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Action Alert — Sen. Tom Cotton: “No early release for sex offenders”

By Sandy . . . The First Step Act, now pending in the U.S. Senate, has been described as “a bipartisan-supported bill,” “an important but…modest first-step” toward desperately needed criminal justice reform. It is supported by legislators of both parties and by the President.

Modest is correct; the bill would only apply to 1.5 percent of those in federal prisons, and the federal prison population is less than 10 percent of the total number of those incarcerated in the United States. The federal prison system would have total control over who might qualify for the early release provisions, and there is a list of offenses that would make a prisoner ineligible.

Apparently, for once, not all sexual crimes are among the ineligible, or at least not enough of them to please Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR). He is is doing his best to derail the First Step Act by demagoguing the issue that some convicted of sexual offenses may see their sentences reduced. He is doing this to dissuade his fellow Republicans from supporting this bi-partisan prison reform initiative. He is dividing the Republican caucus with his grandstanding, claiming that senators who are in support of the act will be helping sex offenders.

This is the argument we have seen used over and over again by politicians, used against opponents who had the courage to support legislation based on facts and research but viewed as being “soft” on registered sexual offenders.

The First Step Act is supported by many law enforcement groups but not by all.

Persons on the registry often write us asking what they can do to help the efforts of NARSOL. Here is something that every registrant and all of his or her family members can do.

Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard, 202 224-3121, and ask for Sen. Cotton’s office. They will ring you right through. When a staffer answers, voice your concern that Senator Cotton is derailing a reform act that has broad bipartisan support and is needed for the benefit of our country. They may ask you if you live in Arkansas and what your address is. If you do live in Arkansas, that is great because he is probably not hearing from our side. If you do not, tell them this is a national issue that doesn’t affect Arkansas any more than any other state. It affects the nation.

Those who live in Arkansas can additionally complete and email a message to the Senator using this form.

We need to act now. This isn’t a state issue; it is a vital national issue.

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Sandy Rozek

Sandy is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

This topic contains 30 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Bill 1 day, 4 hours ago.

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  • #49475 Reply
    Sandy Rozek
    Sandy Rozek
    Admin

    By Sandy . . . The First Step Act, now pending in the U.S. Senate, has been described as “a bipartisan-supported bill,” “an important but…modest fir
    [See the full post at: Action Alert — Sen. Tom Cotton: “No early release for sex offenders”]

  • #49498 Reply

    John S

    First, a minor change, much as I hate to cite it. Cotton’s designation should be (R-AR), as AK is for Alaska. How I wish he was from that state instead of mine! He strikes more than a few people here in Arkansas as being a deadly serious version of Sarah Palin. However, the people here who really know Cotton enough to see him as a detriment remain a minority.

    Sad to admit, but Cotton remains a highly popular figure in Arkansas politics, in part because he kowtows to the ever-present “tough on crime” criers. I don’t totally rule out the possibility of his aiming for a higher office. Remember that earlier in the Trump administration Tom Cotton was briefly considered for heading the Homeland Security department. For all I know he may still have that or a similar job in mind, and his actions, his anti-criminal justice reform stand may be his demonstrating his “fitness for the job.” Even members of some ideologically conservative groups in Arkansas that have become committed to criminal justice reform and the First Step legislation have complained that Cotton has been and remains a very serious obstacle, one of the most serious obstacles they have ever encountered.

    While the next few remarks may elicit screams of anger and shock in some ranks, Cotton’s actions are not new. He has joined a somewhat unusual club, in which membership is maintained and renewed using scare tactics, using fear as a weapon, knowing just which emotional buttons to push–and often when to push them. Let the screams now commence–a
    World War 1 veteran named Adolf Hitler launched similar tirades against perceived enemies of the Fatherland. Slobodan Milosevic raged against those groups that would hinder Serbia from greatness. These persons went on to bigger and worse actions.

