At a Washington Post summit on criminal justice this week, federal prosecutor Steve Cook, head of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, offered what Reason.com calls lame arguments against justice reform bills pending in Congress. “The federal criminal justice system simply is not broken,” said Cook, who works in Eastern District of Tennessee. “In fact, it’s working exactly as designed.” The association been vocal in opposing efforts to roll back federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. It is a close ally of conservatives in Congress. “In the federal system, less than 1 percent of the individuals incarcerated are there for simple possession,” Cook said. “Since the mid-80s, we’ve gone after armed career criminals, kingpins, international drug traffickers, and that’s who we’re putting in federal prison. That’s who the bills in Congress will focus on and reduce sentences for and release from prison.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Judiciary Committee chairman, disagreed with Cook’s assessment of his panel’s legislation. He noted that while the Senate bill does not distinguish between violent and nonviolent criminals, the House version does. “The House bill has been very careful to look at this and make sure we do not allow any sentence reduction for anybody who’s in prison for committing a violent crime,” Goodlatte said. “In fact, we enhance sentencing, and for the first time we would allow somebody who was engaged in armed robbery or carjacking and other things to get an enhanced sentence … if they are arrested for a subsequent drug offense, because I agree that some drug criminal can be violent criminals as well.” This week, Goodlatte expressed “deep concern” about Obama’s granting of clemency to many individuals who were convicted of possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. There remains a possibility that the House will consider the reform bills this month.