Following the recent announcement of reduced prison sentences for 214 convicted felons by President Barack Obama, junior Senator David Perdue issued a statement condemning the action.
All of the inmates affected by the clemency are serving time in federal correctional facilities and a large majority of the inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses that fell under dated mandatory minimum sentencing statutes.
Perdue claims that “approximately one in four” of those who saw a reduced sentence are serving time for “criminal gun charges,” however, as with many mandatory minimum sentencing statutes on the federal level, mere possession of a firearm during the commission of a high and aggravated drug offense often meant additional firearm-related charges. In many cases, a firearm was not used as part of the crime that landed a person in jail.
Despite that fact, Senator Perdue issued the following statement which, in my personal opinion, is extremely reckless:
“Law abiding Americans are apoplectic with the lack of law and order we have seen during President Obama’s tenure. Yesterday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 convicted felons—including 67 who were serving life sentences. President Obama’s criminal leniency is unprecedented in modern times—he has commuted more sentences than the past nine presidents combined. This is a drop in the bucket when compared to the 46,000 reduced sentences already authorized by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
“The U.S. Sentencing Commission is in the process of releasing 46,000 drug trafficking offenders, which is half of the drug trafficking offenders in federal prison and about 25 percent of the total federal prison population. All of this comes at a time when our nation is in the midst of a heroin and opioid epidemic. President Obama may take pride in his criminal leniency legacy, but law-abiding citizens do not. It is time to restore law and order in this country so we can keep American families safe and our country secure.”
Senator Perdue has been a vocal opponent of the current Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, legislation that would let dangerous felons—like some of the criminals who were granted clemency by President Obama yesterday—out of prison early. When this bill was first debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee last October, Senator Perdue introduced amendments to protect victims and communities, but ultimately these amendments were not adopted and the current bill is still dangerous for America.
On average, it costs $30,000 annually to incarcerate an inmate in federal prison. Some of those who received lessened sentences last week were sentenced to life in prison because of a drug crime that occurred decades ago, yet some politicians see no value in re-entry into society, despite the conservative trend to more fiscally responsible justice reform policies – rehab and reduced recidivism over punishment.