for mere drug possession? I just think we shouldn’t use this kind of blunt instrument to adjust what may be a handful of cases here and there that may be an unjust sentence that should be commuted or for which an offender should be pardoned.

But the bill could still be resurrected, Cotton warned, adding voters can help keep the zombie in the coffin by calling and writing to Congress.

“Bad ideas in Washington have a way of being resurrected, if you look at bad criminal justice policy or bad open borders legislation in the immigration area,” Cotton said.

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