As regular readers know, I often agree with President Trump’s policies, if not always his rhetoric. However, there is one issue—doubtless there are more—with which I do not agree, as Daniel Horowitz at Conservative Review.com explains:
Trump’s often-spoken instincts on punishing drug traffickers were correct. Therefore, he might want to think twice before his son-in-law or Kim Kardashian convince him to stand at a podium with drug traffickers released early from prison like Obama did. Now, one of those who spoke at a jailbreak press conference with him has been rearrested for drug trafficking after obtaining early release under the First Step Act.
On April 1, 2009, Trump held a summit with prisoners released under the First Step Act to celebrate passage of the bill. One of those convicts celebrated at the podium was Troy Powell, whom Trump referred to as a great electrician and even joked about using him one day for work in the White House. He celebrated the fact that Powell was hired by a lumber company in North Carolina.
Trump then brought him to the lectern amid rousing applause from the crowd. Powell thanked all of the jailbreak organizations like Cut 50 that helped get the legislation passed. Choked up with emotion, Powell said that ‘more needs to be done’ and that he left many others behind in prison. ‘There’s people doing 40, 50 years, for nothin’, I mean absolutely nothing,’ lamented Powell. The Republican National Committee even tweeted out the video.
What many don’t know, and others don’t want anyone to know, is one doesn’t end up in a penitentiary, particularly not first time offenders, absent a serious felony or a long list of prior convictions. Those convicted and given lengthy sentences tend to be people with long criminal records, usually including multiple previous felony convictions. There are occasional miscarriages of justice—mistakes—but considering the sheer number of crimes committed every year, those numbers are low.
Fast-forward roughly a year later, and Powell was arrested in North Carolina with three others and charged with meth trafficking. Thousands of Americans are dying because of people like this. And this can’t be blamed on lack of job opportunities. This is a man who literally has the president’s ear and was given a job, but he was allegedly back to his old ways almost immediately.
Who coulda thunk it?
The sad thing is that this happens all the time. I’m told by sources at the DEA who are not authorized to speak to the media that they see many people who have been released in recent years, including under Obama, back to trafficking for the cartels within days of their release. If not for a local North Carolina TV station, we would never have known about this case.
Again, who coulda thunk it?
The chickens of the First Step Act came home to roost even more severely in Providence, Rhode Island, last year when Joel Francisco, who was released under the First Step Act, was charged with murder. Francisco was serving life in prison for a third drug trafficking charge in 2005 under the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ law. However, he got such a severe sentence not because of drugs but because he was a known Latin Kings member responsible for a lot of violence in the city, including shooting a man in the back of the head, execution-style, in 1997. He pleaded no contest for that, so at the time, he escaped full justice in the state system. The feds targeted him specifically for this reason, yet the First Step Act released him.
It’s unclear whether the judge in Powell’s case believed he was responsible for crimes more severe than the drug trafficking that landed him in prison for 20 years, but may never know, sense his sentencing report is sealed.
Please allow me, gentle readers, to provide the benefit of a career in law enforcement. Criminals are criminals for a reason. They are not normal, altruistic people. This is something that takes new police officers, particularly those that are overly empathetic, some time to learn.
The TV/movie device of the criminal mastermind is almost entirely fiction. Most criminals are not highly intelligent, but they tend to possess an animal, predatory cunning. They often think themselves smarter, more street smart than the people on who they prey. Their lack of useful, moral intelligence is helpful to the police, who once they understand the nature of such people, can become adept at catching them.
However, this is not always easy. Criminals, if they have any success at all, become adept at manipulating others, at conning them, depriving them of their money, property, dignity, even their lives. They care, above all else, for themselves, for their immediate pleasure and comfort. While most, thank God, are not genuine sociopaths, they thrive on the misery of others. They may, occasionally, feel badly about what they have done, but such feelings of guilt tend to be faint, transitory and rare, and do not prevent them from preying on others whenever the impulse moves them, and it moves them constantly. They fundamentally lack the ability to feel empathy for others, and to admit their own failings and guilt. Whatever they do to others is just fine, because they’re doing it.
They tend to be terrible human beings, and particularly if they are in any way involved in drugs, whether selling or using, they are completely unreliable and untrustworthy. If you leave your mouth open around them, they’ll try to steal your teeth. Failing to understand who and what these semi-humans are leads only to misery for untold millions of innocent, normal Americans.
D/S/Cs tend to be easy to con, not only because they tend to hate normal Americans and support those that hate them too, but because they see anyone destructive to normal Americans and America as a natural constituency. They fail to understand that the primary value of prisons is not their ability to rehabilitate—most of these people can’t be rehabilitated—but the fact that when criminals are locked up, they aren’t preying on innocent Americans. Enlightened penology might therefore be thought to be locking predators up and throwing away the key rather than doing everything possible to free them to commit more crimes, and of course, to vote for those that freed them.
Numerous violent offenders have been released under this bill. We will never know how many reoffend, because 18 Republicans joined every Democrat in defeating an amendment by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., that would have required the Bureau of Prisons to publish the rearrest information of released prisoners.
This is the big lie. Just as with numerous crimes committed by illegal aliens that get reported as ‘a New York man,’ so many crimes committed by those released under these jailbreak programs never get traced back to the political movement that released them.
Except there is little doubt this one, and others, will be traced back to Mr. Trump.
Most of all, this tragic story demonstrates the fallacy behind one of the major talking points of the pro-criminal movement. Proponents of jailbreak constantly speak of the need for ‘second chances.’ Aside from the fact that, with few exceptions, our system is full of endless chances for the criminal but no second chance for victims, they are missing the most important factor in rehabilitation. Someone who has truly reformed would recognize what he did wrong and commit to rectifying his mistake. Yet these people think they did nothing wrong, as Powell himself said last February. And therein lies the problem.
This is why we have judges and parole boards, people who theoretically understand criminals and have a much better chance of knowing when they are being conned. Certainly, even they make mistakes, the odds against true reform are long, but do away with bail, free criminals without these filters, and everyone gets conned—and hurt.
One would expect Mr. Trump, a streetwise New Yorker, to understand such things. Was he conned by his son-in-law or other less wise advisors? Was this a political calculation, a building block toward reelection, perhaps to be rescinded once he’s safely in his second term? Or was Mr. Trump, like so many Republicans, merely trying to play nice with D/S/Cs, people whose instincts so closely align with the criminals they favor? If so, hasn’t he learned by now neither D/S/Cs nor criminals can be trusted?
No politician is perfect. All make mistakes. All do harm in one way or another, through acts or omissions, so all must generally be judged on the totality of their performance. I’ve been thus far pleasantly surprised by Mr. Trump’s instincts and performance. He has worked hard, against vicious, relentless opposition, to restore American Constitutionalism, and particularly the rule of law. But in this case, he’s worked against everyone’s interests. Perhaps he can remedy that?