Cotton: Reducing mandatory minimum sentencing isn’t reform, it’s jailbreak

Cotton: Reducing mandatory minimum sentencing isn’t reform, it’s jailbreak
© Keren Carrion

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonCongress must address gender gap in nominations to military service academies GOP senators press Google on reports it developed a smart speaker with Huawei Sunday shows - Mass shootings grab the spotlight MORE (R-Ark.) wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that cutting mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes or giving judges more discretion to reduce those sentences was equivalent to "jailbreak."

"Under no circumstances should Congress cut mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes or give judges more discretion to reduce those sentences," Cotton wrote in an op-ed published on the Journal's web site late on Wednesday.

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"That foolish approach is not criminal-justice reform—it’s a jailbreak that would endanger communities and undercut President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated MORE’s campaign promise to restore law and order," he added.

Cotton's column comes as the Senate is considering a prison reform bill, passed earlier by the House, that is a top priority for Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Trump Jr. dismisses conflicts of interest, touts projects in Indonesia Trump administration releases new 'public charge' rule making it easier to reject immigrants MORE, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser.

Cotton is part of a small but vocal group of Republicans senators deeply opposed to broader criminal justice legislation that includes both prison reform and changes to mandatory minimum sentencing.

In his editorial for the Journal, Cotton strongly opposed cutting mandatory minimum sentencing, citing "a drug epidemic."

"The U.S. faces a drug epidemic today, exactly the wrong time to go soft on crime," he wrote. 

Cotton also argued that the general decline in violent crime since the 1980s was "because mandatory minimums adopted then locked up violent criminals."

Meanwhile, the Senator expressed concern about recidivism, arguing that criminals released from jail are likely to commit new crimes.

"Most criminals will commit more crimes after being released from prison, even with improved rehabilitation programs. The last thing Congress should do is shorten their sentences or allow them to 'serve time' in home confinement," Cotton wrote.

Cotton instead called on Congress to provide access to faith-based and other anti-recidivism programs in prisons rather than cutting mandatory sentencing minimums.

"American families deserve safe communities and protection from drugs and crime. Criminals, especially first-time offenders who grew up in rough environments, deserve second chances — once they have done their time," he wrote.