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October 30, 2015

Mass Prisoner Release Will Impact Frederick

Guest Columnist

Chuck Jenkins


Under the guise of federal sentencing guideline reform, the United States Justice Department will release and unleash thousands of so-called “non-violent” drug offenders from our federal prison system.


This is yet another decision under the Obama Administration that will have a profound, long term, negative impact on local public safety. Yet again this action undermines the efforts of law enforcement and the rule of law. The number of federal releases that I’ve been privy range from 4,600 to 6,000, to upwards of 10,000 convicts this year and tens of thousands more over the next few years. There are a few points I would like to make from my perspective as Sheriff of Frederick County.


The public safety of our county, cities and communities across America will be impacted the most, and our citizens will be placed at risk. This is a wholesale release of convicted drug dealers and traffickers at a time when the use, abuse, and trafficking of illegal drugs, particularly heroin, are at all-time record levels. Locally, as well as across the entire country, heroin overdoses and overdose deaths are being recorded in record numbers.


These so-called non-violent drug offenders may well be serving current sentences for non-violent crimes, but the majority do have violent criminal histories that will include aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, property crimes, gun crimes, and murder. These are some real bad eggs, hardened repeat offenders, not someone just smoking a joint or shooting up heroin on a Friday night. The deadly drug trade that placed them in prison is not a violent crime per se,’ however it is the driver behind the majority of crime nationwide, perpetuating an increase in violent crime along the way. President Barack Obama will have you believe otherwise, saying that they are victims of the systems and deserving of an early release.


The old adage of “if you do the crime you will do the time” will no longer apply, a statement that could be counted on in the federal justice system. This administration would have you believe there is a racial disparity in sentencing which is simply not true. About 95% of the releases are male, whites are about 25% and blacks make up 34%, with non-American foreign citizens comprising about 24%. The foreign born should be deportable upon release; however, that will never happen under this president either, placing communities at even more risk.


The Justice Department touts that this mass release will save an estimated $1 billion of our federal dollars. That cost will simply be pushed down to local governments through increased local enforcement efforts, and local incarceration of the repeat offenders for local crimes.


We don’t know who these released convicts are, or just where they will land; but many will locate in communities like Frederick County. Crimes rates will most likely increase just as we are seeing declining numbers, and drug trafficking and abuse will likely increase even more as the drug trade is too lucrative not to jump back into. In jurisdictions where law enforcement is under severe scrutiny, we are already seeing increases in violent crime now that criminals are emboldened.


Should convicted felons have a second chance or be given considerations for a reduced sentence in some cases? Sure! However not by way of a wholesale release of convicted drug offenders and traffickers onto our streets, and certainly not at the expense of local public safety. But then again, no one asks local sheriffs their opinion!


The author of this column is the elected sheriff of Frederick County, Maryland.


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