Sen. Ben Sasse talks with reporters after speaking at a Lincoln Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Country Club of Lincoln in November. 

Sen. Ben Sasse said he opposes the current version of the Senate's sentencing-reduction reform bill because "it will release thousands of violent felons very early."

The Nebraska senator, who joined 11 other Republicans in opposing advancement of the bill on its first major test vote Monday, said he has filed amendments to the so-called First Step Act to "ensure that violent and dangerous criminals are not eligible for early release."

The legislation is designed to ease federal sentencing laws and give judges more discretion in sentencing drug offenders. The bill provides that federal prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before August of 2010 may petition for a reduced penalty.

Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska voted with the majority when the Senate advanced the bill on an 82-12 vote. 

"Everyone should want two things," Sasse said in a written statement.

That would be "to keep families together by reducing sentences for certain non-violent offenders," he said, "and to keep our communities safe from violent criminals who rightly belong behind bars." 

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The legislation should recognize that "many of the people in federal prison are seriously violent," Sasse said.  

And releasing violent felons very early is "a grave mistake that will hurt innocent Americans," he said. "Good intentions are not enough."

One of Sasse's amendments would prevent prisoners from receiving any time credits if they are serving time for violent crimes, sex offenses and a number of specified crimes, including domestic violence, drug-trafficking, assault and robbery.  

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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