tv Discussion on Drug Sentencing Laws CSPAN January 3, 2016 2:15am-2:39am EST
bill. it will go directly to his desk by way of the reconciliation process which avoids obstruction by senate democrats. we only to the american people to take our best shot at it -- at repealing obamacare and that is what we will do next week. as a result, president obama will soon have a choice. does he support the people and women self or does he support washington mandates and tax dollars going to planned parenthood? for the sake of the american people, i hope he makes the right choice. thanks for listening. happy new year. and god bless. announcer: c-span has your best access to congress in 2016. the house and senate will reconvene on january 4 to mark the second session of the 114th congress. on tuesday, january 5, the house is back for legislative work and first votes with paul ryan as big or of the house. the on monday, january 11, senate returns at 2:00 p.m. eastern.
be sure to follow craig kaplan on twitter for daily congressional updates. live coverage of commerce on tv, the radio, and online at c-span.org. announcer: coming up next, a for him on the criminal justice system hosted by the atlantic. then the annual national ideas form from cory booker and mike lee about their efforts to change mandatory criminal sentencing. and later, attorney let -- attorney general loretta lynch talks about crime reduction and policing. coast at a daylong series of panel discussions on race relations and criminal justice in november. in this portion, a conversation on drug sentencing laws. it is 20 minutes.
>> it's not often that you get pre-butted and apologized to. the voices we are going to hear from next, from a lot of the issues we have been wrestling with during the day from a different perspective and a long perspective of experience. gathered the two peopl have come up these issues from a long perspective. john walters was drugs are under president george w. bush and steve cook president of the association of u.s. attorneys. specifically talking about drug crimes in this conversation and considering whether the current push for lighter sentencing and getting rid of mandatory
minimums might do more harm than good. it is come up with a number of the conversations already. the push from the obama administration to release more than 6000 drug-related inmates early. more than 40,000 are expected to follow. john i gather that you think this is a bad idea. john: i don't think it's a bad idea necessarily for the president to use the clemency power. you take responsibility for the decisions you make can you justify them. do this is noto a question. has the criminal justice system
been unjust in the way it is try to handle crime? you control the line at what sentences should be. i also think you have to face the facts that some of the current system was led by the victimization of some of the very people who now the administration claims it is championing. i served in the reagan administration in the education i got into the area of drug control on the basis of first prevention and then long crossman. i have been in meetings in anacostia and harlem and wants. in 2002 i spoke at the funeral of angela dawson in baltimore.
she had her entire family killed by the firebombing by criminals that she stood up to in her neighborhood. the person who was convicted of properlyout and not supervised from a criminal conviction. we have to ask ourselves do we want mercy, but do we want to stop victimization. people who call the police just like anybody does anywhere else. the areas controlled by gangs and drug dealers. they want the same things that other people want. ,he voice of some of the people of course they don't want misbehaving police officers and there's still can be human
beings who fail in any institution. the people who are the largest of victims are the people who live in lower socioeconomic groups. given what we know about overcrowding in prisons and how much it costs the american taxpayer to keep somebody in prison for a long time why not knock a year or two off some of the sentences? john: the amount of the sentence can vary from time to time. were designedmums to create equality across the federal system for people who did similar offenses.
again before they come into the system and certainly before they do any prison or jail time. it is not first-time offender. it is not a matter that we did not notice this person was an offender. ever do any prison or jail time. it's not a matter that we didn't know this person was an offender. we need better intervention. i am disappointed this set president hasn't made this more of a priority until he is almost out of office. >> you made the argument that they coax his witnesses to cooperate. . steve: if i could address the issue of release. we're not talking about
releasing low-level offenders. of less than 5% of the individuals incarcerated in to aal prison found mitigating role in a minor participation the second thing is as you talk about these releases, we're not talking about 6000, we are in the third round of reductions. the first two involve orders of early release. the third round is between 6000 and 8000 this weekend will be followed by another 40,000. these are not low-level offenders. the people eligible for these releases were eligible regardless of the drug quality, and a criminal history, regardless of their ties to gangs or the drug cartels.
this individual was caught with 213 kilograms of 90 8% for cocaine and $500,000 in cash. he is out as a result of these productions. if anyone is laboring under the impression that these are low-level offenders, we should disabuse them of that. ms. kelly: some of them are coming off of a dozen years -- dealing marijuana on the street corner and if we all agree about a pinnacle in the american justice system that the crime the proportionate -- steve: no one is in prison for selling dime bags on the street. ms. kelly: if it's not reducing sentences for these crimes, what do you do? steve: a ten-year minimum didn't
trigger until you deal with a kilogram of heroin. $70,000 to $100,000 worth of heroin. that sets the minimum. the sentences being imposed with respect to those mandatory minimums are not the crazy sentences they are being made out to be. these are not full marijuana street traffickers. ms. kelly: what would you like to see changed? if we agree the criminal justice system could be better, what do you think about that? steve: i do not think the federal criminal justice system is broken. let me say this. with respect to the criminal justice system, congress passed a series of laws that allowed us to put major drug traffickers and violent offenders back in prison.
we started to fill the prisons up and by 1991, we saw historic violent crime rates that were asked loading and a start to come down. we have continued to put violent felons in prison and as we did that, violent crime continued to come down until right now, and you have heard it from other speakers, we are experiencing historic lows in violent crime. those historic laws are most beneficial to the communities that were hit hardest in the early 80's and those are areas that were ravaged by these drug traffickers. john: let me also say something. the corrosion in this discussion and the reason it may be unhelpful -- unhelpful is there are embedded falsehoods in this. there was a reference this morning -- i saw some of this on the streaming feed. low-level nonviolent drug offenders are not filling our
prison. that's being repeated by a lot of people. ms. kelly: the data i have seen our half the inmates are drug offenders. john: federal prison is a specific area of enforcement. they were interdicted moving drugs from places like mexico and colombia. let me finish. the decline in violent crime and the concentration of offenses putting people in state prisons, the biggest single category are violent review offenders. you have had violent crime go down, tens of thousands of people have not been demised since -- have not been victimized since we have had increased enforcement. now we are not comfortable with the number of people in prison.