    Our own history is not immune. The Salem witch hysteria in 1692 is a familiar comparison. Irish immigrants, especially if they were Catholic shook many Americans to their ideological cores in the 1840s and later. Now debunked as pseudo-science, a longtime very popular belief, Social Darwinism, absolute “proof” that resisting the “Other” was not just good politics but a safeguard against the immoralities the “Other” was “known” to possess. Ethnic Japanese citizens and residents were rounded up in 1942 and put into “relocation” camps–2 of which were in Arkansas. Oh, and let’s not forget the Red Scares following both world wars, and the shock and attendant hysteria which began on a certain September morning in 2001.

    The erasing of civil rights for minorities, especially in the South, was systematically done and done conclusively well in the late 1800s/early 1900s. More than a few leaders raised this work to a demagogic and political art. One of the most notorious practitioners was in Alabama; Thomas Heflin emerged as a master user of the “race issue”was regularly winning elective offices–Governor, U.S. Senator, state secretary of state. Interesting in that his best-known nickname (coincidentally?) was “Cotton Tom”.

    Before arguing How dare you compare Jews, freedmen, etc., to $ex offenders, in a very important respect I do not. I respectfully ask you to instead look at the all-too-human propensity to fix hatred, hysteria, fear, suspicions, the whole package of “less-than-positive” attributes on a group that for some reason is seen as the “Other”. Race, ethnicity, $exual identity, “nattering nabobs of negativity”, and, yes, registrants. Once the fear kicks in, an “us” against “them” mentality too easily and frequently takes over. For too, too long a time this mentality has remained well-insulated, protected from the “Other” and the increasing amounts of proven facts the “Other” or their supporters attempt to wield. I am glad to see a slowly rising number of successful, legal penetrations through that mental insulation. “Cotton Tom”, I mean, Tom Cotton, though, chooses to remain a staunch defender of “truth, justice, and the American way” as he sees it–and possibly genuinely believes it.

    (I wonder if more court victories and other advances in relevant research will finally get even the likes of Cotton to change his attitudes, his views? I wonder if it will become more politically opportune for him to change his course, so to speak. I lean to the latter for now. Years ago, I met and talked with Orval Faubus, Arkansas’s governor during the 1957 Central High School drama; he unabashedly told me as he told his biographer that one key reason he acted as he did was to curry enough political favor to win re-election in 1958. I don’t doubt Senator Cotton is well aware of this factor.)

    The peculiarities of Arkansas politics cannot be downplayed or discounted, as Cotton has more often than not used them to political advantage. A few years ago the Council on State Governments submitted a very well-thought-out report on why Arkansas just about leads the US in numbers of incarcerated persons. I was on hand to see the relevant committees receive the report, and for once, show a little collective backbone when the state’s DOC presented its solution, to build a new prison and add more beds to existing facilities. But shortly afterward the Council’s findings were largely gutted; the tough on crime crowd prevailed, and I am certain Senator T.C. was of help in the gutting.

    Oh, yes–please be careful in utilizing the “national issue” argument. A great many people in Arkansas politics don’t take comparisons with/to other states very kindly. We can and still do often say “Thank God for Mississippi” (it keeps this state from the very bottom of many rankings!) but comparisons that make Arkansas look bad? “Them’s fightin’ words!” Arkansas is behind the learning curve in a number of ways; meaningful criminal justice reform is one of them, though we won’t stop trying to see reforms enacted. Tom Cotton and the “tough on crime” ranks are a very major obstacle; but don’t be TOO surprised–you’re getting an idea of what a lot of Arkansans have had to endure.

    (If you want more information, I recommend the Arkansas Times website–www.arktimes.com, as well as to the website for the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.)

    One thing more. To end on a perhaps lighter/snarkier note, I’ve thought about a campaign ditty for when Cotton’s Senate seat is up for election in 2020, set to a very recognizable old tune. This is as far as I’ve gotten:
    Oh! I wish I weren’t in the land of Cotton.
    Good times there are long forgotten.
    Get away! Run away!
    Away from Cotton-land!

