Career politician claims that America, number one in prison population worldwide, has an ‘under-incarceration problem’

Republic Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton lashed out against bipartisan efforts for criminal justice reform, claiming the United States has an under-incarceration problem.

“For the vast majority of crimes, a perpetrator is never identified or arrested, let alone prosecuted, convicted and jailed,” Cotton said at the Hudson Institute.

The Arkansas senator has been a fierce critic of a bill in Congress that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes. In addition, the bill would give judges more power to impose shorter sentences for low level drug related crimes.

Disrupting communities

Adding to his remarks during a question and answer session, Cotton claimed releasing felons with a reduced sentence would disrupt the communities that they are released into. In addition, he thought making it easier for ex felons to get jobs was “dangerous.”

“Law enforcement is able to arrest or identify a likely perpetrator for only 19% of property crimes and 47% of violent crimes. If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem,” Cotton said.

“The truth is you cannot decrease the severity and certainty of sentences without increasing crime. It’s simply impossible,” he added.

Proponents of criminal justice reform purport that the harshness of the sentencing does not have much of an impact on repeat offenders and crimes rates.

“When he says we have all of these unsolved crimes, so that’s why we should be filling the prisons even more, where is he going to get the resources to prosecute those if we’re spending so much money putting a nonviolent drug offender in prison for 30 years,” Kevin Ring, Vice President of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a non-profit organization, told CNN.

“This is a misallocation of resources. No one is trying to make a trade off between safety and security. We’re saying we can get more safety if we use our resources efficiently,” he added.

Cotton fires back at critics

Cotton claimed advocates of criminal justice reform seem to ignore that crimes rates were significantly higher in the 1980s than they are today, and that the federal prison population is decreasing.

Currently, there are more than 195,000 federal inmates, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In 2014, that number was 214,000, Cotton noted.

“I believe the criminal-leniency bill in the Senate is dead in this year’s Congress. And it should remain so if future versions allow for the release of violent felons from prison,” he continued. “I will, though, happily work with my colleagues on true criminal-justice reform — to ensure prisons aren’t anarchic jungles that endanger both inmates and corrections officers, to promote rehabilitation and reintegration for those who seek it, and to stop the over-criminalization of private conduct under federal law. But I will continue to oppose any effort to give leniency to dangerous felons who prey on our communities.”

As should come as no surprise, Cotton’s remarks provoked criticism among his democratic colleagues. However, even members within the republican party, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, have criticized the Arkansas senator for his views.

“The opponents of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act will stop at nothing to derail an historic bill aimed at safely and sensibly reducing excessive sentences while preserving important law enforcement tools to take down large criminal organizations,” Grassley said in a statement to CNN. “It’s supported by coalitions representing more than 400 organizations, including important law enforcement groups like the Major County Sheriffs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which undercuts the opposition’s arguments. We continue to make progress with the bill and remain hopeful that it will be considered by the full Senate,” he continued.

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