Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.) announced Friday that several law enforcement and victims' rights groups support their amendment to criminal justice reform legislation being considered in the Senate.
Cotton has been one of the FIRST STEP Act‘s fiercest opponents, and he said Friday that further changes are needed to "ensure that no violent sex offenders can be eligible for any type of early release."
"I'm pleased that major law enforcement groups support our amendments to exclude violent felons and sex offenders from early release, notify victims before criminals are released, and to measure whether the First Step Act works. Next week, the Senate will vote on these amendments. I urge my colleagues to support these changes to ensure that no violent sex offenders can be eligible for any type of early release," Cotton said in a press release.
Kennedy said the bill should not be pushed through Congress before made right.
"The early release of criminals is not an issue that should be fast-tracked through Congress," Kennedy added. "As written, the First Step Act could release many violent criminals and sex offenders. Our amendment addresses these threats to public safety, and it has been endorsed by law enforcement officers and victims' rights groups. I hope that the rest of our Senate colleagues realize the shortfalls of the First Step Act and vote to support this amendment."
The Cotton-Kennedy amendment would "exclude nine more classes of criminals from using time credits to transfer out of prison early, including sex offenders who attempt to coerce minors under 18." It would also require the Bureau of Prisons to try to notify victims before criminals are released from prison. Finally, the amendment would require authorities "track the rearrests of criminals in prerelease custody or supervised release to ensure the program is working."
The National Association of Police organizations, which represents over 241,000 law enforcement officers, wrote a letter urging support for the Cotton-Kennedy amendment while still expressing "grave concerns with the legislation before the Senate."
The amendments are also supported by the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and other organizations.
Cotton has argued the bill should focus on helping people "who have paid their debts to society," rather than allowing certain inmates out of prison early.
"We shouldn’t be slashing sentences and releasing child abusers and serious felons and drug dealers early from prison," Cotton said during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt.