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Hundreds of violent criminals have been released under First Step Act, data show

Sen. Kennedy: I didn't believe only nonviolent offenders would be set free

Violent criminals among those released by First Step Act; reaction from Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy on 'Tucker Carlson Tonight.'

Hundreds of violent criminals have been released under the First Step Act, President Trump's signature bipartisan criminal justice reform package, according to data from an administration official provided to Fox News on Monday.

The data, first obtained exclusively by "Tucker Carlson Tonight," seemingly contradicted lawmakers' promises that the legislation would largely affect only prisoners sentenced for minor drug-related offenses. Of 2,243 inmates released under the First Step Act, only 960 were incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

On the other hand, 496 were in prison for weapons/explosives-related crimes, 239 for sex offenses, 178 for fraud/bribery/extortion, 118 for burglary/larceny and 106 for robbery, according to the data. 1,017 of the 2,243 inmates are black, while 1,129 are white, 62 American Indian and 35 Asian/Pacific Islander.

Another 59 were imprisoned over homicide/aggravated assault, 46 for immigration-related offenses, nine for counterfeiting/embezzlement and two for national security reasons.

In all, 2,023 of the inmates were male, while only 211 inmates were female.

The Justice Department announced last Friday that 3,100 federal inmates were being released as part of the First Step Act, which has been heralded by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., as a start to righting a “broken” criminal justice system.

WHAT ARE THE PROVISIONS OF THE FIRST STEP ACT?

Several hundred of those inmates were transferred into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, which accounts for the discrepancy from the 2,243 figure provided by the administration official.

Speaking on "Tucker Carlson Tonight," Louisiana Republican John Sen. Kennedy, who was one of a handful of lawmakers to oppose the bill, said the numbers were predictable.

"Good intentions sometimes have nothing to do with actual consequences," Kennedy told Carlson. "We were told that this would only allow low-level, nonviolent criminals to go free. I didn't believe it, and I didn't believe it because I read the bill. And now we find out that in the first traunch of prisoners let free, 500 committed weapons or explosive crimes, 250 committed sex crimes, I think there were 60 or 70 that were guilty of homicide or aggravated assault. And those are not low-level, nonviolent criminals."

Kennedy went on to describe the leadup to the bill as a "complete lie." He said he had offered an amendment that would have required victims to be notified about inmates' release, but that it was vetoed.

"To me, this is pretty simple," Kennedy said. "I believe in the Kantean definition of justice. C.S. Lewis talked about it. Saint Augustine talked about it. Justice exists when people get what they deserve. Justice is not necessarily deterrence, or rehabilitation, though that can be a byproduct."

"Good intentions sometimes have nothing to do with actual consequences."

— Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy

Kennedy added: "And I don't know why it is, Tucker -- if I make it to heaven, I'm going to ask -- but there are some people in this world, they're not mixed up, they're not confused, they're not sick, it's not a question that their mama or daddy didn't love them enough.

"They're just bad. And when they commit criminal acts, justice required they be punished."

At the State of the Union address earlier this year, Trump touted the First Step Act as a major breakthrough focusing on nonviolent offenders.

“This legislation reformed sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African-American community,” Trump said. “The First Step Act gives nonviolent offenders the chance to reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens. Now, states across the country are following our lead. America is a nation that believes in redemption.”

President Donald Trump gestures to Troy Powell, left, at the 2019 Prison Reform Summit and First Step Act Celebration in the East Room of the White House in Washington, April 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Last week, the DOJ published new standards to identify other inmates who may be eligible for "good time" releases under the law.

“Starting today at prisons around the country, nearly 3,100 inmates are being released from BOP (Bureau of Prisons) custody due to the increase in good-conduct time applied to reduce their sentences under the First Step Act,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told reporters.

The move marked the largest group to be freed so far under a clause in the First Step Act that reduces more sentences due to "earned good time." In addition to reuniting with their families, the formerly incarcerated citizens hope to get employment opportunities announced by Trump last month at the White House as part of the "Second Chance" hiring program.

The bill’s retroactive application of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act has so far resulted in 1,691 sentence reductions, the department said in a press release. The 2010 Act reduced the difference between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine possession at the federal level.

THOUSANDS OF EX-PRISONERS TO RE-UNITE WITH THEIR FAMILIES THIS MONTH AS PART OF FIRST STEP ACT

The department announced Friday that in addition to the early releases, it's moving $75 million in existing resources to fund the bill in the 2019 fiscal year, and launching a new “risk and needs assessment system designed to assess inmates’ risks of recidivism and to identify their individualized needs to reduce their risks of re-offending.”

Through that system, inmates will have the chance to have time reduced and participate in recidivism reduction programs.

Other provisions in the First Step Act ease mandatory minimum sentences under federal law. For example, the legislation reduces the "stacking" of drug offenses to drive up sentences, and prescribes 25-year terms, rather than life terms, for many "third strike" crimes.

Fox News' Alex Pfeiffer, an investigative producer for "Tucker Carlson Tonight," contributed to this report.

Gregg Re Fox News

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