    (Any assistance or input will be welcome.)

    • #49505 Reply
      Fred
      Fred
      Admin

      Hello John,
      You really went over our excessively long rule on this comment, but because I enjoyed reading it so much, I am going to allow it. You know NARSOL is always looking for more good writers to fill the volunteer journalist positions.

      • #49529 Reply

        John S

        Many thanks for your kind words.

        I found an article about Cotton written shortly after his becoming Senator in January 2015. Reprinted in The Arkansas Times, it first appeared as a Washington Monthly article written by Ed Kilgore. Below are a few excerpts; the last one I believe is still quite valid.

        “. . . Having read a New York Times article on a covert Bush administration operation to gain access to the financial records of American citizens without warrant or subpoena in an effort to find possible links to terrorist networks, Cotton penned a letter to the Times suggesting that reporters and editors responsible for the story be prosecuted for espionage.

        “This is clearly not a man of nuanced views. . . .

        “Cotton is emblematic of a brand of movement conservatism that has slowly taken over the Republican Party after decades of struggle; saw its ultimate validation in the 2010 midterm elections; and isn’t about to loosen its grip on its trophy of ideological war. Its shock troops believe in a rigid, permanent model of governance that is impervious not only to Washington power games and deal-making, but to the social and economic consequences of its preferred policies and indeed to all contrary empirical evidence. . . .

        “So yeah, it kind of matters that so many people like Cotton carry so much weight in the House Republican Caucus. Asking them to be “realistic” is like staring into the eyes of a goat and expecting to find a glimmer of comprehension. It just ain’t happening, and the punditocracy had best remember that next time it is surprised by right wing intransigence, which will shine on brightly through all the haze of conventional politics.”

      • #49530 Reply

        John S

        My apologies; the article was written January 2013, not 2015.

        • #49559 Reply

          John S

          More apologies–Cotton was re-elected with a fairly substantial majority this year, which means we have to endure him until 2024, barring some situation that will see him leave the Senate earlier.
          My train of thought had jumped the tracks–again.

          Another source to check out:
          Van Jones: Tom Cotton is on the wrong side of the facts — and history.
          https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/29/opinions/tom-cottom-first-step-act-opinion-van-jones/index.html
          The first 2 sentences in the article grabbed my attention right away:
          Senator Tom Cotton is on a crusade to increase crime and make America less safe. He does not appear to care whether he tramples on the facts in the process.

          I like the 4 possible explanations Jones makes about Cotton’s actions, introduced, appropriately, in large fonts:
          1. He misunderstands current law.
          2. He misunderstands the bill itself.
          3. He has a severe allergy to facts.
          4. He simply prefers fear-mongering to facts.

          Sadly, more than a few of our state legislators have proven all too susceptible to points 3 & 4 when it comes to SOs.

      • #49544 Reply

        TS

        Thank you, Fred, for indulging John and his writing above and his reply, both of which are very interesting to read from someone within the AR state boundaries. With Sen Cotton’s seat up for reelection in two years, time for those in AR to mount up and prep for the campaign of whoever they chose to back in efforts to unseat him.

        • #49583 Reply

          Timothy

          @TS,
          I’m composing a letter to a popular family who live in the area. Their family has suffered some embarrassment via the issue. People like Cotton, Schumer, Blumenthal and others base their careers supporting the deepstate. Cotton chairs the & ” Intelligence Commitee”. Here he goes waiving the latest governmental reports claiming intelligence and insight into the sexual nature of man. As if!!!!!!!

          That kind of intelligence had the people believing in the WMD story. IT IS the same fight, fueled through propaganda for political ( opposed national) security. Electronic intelligence takes on a whole new scope in the hands of big brother. Big brother says naked bodies are obscene, while perpetual WAR is not. Tools all!

    • #49511 Reply
      Sandy Rozek
      Sandy Rozek
      Admin

      Thanks, John; I am hopeless when it comes to those state abbreviations.

