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GOP bill: No early release for fentanyl traffickers

September 20, 2018

Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Marsha Blackburn think some federal inmates deserve a chance at early release just not traffickers of fentanyl, which is fueling America’s overdose crisis.

The Republican lawmakers released a bill Thursday that would require high-level dealers to serve their full terms, saying they’re such a menace they don’t deserve a shot at earning early-release credits.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has eclipsed prescription painkillers and heroin as the number-one killer in the U.S. opioid crisis.

Often crafted in overseas labs, fentanyl and its analogs are being cut with the heroin supply and killing unsuspecting users.

“Fentanyl traffickers, who killed more than 20,000 Americans last year, should not be eligible for reduced sentencing,” said Mr. Cotton, of Arkansas.

The lawmakers said typically, prisoners can slice 15 percent off of their terms by earning 54 days of credit sentences for each year served. That means someone serving a 10-year term can get out in 8 1/2 years.

Ms. Blackburn, who is running for a Senate seat in Tennessee, said fentanyl killed 500 people in her state in 2017 a 70-percent increase over 2016 so she’d rather keep dealers off the street.

“It is clear that active steps must be taken to get these drugs off the streets, and this solution will keep the public safe and ensure that dangerous fentanyl traffickers will serve their full sentences in prison,” she said.

The push jibes with President Trump’s get-tough approach to fentanyl dealers. He thinks the U.S. should follow the lead of hardline countries and give kingpin drug dealers the death penalty.

Earlier this year, Mr. Cotton wrote legislation that would reduce the amount of illicit fentanyl needed to trigger mandatory minimum prison terms for traffickers, since it only takes a tiny amount of the drug to kill dozens of people.

Fentanyl, which is 100 times more powerful than morphine, is also considered a hazard to law enforcement, who may accidentally overdose during drug raids.

Congress, meanwhile, is finalizing a sweeping opioids package that would force the U.S. Postal Service to collect advanced electronic data on packages entering the U.S.

Private couriers like UPS and FedEx already procure advanced data, which U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses to target suspicious packages that might contain fentanyl from clandestine labs in China and elsewhere.

All packages from China, and 70 percent of the overall flow, must have the information available by the end of this year, and 100 percent global compliance is due by 2021.

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