GOP senator asks Jackson if her 'compassion' for defendants could lead to 'bad results'

Thom Tillis
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) asked Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson whether her "compassion" toward criminals could lead to "bad results" during the third day of Jackson's confirmation hearings on Wednesday.

Tillis, who touted his own record of pushing for the release of non-violent offenders, cited high recidivism rates and an opinion in which Jackson considered (but rejected) the argument that all prisoners might "reasonably" be released to protect them from COVID-19.

"If I look at this, and I look at your philosophy with respect — and it's admirable; I said that the content of your character would be demonstrated this week in my opening statement, and it has been, and one of the things that are first among them are your compassion and your belief that people can redeem themselves — but if you look at some of the cases ... can you understand how some of us may think that your compassion could lead to bad results?" Tillis asked.

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"I don't recall saying anything about 'compassion' in the way that you're describing it," Jackson answered. "Thank you for letting me clarify. The statements that I made about my practices as a trial judge ... were intended to explain how trial judges operate and how they impose sentences within the framework that Congress has provided ... [I]t tells us that we should be imposing a sentence 'sufficient but not greater than necessary' to promote the purposes of punishment. Congress also tells us that one of the purposes of punishment is rehabilitation."

Jackson went on to say that she had sentenced people to "very lengthy periods of incarceration" but that she would also read statements from their victims to encourage offenders to "take responsibility for what they had done" instead of "feeling victimized" by the justice system and returning to crime upon release.

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