  • #49499 Reply

    Timothy

    Homeland security & the sex offender = pseudo security. Mr Cotton sits on the committee and he is on board with the notion that sex ( offensive sex) and national security are correlated and linked. Preposterous! Meanwhile gun violence is going off the charts from both the good and bad guys. Why but he gets to faint a protection interest. Hardly unique he in our leadership.

  • #49501 Reply

    Iva Miracle

    My grandson had consensual sex with a 14 year old. He was 18. She sneaked him into the house at a late hour after her parents went to bed. When the father found out he was there he called the authorities. My grandson went to prison for 13 months. Since then he has been on the straight and narrow. He was denied at getting a couple of jobs, but is working steadily now. It has been four years and he has registered every six months. The stigma of being looked down on for a one time affair and the registration is belittling.

    • #49522 Reply

      Maestro

      Iva,

      The situation with your grandson seems to be the most common of sexual “offenses”, and even when the “offender” is older than 18. Point being – there are teenagers out there who literally LIKE to be with older people (I was one of them when I was a teen), and yet we live in a society that wants to deny this obvious fact. Also, there are older people who just make poor choices “in the moment” that they never actually woke up one day and decided “Hey! I have an idea! I’m gonna go commit a sexual offense.” But thanks to a psychotic murderer/rapist who kidnapped, raped and murdered a SEVEN YEAR OLD, we now ALL have to face the wrath of the Sex Offender Registry and be deemed “dangerous”.
      I want someone with some pull to get the attention of Priscilla Presley and ask her to step up and admit to the Elvis fans that their precious “king of rock and roll” SHOULD be considered a sex offender. Regardless of the times (the Law was still the same back in the 1950’s) and regardless that he ended up marrying her.
      I wonder how many of these age gap relationships MIGHT HAVE become long term and even leading to marriages had the law not been involved.
      And when you have a situation where it’s either a lapse of judgement in the “heat of the moment” or an actual relationship between an older and younger (post pubescent) teen, how exactly does this make the older person a “threat to the safety of the public”?
      This is the question that needs to be brought up over and over and over again until someone actually gives a LOGICAL answer. But there will never be a logical answer. The only answer you’d get is “Well what if it was YOUR daughter with an older man”, to which I would respond back: “That doesn’t answer the question, Mr/Ms Senator.”

      The registry was not intended to be for issues like your grandson’s. But let’s just lump everyone into it. Welcome to the greatest and most wonderful (and don’t forget Christian, Jesus loving) nation in the world.
      Yeah. Sure.

      • #49545 Reply

        TS

        This lady here in her letter to the editor of the Post Register, Idaho Falls, ID, seems to agree with you Maestro on those youngsters who are going to be sexually active with older people and those older people finding the wrong end of the law because of it: (link removed by miderator, violates our guidelines)

        • #49564 Reply

          John

          How many people know the story of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and the 15 year old girl he was given legal guardian status of so he could legally make her his sex toy. It’s a sad story and I encourage all to look it up on the internet.

        • #49577 Reply

          TS

          Here is the Letter to the editor referenced in my reply above to Maestro:

          Law should recognize reality
          Nov 29, 2018
          Post Register, Idaho Falls, ID

          Recently, Governor Otter pardoned Aaron Bonney who was convicted of statutory rape in 1997 of his then-girlfriend when he was 18 and she was 15.

          In 2010, the Idaho Legislature voted to change the rape laws so that if a girl was 16 or 17 and the boy was no more than 3 years older than her, it would not be statutory rape. Under these laws Bonney would have still been convicted of this crime and be required to register as a sex offender even though the sex was not forced (but not considered consensual since in Idaho you cannot consent to sex until 18.)

          I think it is time that our state recognizes that teenagers are going to have sex and that no amount of laws are going to stop them. If a girl is a willing partner then there should not be a crime to punish. I understand that we want to protect children, however, a pedophile does not prey on teenage girls by their very definition. They are attracted to pre-pubescent children.