we value freedom. every time someone goes to prison, it's a failure in most of our mind. the way to fix that is not to say we're not going to enforce the law. we did that 25 years ago and we had a lot of crime. we know what doesn't work, so let's not have amnesia. we need to bring people into a situation where they are not going to be bills when they're at risk. we have not done a good job on that. that's not the criminal justice system possible. that is societal institutions, beginning with family, school and health. secondly, we need to take people who are imprisoned in real out -- and allow reentry that works. that would involve mental health care and reentry programs and support. we put a lot of money into programs like treatment in the criminal justice system, diversion programs and drug
courts, working on juvenile offenders, working on reentry programs for people coming out of institutions. that is not a republican or democratic matter, it something everyone wants to have. but when it comes time to appropriate money, they don't do it. so you don't have these programs when you need it. ms. kelly: you are not staying -- not saying it is mutually exclusive -- john: after 12 years, that person is coming out. you are going to have to do a better job of giving those people a better way of not becoming victimizers. you have to protect angela dawson and her five children from being killed and protect neighborhoods from being infested with predatory criminals and drug trafficking. ms. kelly: you may be sensing that you have a little work to do to persuade the audience.
john: i've been to a lot of places in this city and this audience is not a cross section. i'm sorry. ms. kelly: they have listened to the other views -- john: i am darth vader. ms. kelly: if you have 60 seconds to make the case to people who believe the system of oh mass incarceration is a blight on minority communities is exacting a huge cost on already vulnerable communities who think mass incorporation -- incarceration is a pox on amount -- on american values, what argument can you make that it is the solution for the way forward ? steve: first, let's make sure the statutes i'm talking about, the sentencing structure under attack now is one that was put
into wide bipartisan support. to include it was being pushed by the black caucus. the reason the black caucus was pushing that legislation was those communities were being victimized proportionally. we see the same thing and john said this -- we are repeating history. as we release these high-level drug traffickers, those very communities are being victimized. we are playing with fire here. ms. kelly: one thing is we are seeing the obama administration pushing hard for lesser sentencing. you see the koch brothers say the same thing. the latest from charles koch -- these sentences are ruining peoples's lives. president obama said it's not often you get the coat others
and naacp lined up on one side of an issue, but when it comes to lesser sentences for these drug crimes, it is a ship that has sailed. john: one of the things ronald reagan is famous for saying is that facts are stubborn things. a lot of times people forget their history and forget who's going to pay the price. i'm struck about people that where you want release, they are not going to go back to. you have to protect people like the young father in baltimore who was assassinated the other day trying to protect his children. that is a voice that's not heard. that's a voice i spend a lot of time with. i spend a lot of time with kids
in treatment and a lot of time with people in prison and we are not going to get there by saying a certain number of people, whether or not they committed a crime should not go to prison. that's going to bring more victimizers and it's not about punishing people, it's about protecting people and allowing them to go on with their lives. there are thousands of people alive today, many of them, arguably most of them, young black males that would have been dead under the old regime's. the fact of the matter is in a certain way, you are criticizing the success from the hindsight and luxury of not they sing some of these problems. i think you do have to reincorporate people from prison, but we're not going to do that by illuminating accountability. you get better performance -- by
eliminating accountability. you get better performance by encouraging responsible behavior. ms. kelly: i appreciate that. we can take this discussion for another hour because you prompt a number of things, but we have one more question and i would like to raise the stakes. setting aside economic considerations, recidivism, legal considerations, blog about just the plain old americans value of redemption, that people deserve a second chance? you can make the mistake you can pay for it, you should be able to come out after having served a sentence proportionate to your crime. why not for these drug offenders? john: i don't think anybody as opposed to that. i don't think i've ever met anybody in the government or a nonprofit area that's against that. of course we want people to be redeemed.
that's in our dna as americans. we want to see people use their skills and be successful. we can argue about how long, but we don't think consequences don't mean you believe in redemption. the strongest argument is when you hold people accountable, they see the need to change a beer. a significant portion depending on how you look at it do redeem their selves and go on to read that -- to productive lives. i did not -- i started on the education and treatment side. i do think the criminal justice system is being maligned and criticized or things it's really not doing. on the other hand, we are doing things are going to make people's lives worse.
i know too much about the people who will be victims when we make that policy, when we allow drug trafficking to go on in people's lives and don't protect innocent citizens. we are making a serious mistake that is completely unnecessary because we have the knowledge to not do it. steve: the only thing i would point out is we have talked about the incarceration rate going up and the impact of violent crime. we have not talked about the early release and sentencing reform and that right now, we have a 20% or higher violent crime -- homicide increase in 35 major cities across the country. we are already going back up. we will have by the end of this fiscal year by 11%. we have cut back on prosecutions by about 25%. we are in the midst of the month -- of the worst hair when an opioid epidemic in our history.
the right response is not to reduce the penalties, not to release wholesale thousands of experienced high-level drug traffickers. it is the wrong approach. ms. kelly: and many questions about the cause and effect -- do you two want to pre-but who is coming out on stage? we will leave it there. thank you very muc event,er: at the same mitch landrieu talked about efforts to reduce incarceration. in the last effects of