Some in the media hate President Trump so much they will make up anything to stop his agenda. Take a recent Weekly Standard article, which claims that the President Trump-endorsed First Step Act contained a “loophole” which allows federal prison wardens to release dangerous criminals. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Section 102(g)(1)(D)(ii) of The First Step Act clearly states that in order to be eligible for early release a warden must determine that a “prisoner would not be a danger to society if transferred to prerelease custody or supervised release” and that “the prisoner is unlikely to recidivate.”
Asked to justify how it could claim The First Step Act allows dangerous criminals to be released from prison when the actual text of the bill forbids doing exactly that, The Weekly Standard did add a “clarification” to the story noting that the bill disallows exactly what the story claims it allows. But The Weekly Standard failed to correct the rest of the column which is every bit as much of a fiction as the first paragraph.
According to the column, the “House passed its conservative version of criminal justice reform weeks ago” but someone just recently “slipped [the loophole] quietly into the bill.” “Backers of the bill haven’t commented on the loophole,” the publication muses, “and may not have learned of it.”
This narrative is complete and total fiction. Here are the facts. The House of Representatives passed The First Step Act this May by a vote of 360 to 59. Just two Republicans voted against the bill. It included the same provision to which The Weekly Standard now objects. This provision is not a “loophole” that was “slipped” into the bill. It is how the recidivism reduction program, a program that 226 House Republicans voted for, was designed to work.
To the extent that “backers of the bill haven’t commented” on a supposed loophole, that is because no such loophole exists! It is true that separate sentencing reform provisions were added to The First Step Act in the Senate. But those sentencing reform provisions did not touch or alter the recidivism reduction part of The First Step Act in any way.
If opponents of criminal justice reform don’t like the recidivism reduction that 226 House Republicans voted for, then they should make an honest and factual case against it. And if criminal justice reform opponents don’t like the sentencing reforms added to The First Step Act, then they should make an honest and factual case against those reforms.
But opponents shouldn’t fabricate a narrative about some “loophole” being slipped into the Senate version of an otherwise conservative House-passed criminal justice reform bill. The reality is that The First Step Act is good conservative common-sense reform that is modeled after existing successful reforms in conservative states like Georgia and Texas.
We have two more legislative weeks left in the year. Let’s bring The First Step Act to the Senate floor and get President Trump’s agenda done.