Posted by Curt on 13 May, 2016 at 5:00 pm. 1 comment.


Andrew C. McCarthy:

Maybe we really are the Stupid Party. It is bad enough to jump on the Left’s anti-incarceration bandwagon, giving credence to the flat-out lie that the criminal justice system is inherently racist. But only Republicans could pick the height of a heroin epidemic as the perfect moment to join the jihad against the federal narcotics laws.

The suppression of crime over the last generation-plus has been one of the greatest boons for social and economic prosperity in American history. Among its chief beneficiaries have been minority communities. By wide margins, it is they who are most victimized by crime, particularly violent crime – notwithstanding Washington’s perverse infatuation with the criminals who beleaguer them.

Alas, the battle against crime is a victim of its own success. If you are a 30-something, you may qualify to be a Beltway policy expert – maybe even lie to the country for a living in the Obama foreign policy or speechwriting shop. But you have no memory of what life was like in this country as recently as the 1960s and ‘70s. It was an era of rampant crime, particularly in big cities like New York – where I grew up before the danger zone memorialized in Fort Apache the Bronx was revitalized into something more closely resembling Little House on the Prairie.

You may not realize that the anti-incarceration theories with which the Left sees little risk in dabbling were all the rage back in those bad old days.

One of the more notorious criminals of that era was the “Weatherman” terrorist Bill Ayers. By an unfortunate quirk of fate, Ayers, who should have been sentenced to decades in prison, emerged unscathed – to borrow his words, “guilty as sin, free as a bird” – because of law-enforcement violations that caused his case to be dismissed. In a testament to American cultural decline, Ayers is now a respected academic – which tells you everything you need to know about how our universities became one big safe-space-seeking, free-speech-suffocating, trigger-warning zone.

In 1997, as crime was plummeting thanks to an intelligence-based revolution in policing and Reagan-era reforms, including enhanced sentencing for drug-trafficking and other serious felonies, Ayers wrote a book called A Kind and Just Parent. As Stanley Kurtz explains, Ayers’ polemic focused on Chicago’s juvenile courts but broadly blamed American society for higher crime rates in major cities, comparing our criminal justice system to the mass detention of blacks under South African apartheid. A young Illinois state senator gushed that Ayers had provided “a searing and timely account.” That senator’s name was Barack Obama.

Who knew that the party of Ronald Reagan would begin to sound like the party of Bill Ayers when it comes to crime, which Reagan did so much to roll back?

The bill that GOP leadership is currently joining with Democrats to try to ram through Congress is being masqueraded as sentencing “reform.” In fact, it should be called the “Early Release for Sociopaths Certain to Recidivate Act.” And there is no rational reason for the support it has gotten from top Republicans … except its appeal to libertarian donors, who believe we should not have laws against narcotics trafficking. Hence, one of the two major falsehoods behind the anti-incarceration push: The nation’s jails overflow with “non-violent drug offenders.”

This claim, which leading Republicans now join President Obama in peddling, is preposterous. As Heather Mac Donald has shown, drug offenders make up well under a fifth of the state prison population (which would be unaffected by the federal legislation, notwithstanding Washington’s reliance on a fairy-tale depiction of it). The lion’s share of state convicts are violent felons (54 percent) and property offenders (19 percent). In recent congressional testimony in opposition to the “reform” bill, Mac Donald observed (citing a 2011 study by researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health and UCLA School of Public Health): “The size of America’s prison population is a function of our violent crime rate. The U.S. homicide rate is seven times higher than the combined rate of 21 Western nations plus Japan.”

To be sure, drug offenders do constitute a much larger percentage of the federal prison population, about half. It is here, though, that mythology kicks into high gear. To begin with, federal prisons incarcerate only 13 percent of the nation’s inmates, so we are dealing with a far smaller criminal population. More significantly, it is generally a serious breed of criminal.

Because federal and state law-enforcement have concurrent jurisdiction over drug offenses, the division of labor has the federal system handling most major narcotics trafficking offenses. Contrary to Beltway lore, there are no unlucky ne’er-do-wells languishing in federal prison because they got caught smoking a joint on the campus green.

As former federal drug czars Bill Bennett and John Walters explain, a whopping “99.5 percent of those incarcerated for [federal] drug convictions are guilty of serious drug trafficking offenses.” These are real felons – drug importers and distributors, not mere users. Drug trafficking, moreover, is an inherently violent crime. Indeed, it is well-settled federal law that firearms and other weapons so commonly seized in drug investigations are admissible evidence in court because “guns are tools of the trade” of narcotics trafficking. Plus, as Bennett and Walters elaborate, drug trafficking felons have an extraordinarily high recidivism rate – “77 percent reoffend within five years of release, with 25 percent committing violent offenses.”

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