          It doesn’t seem right to me that the governor pardons this one man but so many others are sitting in jail, on probation, or having to register as sex offenders for having sex with someone who was willing. If a girl can go into a state health department and procure birth control, then she should be old enough to decide who she wants to have sex with.

          Michelle Sams
          Idaho Falls

          *********
          I personally think ID can’t seem to make up their mind on Romeo & Juliet romances, consent when underage, but not illegal by age span when one is younger than 18 and can’t consent by law.

      • #49562 Reply

        a man without a country

        Maestro,

        You make some excellent points. I was one of those who suffered a lapse in judgment because of an apple being shown me. (There might be some ancient wisdom in that metaphor which present political correctness turns blind eyes and deaf ears to.)

        Cotton is an example of how anyone can get into Harvard. I myself am just some uneducated non-native of his home state who wound up graduating more than twice from institutions of higher ed there, and (not to sound narcissistic like SOMEBODY ELSE but) I did end up with a good education, one that helps me see that nincompoops like TC have probably never read things like Dr. Tana Dineen’s book “Manufacturing Victims,” or Judith Levine’s “Harmful to Minors,” or David Thomas’s “Not Guilty: The Case in Defense of Men,” or Dr. Richard Gardner’s work.

        My court-required shrink was a PhD in psychology (NOT a mere MA- or MSW-level counselor) who was also an LPC (licensed practical counselor) and a devout Christian. HE listened to my story many times and noted that my “victim” should share part of the blame (based on the outrageous behavior I described to him).

        Sadly, TC (though a Harvard graduate) ain’t literate enough to know about them there things like logic and ethics and empirical data…

        Keep up the fight!

  • #49502 Reply

    JEV

    I agree that any early release of a violent sex offender is never going to happen and probably shouldn’t happen, but prisons are full of sex offenders convicted of not violent crimes that are serving out full sentences and should be considered for early release. A democratic House vote will see this through but we have to read between the lines. Sex Offenses continue to be within the Law as serious as Capitol crimes such as 1st degree murder based on hysteria! And politicians continue to make names for themselves by voting against any relief for the sex offender. Its getting to be a unfightable position to take defending any sex offender as society has been swayed to believe they are all monsters and can never be rehabilitated or forgiven! JEV-True Confessions

    • #49524 Reply

      John Bobbitt

      The real solution is to just make all sex offenses considered violent crimes. Oh, wait, they pretty much already have. Most people don’t realize (even those convicted of it) that possession of child pornography, at least federally, is considered a crime of violence. It’s why they won’t let sex offenders go to the “cushy” prison camps. So it’s tough to argue for “non violent reform” when the definition of violent is so clearly abused.

      • #49565 Reply

        John

        Almost all sex crimes are classified as violent in many States.

      • #49603 Reply

        Marie Shook

        I certainly agree. Possession of pornography whether it be underage or not should not be listed as a violent crime. No matter how I look at it, I cannot convince myself that it is!

  • #49503 Reply

    Carol

    Sex offenders are people too. I oppose this because it is based on the false assumption that everyone who is in prison for a sexual,offense is a danger to society. This is just not true. Our legislators and especially Senator Cotton would do well to do their homework and read the research. Thank you.

    • #49523 Reply

      Maestro

      Carol,

      These people don’t live in caves away from civilization. They know the studies and the statistics. But then they sit in an office and wonder to themselves “How do I win the voters? Ah-ha! I’ve got it! I’ll say that I’m going to be tough on sex offenders!”

      So yeah, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

      • #49568 Reply

        Mike

        Dilly Dilly! Maestro has got it “EXACTLY” right.

