Skip to comments.Early release for nonviolent offenders proposed[by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee(D)Texas]
Posted on 12/05/2007 2:21:23 PM PST by SwinneySwitch
Jackson Lee's bill could aid Skilling, Fastow, Wyatt and thousands of other federal prisoners
WASHINGTON Drug traffickers, white-collar criminals, corrupt congressmen and thousands of other federal inmates could see their prison time slashed in half if legislation drafted by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee becomes law.
The House Judiciary crime subcommittee on Thursday will examine a bill by the Houston Democrat that would mandate early release for federal inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes if they are 45 or older, have served at least half their sentence and have not engaged in violent conduct behind bars.
Jackson Lee described her legislation as a way of returning nonviolent offenders to society so they can be productive citizens, help their families and reduce spiraling incarceration costs.
"This legislation is to reward good behavior," Jackson Lee said in an interview. "It is a process intended to protect the public as well as to provide some relief for the families and these individuals who can be adjudged rehabilitated or ready to be released in some form."
High-profile Houston cases
Jackson Lee's proposal could free some high-profile, white-collar criminals from prison early. Among the possible beneficiaries: former Enron executives Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, recently convicted Houston oilman Oscar Wyatt and, according to federal Bureau of Prisons estimates, as many as 12,400 others.
Some civil rights advocates have argued that a 1984 law establishing mandatory minimum sentences, aimed primarily at drug offenders, has resulted in harsh penalties for thousands of minority citizens.
House Republicans oppose the bill, which would undo the sentencing structure that Congress imposed in 1984 when it effectively ended parole in the federal prison system and required that most offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
"Democrats should think long and hard before supporting a bill that would severely damage our criminal justice system and could have catastrophic effects on society as a whole," said Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia, the top Republican on the crime subcommittee.
Many could benefit
Forbes said the bill would require the release of about 6 percent of the 200,148 federal inmates currently imprisoned.
"That means criminals convicted of fraud, civil rights violations, immigration violations, or even the sexual solicitation of a minor would receive early release from prison," he said. "Even Skilling would be eligible for an early release."
The Bureau of Prisons and Justice Department declined comment on the proposed legislation. But a House Republican aide familiar with the bill, speaking on condition of anonymity, said arsonists, embezzlers, burglars, money launderers and people convicted of possessing child pornography also could potentially benefit.
Under the federal definition of what constitutes a violent crime, only inmates convicted of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and non-negligent manslaughter would fall under the violent offender category exempt from Jackson Lee's bill, according to GOP aides.
Though Jackson Lee said inmates would have to go through a strict vetting process, her legislation does not establish guidelines, essentially mandating the release of all inmates who fit the age, time served and nonviolent crime criteria.
Jackson Lee described her legislation as a first draft and said she would be happy to work with Republicans or others who have concerns about the measure or wish to limit its impact. "I am willing to compromise," she said.
But the GOP aide suggested there was little room for common ground.
'Ready to listen'
Jackson Lee expressed some consternation that Republicans are criticizing the bill even before it gets a hearing Thursday.
"I'm ready to listen to them. Why don't they wait and listen to the testimony?"
Having a hearing on the bill is a "great first step," Jackson Lee said, adding that she will later push for the Judiciary Committee to approve the legislation.
“What would we do without Sheila?”
Move forward, and make constructive progress as a country.
Excellent. More veto bait.
Now we see the self-protecting motive. The extent of the damage done to society should be a factor in deciding who gets out. Thus, corrupt congressmen should be the very last on the list.
I’ll bet she gets one whopper of a Christmas Card this year from William Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana.
Dont be too hard on Sheila. She jes be tryin to get her fambly out in time for she relekshun.
I heard a report on the Los Angeles County jail system a few days ago. In that report, it was stated that the county plans on decentralizing it’s big jail population. Violent offenders will remain incarcerated, while other inmates will be released to serve their sentences under house arrest and a variety of other schemes.
Some judge has ruled the county jail system is too overcrowded and the situation is inhmane, or some such.
I say, publish the bastard’s home address and allow all the non-violent offenders to frequent his neighborhood and home.
Anything this Lee clown supports is bad for the U.S. and its law abiding citizens.
Oh geez, I thought we got rid of the witch.
Of course, they will all vote Democrat..where is the Captain of the obvious?
I don’t support this bill, but I do believe we should stop putting mere pot dealers in jail with hard criminals. When they get out, they sure won’t be mere pot dealers anymore.