Radical left-wingers want to free half the nation's prisoners --including many violent offenders-- a move that would cause an upsurge in crime rates for decades to come.
To many of today's leftists criminality itself is an illegitimate concept. The mindless chanting of the slogan "no one is illegal" at open-borders rallies is part of the same school of thought.
Spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union and bankrolled by radical speculator George Soros, the "end mass incarceration" movement wants to reduce the U.S. prison population by 50 percent within the next 10 to 15 years.
This specific push is called the "Cut50" project.
"We have the largest incarcerated population in the world despite the fact that we're a democracy and that we value individual freedoms," Alison Holcomb, national director of the ACLU Campaign to End Mass Incarceration told public radio station KUOW in Puget Sound, Wash.
"The overuse of our criminal justice system has resulted in expanding a caste, a second class of citizens that lose their right to vote, that won't be able to get loans to go to school, that will probably have difficulty renting an apartment and that is not healthy for our society and it's actually compromising our safety."
Like Black Lives Matter supporter and Baltimore riot organizer DeRay Mckesson, Holcomb doesn't care about property rights.
She doesn't want thieves and robbers jailed even briefly. If someone steals property, "why is the response to put that person in a cage?" she said.
Holcomb's comrades want to unleash more than a million inmates --including violent offenders-- on American society.
"With 2.3 million Americans incarcerated in prisons and jails, a 50 percent reduction would mean changing sentencing and parole rules to cut the net population by more than 1 million people, either by releasing current inmates or by not incarcerating future offenders," reports the sympathetic left-wing media site TheMarshallProject.org.
Halving the prison population would require changing sentencing rules "not only for the so-called 'non, non, nons' — non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex offender criminals — but also for some offenders convicted of violent crimes."
Shortening sentence lengths, relaxing parole criteria, shifting convicts from incarceration to probation or community service, sending more inmates to mental illness programs or addiction treatment, "and even redefining what offenses are considered violent in the first place."
"Violent offenders would have to be part of any serious attempt to halve the number of prisoners," the news report states.
Some of the violent offenders could be made to disappear simply by wordplay, explains self-described communist and former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones.
“We might want to look at whether someone who had a gun but didn’t use it should be considered violent,” said Jones, co-founder of Rebuild the Dream and plenty of other hard-left groups. “People will say that’s gun crime and you can’t talk about them. Well, I think that’s ridiculous.”
Murderers would have to be given lighter sentences to hit the target of 50 percent of prisoners released. To underline the point, TheMarshallProject.org wheels out University of Pennsylvania political scientist Marie Gottshalk. She laments that in the U.S. murderers typically get life without parole, whereas in Europe a 10-year prison term for murder is considered severe.
But it needs to be noted that prisoner recidivism rates in America are already sky-high so maybe giving legions of inmates get-out-of-jail cards isn't such a good idea.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) has warned that "when we release large numbers of criminals early, we know that a substantial number of those individuals will commit murders, rapes, assaults, robberies, and other violent crimes that would have been prevented had they remained in prison."
Science is on Sessions's side.
Within a year of release, 43 percent of state prisoners are arrested for committing a new crime. By the end of five years the figure jumps to 77 percent, according to "Multistate Criminal History Patterns of Prisoners Released in 30 States," published by the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2015.
The recidivism rate among released federal prisoners, a much smaller cohort than released state prisoners, is lower but still quite high. According to a recent report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission "nearly half (49.3%) of [federal] offenders released from prison or placed on a term of probation in 2005 were rearrested within eight years for either a new crime or for some other violation of the technical conditions of their probation or release."
So if the activists get their way, how big will the crime spree that follows be?
Assuming there are 2 million prisoners and a roughly 70 percent recidivism rate among all released prisoners, if half of the prisoners are released and each one commits only one crime, 700,000 criminal acts that otherwise might not have happened will take place.
Call it a social justice-inspired crime wave.
The push to liberate lawbreakers comes as Barack Obama, the most radical left-wing American president in history, is defining deviancy down by attempting to de-stigmatize criminality. The Left views criminals -- especially minorities -- as victims of society, oppressed for mere nonconformism. Because it needs their votes, the Left is pressing for the restoration of felons' voting rights. And it also supports legislation "banning the box," that is, banning employment applications that ask if the applicant has a criminal record.
Of course, a criminal record carries with it a degree of social stigma, as it should. Removing or watering down that socially beneficial stigma reduces disincentives to commit crimes and hinders the marginalization of the antisocial. Without stigma and social ostracism, society would eventually collapse.
So-called sanctuary cities are another arrow in the Left's anti-incarceration quiver. Hundreds of jurisdictions throughout the country frustrate immigration enforcement efforts and shield illegal aliens from federal officials as a matter of policy. The sanctuary cities movement gave illegal aliens permission to rob, rape, and murder Americans and is the product of decades of concerted activity by radical groups like the ACLU and the pro-Castro Center for Constitutional Rights.
The desire to empty the prisons goes back to Sixties radical Angela Davis.
The two-time Communist Party USA vice presidential candidate, now a beloved figure in the groves of academe, blazed a trail decades ago. Davis demanded the release of all minority criminals because they were "political prisoners" of the racist United States, victims of a capitalist “prison-industrial complex.”
Davis hasn't moderated over the years.
"We cannot simply call for reform," she told an audience last month at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "We want an end to incarceration, period."
Davis blathered on, railing against the mythical prison-industrial complex and "the deep structural racism embedded" in the American criminal justice system. Radicals like Davis have no interest in facts that undermine their narrative so they bandy about the structural racism claim routinely even though it lacks empirical support.
"Racism continues to play a determining role in who gets stopped by the police and who doesn't," she continued. "It determines who gets arrested and who goes free, who gets longer sentence and who gets shorter sentences."
These things are true -- but only in the deranged minds of radicals.