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 CottonGOP senator accuses Dems of ‘character assassination’ on Kavanaugh Sprint/T-Mobile deal must not allow China to threaten US security GOP senators condemn 'vulgar' messages directed at Collins over Kavanaugh 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 TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown 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 KushnerHouse panel signals Russia probe document dump before midterms Mueller investigating Russian payments made by Trump Tower meeting organizers: report The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil 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.