Respondents back Trump opposition to release for drug dealers
An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose a federal sentencing change which would grant early release to those convicted of dealing hard drugs, a new poll released Thursday shows.
These results suggest that Americans would be unlikely to support the FIRST STEP Act, a criminal justice reform bill which has stalled out in the Senate following President Donald Trump's withdrawal of support, but which a coalition of Democrats and reform-minded Republicans still hope to pass in the next session.
The survey was administered by ORC International and commissioned by the Foundation for Safeguarding Justice, a group which represents the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, who are opposed to FIRST STEP. ORC asked respondents if they would "support or oppose a proposal to reduce penalties for traffickers in heroin, fentanyl, and similar drugs?" with 74 percent saying they would oppose the proposal. Majorities opposed the idea across all demographic groups, including both genders, three races, and all age groups.
This response matters because FIRST STEP's primary effect, if implemented, would be to reduce the number of federal prisoners by altering the system's "good time" credit rules, making it easier for convicts to be released early if they completed certain education, training, and other reformatory programs. Importantly, the good time credit expansion would not apply to violent offenders. But, as opponents of the bill—including Trump—have protested, the expansion would apply to federal drug offenders, over 99 percent of whom are traffickers.