Senator David Perdue Opposes Releasing Armed Career Criminals

I’m unable to support many of the changes this bill makes to our mandatory minimum sentencing laws, as well as its retroactive nature.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA), a member of the Judiciary Committee, today voted against the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015. Senator Perdue supports responsible criminal justice reform, but highlighted several concerns with the current bill regarding reducing mandatory minimum sentencing laws and retroactively allowing violent offenders and armed career criminals back into our communities before their sentences are fully completed.

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“I’d like to thank Chairman Grassley and all of the sponsors of this bill. I’ve supported responsible sentencing reform since I came to the Senate.

I remember the first week I was here, Senator Booker and I talked about this for low-level and non-violent drug offenders. The unfortunate thing is that this bill goes well beyond that.

Great things are happening with criminal justice reform in my home state of Georgia and we need to do the same thing here in Washington, so I fully support the effort.

Some of the Corrections Act provisions of this bill actually do that.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to support many of the changes this bill makes to our mandatory minimum sentencing laws, as well as its retroactive nature.

The first problem I have is that the bill significantly reduces sentences of violent, repeat offenders, not just drug offenders, including four-time felons sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act.

I want to give you a brief example of what can happen on this side of the equation. Judge Easterbrook of the 7th Circuit recently wrote an opinion in U.S. v. Burnett.

A case in which Illinois offender Albert Burnett was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 15 years under the Armed Career Criminal Act.

Burnett has an extensive criminal history and has been convicted five times for violent felonies: murder, twice for attempted murder, aggravated battery and domestic battery. And that’s in addition to his federal gun charge.

If this bill becomes law, Burnett will be eligible for a five year reduction in his sentence. Contrary to a lot of misinformation out there. This bill goes well beyond low-level, non-violent drug offenders.

I’ve always believed that we need to take a hard look at how we deal with non-violent offenders, and that’s why I’m a co-sponsor of the Smarter Sentencing Act.

But let’s be clear, this is not that act.

If it becomes law, this bill today, reduces sentences for armed career criminals under Section 924(e), serial violent felons and drug offenders who used guns under Section 924(c) and high-level, repeat drug offenders sentenced under Section 841.

What’s even more troubling is that these provisions apply retroactively.

We don’t have reliable data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission on how extensive the effects of these retroactivity provisions will be.

But they will affect many thousands of violent offenders and armed career criminals.

That’s thousands of old sentences federal prosecutors will be forced to re-litigate, which means fewer resources for fighting current crime.

My decision today also takes into account the releases by the Federal Bureau of Prisons that are already happening, and the fact that many of our states are seeing a spike in violent crime and unprecedented levels of heroin use which has already been mentioned this morning.

In the upcoming months, we’re going to see over 13,000 federal offenders released under the current activity.

And if this bill becomes law, we’re adding potentially thousands of repeat, violent felons into the mix, because of the retroactive provisions of this bill.

I can’t support this bill, though I do support the effort for reform for non-violent drug offenders.

Mr. Chairman, I plan to offer some amendments later that will deal with some of my reservations.”