President Obama and Congress: Don't go soft on heroin dealers
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Americans are dying. So why in the world would President Obama and Congress make new laws to make life better for their killers?


As some in Washington try to win compassion points under the guise of “criminal justice reform,” they are in reality waving a white flag of surrender in our war against drug dealers who are killing our children, our neighbors and our nation.


Now, the Department of Justice is launching a new strategy to address heroin and opioid addiction, by placing more emphasis on the links between doctors and distribution networks across the country. It’s a laudable and needed initiative. But it is ironic since the president and some in Congress continue to aggressively push legislation that would slash penalties for heroin traffickers and let them out of prison early.

Every day in the U.S., 120 people die from drug overdoses. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that drug overdose deaths have hit an all-time high.


Last month in Cincinnati, 174 people overdosed over the course of six days. That number doesn’t include the overdoses in neighboring Kentucky and Indiana from heroin reportedly supplied by the same dealer.


So it should be welcome news to the nation and the law enforcement community this week when Obama and the Department of Justice are expected to announce new efforts to combat this scourge.

Unfortunately, an initiative that is supposed to focus on states sharing information and coordinating to dismantle distribution routes sends mixed messages to the drug dealers ruining this country, especially those who are getting pardoned by the very same president at a record pace.  

The White House and Members of Congress have repeatedly proclaimed opioid abuse is a threat to the public health, and in some U.S. Senate races, it has become the defining issue. Why then are they sending conflicting signals by offering legislation to grant mercy to the architects and enablers of this crisis?

Leadership in the House have said they want to make “sentence reduction” a priority before Congress leaves to campaign for reelection.

Those of us in the law enforcement community have just one question: Why?

Slashing mandatory minimum sentences and granting early release to these murderers shows compassion for criminals while turning a blind eye to the tragic and terrifying real-world implications for their victims.

And their rush to give mercy to those who don’t know the meaning of the word is largely based on myths and half-truths.

Among the most egregious is the falsehood that the U.S. has a “mass incarceration” problem.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, federal prison populations are at their lowest level since 2006. Since 2013, the total number of prisoners in federal custody has dropped by more than 26,000.

While there are just less than 2 million people in custody in state prisons, there are less than 200,000 in federal prison — less than 10 percent of the nation’s prison population.

Federal sentencing reform would do little to address the number of people kept in state prisons.


Even more offensive is the suggestion, made repeatedly by academics far from the front lines that the reform sought by politicians would only apply to low-level, nonviolent offenders.

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics noted that 99.7 percent of drug offenders in prison are convicted drug traffickers. Only 296 individuals in federal custody are there because of possession charges.

There is no more difficult thing for deputies and officers than tell a parent that their child has died of a drug overdose or during a drug trafficker squabble. But those who make the argument that drug-trafficking is not a violent crime never had to make this tragic visit.

The United States is in the middle of a serious and heart-breaking epidemic.

People of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities and incomes are dying from drug overdoses.

The appropriate, common-sense response in a civilized society is to punish the killers who are destroying our communities.

The legislation that Congress is considering is worse than being “soft on crime.” It is instead being complicit in the deaths of thousands of Americans.

While we applaud any new efforts from the Justice Department, Capitol Hill and the White House to aid us in our fight against the heroin epidemic, we find it hard to understand any effort where the endgame is a revolving door for criminals.

If the President and Congress really want to show compassion, they can do it by showing it for the victims and keep their killers behind bars where they belong.


Jonathan Thompson is executive director and chief executive officer of the National Sheriffs’ Association

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.