Liberals who do not want to jail anyone other than armed robbers, rapists, child molesters and murderers, and conservatives who do not want to spend the money needed to keep criminals locked up, have conned the public into accepting or demanding harmful criminal justice reforms.
Some of the reforms include bail reform and the reduction of some felonies to misdemeanors. Others include the early release from prison of ‘nonviolent’ offenders. These reforms are an invitation for criminals to commit more crimes, and especially for thieves and burglars to commit more thefts. In other words, the criminal justice reformers, be they liberals or conservatives, are putting people and their property at risk.
There do need to be some reforms in the setting of bail because the bail system keeps poor offenders in jai while those who can afford to make bail are released. It makes no sense for someone to sit in jail for months while waiting for a trial that upon conviction carries no prison time. But the reformers want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. California has enacted a landmark ban on cash bail in criminal cases. A new ballot measure for 2020 seeks to overturn the cash bail ban.
And in New York beginning next year, new laws will prohibit judges from imposing cash bail on defendants accused of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Instead they must be released on their own recognizance and instructed to return to court. Many of the released felons will be preying on the public again and so will many of the thieves charged with misdemeanor theft.
Texas liberals have also been clamoring for legislation that will ban cash bail. The are facing strong opposition from the powerful bail bond industry. But last month, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal approved an agreement by Harris County to equalize the pretrial treatment of the rich and poor. The agreement mandates the prompt release without bail of most misdemeanants held in jail in Houston. Prosecutors and the police objected to the agreement amid concerns that it will endanger public safety.
Liberals and minority activists have long bellowed about the disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos in prison – while blacks make up only 13 percent of this country’s population, they make up 40 percent of the prison population. The activists would have the public think that the only reason blacks and Latinos are in prison is because they are black or Latino. Liberals deliberately hide the fact that the disproportionate imprisonment is the result of a disproportionate amount of crime committed by minorities. Their bellowing, supported by fiscal conservatives, has led to the early release of felons from prison.
Liberals, again supported by conservatives, claim our prisons are full of ‘nonviolent’ inmates serving time for the possession of drugs. What they fail to tell the public is that most of the inmates doing time for possession were in fact dope dealers who copped a plea to possession in order to receive a lighter sentence. Dealing dope was their means of making a living and upon release, most of them will return to their chosen occupation.
Even President Trump has been taken in. Just before last Christmas. Congress gave many federal prison inmates a true gift – early release. The criminal justice reform bill gave federal judges more discretion in sentencing drug offenders, reduced the life sentence of “three strikes” drug offenders to 25 years, and allowed about 2,600 federal inmates doing time for crack cocaine offenses to petition for a reduced sentence.
Trump tweeted: “America is the greatest Country in the world and my job is to fight for ALL citizens, even those who have made mistakes. This will keep our communities safer, and provide hope and a second chance, to those who earn it. In addition to everything else, billions of dollars will be saved. I look forward to signing this into law!”
Make communities safer? No way! Save billions of dollars? Maybe, but the increase in crime may cost billions.
Made mistakes? The commission of crimes is not a mistake. A mistake is adding up 2 and 2, and coming up with 5. A mistake is forgetting one’s wedding anniversary. A crime is a crime, not a mistake! Crimes are committed intentionally, mistakes are unintentional. Citizens, as Trump refers to prison inmates, are behind bars for the crimes they intentionally committed, not for making mistakes.
The ‘First Step Act’, the criminal justice reform act which President Trump has touted, was designed largely to reduce the disproportionate number of black inmates in federal prisons. It should be noted that the feds do not get involved with small- time street corner dope dealers so that the drug offenders held in federal prisons must have sold or possessed a substantial quantity of drugs.
Not to be outdone by the feds, Oklahoma conducted the largest mass commutation in US history last month. 527 ‘nonviolent’ prison inmates had their sentences commuted. 462 of them were released. The other 65 had detainers and were to be released later. And in 2016, Oklahoma reduced some felonies to misdemeanors. For instance, the threshold for a property crime becoming a felony increased from $500 in property value to $1,000 in value.
If the bellwether state of California is an example, Oklahoma can expect a spike in property crimes. In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 47 which reduced some felonies to misdemeanors. And in order to charge a car burglar with burglary, the state must prove that the victim’s car was locked. That reform punishes the victim and rewards the burglar. Here is how the criminal justice reform of Prop 47 is working for California:
San Francisco is now ranked No. 1 in the US in property crime.
California leads with 30 percent of packages stolen nationwide by porch pirates.
Car break-ins are at crisis levels in California’s cities.
Texas has reduced car burglaries from a felony to a misdemeanor. Car burglars would have to be convicted twice of these ‘misdemeanors’ before they can be charged with a felony. A recently retired investigator with an auto theft task force told me that as a result, car break-ins have reached “epidemic” proportions. He said that because the car burglars often receive no jail time, many police departments no longer respond to car break-ins. They only record the date, time, name and address of the victim, filing it as a car burglary, and inform the victims to call their insurance company instead.
What reformists overlook is that crimes against property is the occupation of most criminals and keeping them out of jail or prison merely gives them the opportunity to stay on the job … the job of crime, that is. And what is really frightening is that today’s nonviolent criminal may turn out to be a deadly criminal tomorrow.
Years ago, I coined the phrase: “A ‘nonviolent’ criminal in jail is one less criminal on the street!” I should add that a thief or burglar in jail is one less criminal committing thefts.
While I am all for bail and criminal justice reform, I am not for the kind of reforms that invite criminals to commit more crimes and invite thieves and burglars to commit more thefts.