There are not many people left who support harsher sentencing laws than the ones that have already led to our system of mass incarceration which disproportionately affects people of color. But someone who does is Bill Otis, and Donald Trump has made him one of his four nominees to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
The Sentencing Commission is an independent agency that develops sentencing guidelines for courts, and Otis is probably one of the worst possible picks for the job. A Slate profile from 2015 called him the “last man standing who thinks criminal justice reform is a terrible idea” and the “go-to voice for maintaining tough-on-crime sentencing.” Last spring, Otis told NPR, “Our whole sentencing system that started in the Reagan-Bush era, the system of guidelines and mandatory minimums, has been a big success.”
This “success” has given the United States the honor of having the highest prison population in the world, in which black Americans are locked up at five times the rate of white Americans. Mass incarceration, which has been fueled by harsh and disparate mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, has destroyed black communities across the country. If Otis’ nomination goes through, things could get even worse than they already are.