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 CottonWhite House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Trump, Dems close in on deal Overnight Defense: Navy hospital ship heading to Los Angeles | Military field hospitals to deploy to New York, Seattle | Pompeo flies to Afghanistan to revive peace process 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 TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools 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 KushnerWhite House preparing to promote malaria drugs on online platform to combat coronavirus: report Politics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried In the Saudi-Russian oil price war, the US blinks first 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.