  • #49525 Reply

    James Coghill

    So glad this subject came up. I’ve been waiting for it. The problem with shoot from the hip politics like in firearms more often than not you miss the target. This is government doing whatever they think of without considering the limitations the Constitution puts on government. They can’t act willy nilly. There’s the number 1 limitation of equal justice under the law that comes from the Constitution. Equal Justice Under the Law means that whatever changes in the law are made SHALL be applicable to all. Then when you consider that about 99% of us are classified ND/NR (Non Dangerous / Non Repetitive) there is no justifiable reason to NOT make it applicable to us. There’s a way to handle situations like this. This is exactly the kind of thing filing as a Private Attorney General was made for. So you wait for the law to pass and the very next day file in court as a Private Attorney General for equal justice.

  • #49528 Reply

    Jim

    Serving full sentence would not be bad, if it was the possibility of not being Civilly Committed. This sex offenders law in New Jersey, needs to be changed. This law is very unfair, because the sex offender face being sentence twice. However, when you are civilly committed there is no time limit on your sentence. Meaning it can be for the rest of your life. UNFAIR, STOP CIVIL COMMITMENT NOW!!!!

  • #49543 Reply

    R. Arens

    Funny how it goes. I served 7 years total for my sex offense and it never ceases to offend me how myself and others in my predicament are seen as lethal threats to public safety and yet in the 7 years I served, I witnessed innumerable amounts of gang members and other rif raf with mean streaks a mile wide go in on (say) a 10 / 15 year sentence and get paroled in a year or two. It’s insulting. Aside from my crime, I had no other criminal record. I was a car dealer, church member, home owner and volunteer for my local head start chapter. Ya. To think a guy with a larger sentence who took and never gave back and was likely a threat to his neighbors selling drugs to kids is a better candidate for parole than I was, it makes a guy wonder where priorities really like with the bureaucrats in charge.

  • #49555 Reply

    Saddles

    There is good government and bad government or we all led astray. NARSOL has given some of us good news about the due process and keeps us abreast of things that pretain to this sex offender cause. While I don’t like Government going above their authority and politicians saying this group need’s to be locked up and this group need’s to be freed. The means don’t fit the actions.

    Take the simplest of internet encounters of talking to a supposed teenage person on an adult site. Who is pretending to ensnare one for their vain glory if the truth be told. This Cotton person seems to me a wrong way goldfarb and doesn’t know his left sock from his right. Government has always wanted to be right even in prison reform or even in this adult type trappings of pretending to be good public servants. Good Government listens to the people and their plea’s and show’s mercy and forgiveness. Where is truth and honesty in government today for various types of sex offenders or should we all use the old pharse To protect and serve. I wonder who they are protecting and serving in this cottage industry. I wonder who’s calling the kettle black. One can never go wrong with the truth.

  • #49599 Reply

    SW

    It makes me angry enough to only wear polyester! Darn you Cotton!!

    Let’s make our voices heard. We may be small, but we can be very loud if need be.

  • #49623 Reply

    Larry

    Anybody know this guy in high school or college?

  • #50021 Reply

    Larry

    Arkansas report card

    #49Health Care
    #42Education
    #40Economy
    #41Opportunity
    #46Infrastructure
    #47Crime & Corrections
    #20Fiscal Stability

    Dude should clean up his own backyard

  • #50036 Reply

    Bill

    Here’s something I missed: The conclusion of the Michigan Does v. Snyder Judgement

    CONCLUSION
    For the reasons set out above, the Court should declare that the 2006 and
    2011 SORA amendments constitute punishment and cannot be enforced retroactively
    against registrants who committed their registrable offense before the effective
    dates of those amendments; permanently enjoin the defendants from enforcing
    the 2006 and 2011 SORA amendments against the plaintiffs John Does #1-5 and
    members of the ex post facto subclass; and order the parties to try to negotiate the
    terms of a consent judgment spelling out in detail their rights and responsibilities
    under SORA, with any disputes to be resolved by the Court.

    I wished he had stopped at, “enjoin the defendants from enforcing
    the 2006 and 2011 SORA amendments against the plaintiffs John Does #1-5 and
    members of the ex post facto subclass”, but no…he wants us to work it out…we’ve been trying to work it out for six years and that didn’t work.

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