Criminal Justice

The White House Is Moving Forward on Prison Reform Despite Justice Department Resistance

The president and Senate Republicans might be coming to an agreement that includes some sentencing reforms, too.

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LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS/Newscom

Despite opposition from the Justice Department, the White House is continuing to work with Republicans in Congress to pass prison reform legislation, possibly including some elements of sentencing reform.

On Wednesday the White House hosted a meeting on criminal justice reform with key Republican senators, including Mike Lee (R-Utah), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. "We had a great meeting with President Trump on criminal justice reform this afternoon, and I think we've made some meaningful progress," Lee said in a statement to Reason. According to a source familiar with the meeting, Trump agreed to support four provisions from the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a Senate bill that would reduce some mandatory minimum sentences.

The move would be significant because the core group of Republicans and Democrats behind the Senate bill has insisted on including sentencing reform as part of any criminal justice legislation, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is highly unlikely to bring a bill to the floor if there is vocal opposition from either the White House or the Republican caucus. "The question is whether there [are] enough sentencing provisions in there to make those guys happy without turning off too many Republicans and making it too toxic for McConnell to put on the floor," says Alex Gudich, deputy director of #Cut50, a criminal justice advocacy group that has been closely following the legislation.

In May, the House passed the FIRST STEP Act, which would mandate various changes to the federal Bureau of Prisons, by a wide, bipartisan margin. Trump son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner has been a driving force behind that bill, and Trump, joined by criminal justice advocates, evangelical organizations, and business groups, has touted prison reform as an opportunity to get formerly incarcerated Americans back on their feet and into the job market.

Progressive Democrats and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said the bill fell far short of their requirements, and Grassley has been adamant that the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which his committee approved in February, be included in some way. Adding sentencing reform provisions to the FIRST STEP Act would also be noteworthy because of Justice Department's opposition to it. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch law-and-order conservative, fiercely opposes reducing mandatory minimum sentences and is no fan of the FIRST STEP Act either.

At the same time Trump was hosting a meeting on criminal justice reform yesterday, the Washington Free Beacon published a leaked letter from the Justice Department to the White House outlining its concerns about the FIRST STEP Act. "In the Department's view," the letter says, "this legislation, if passed in its current form, would further and significantly erode our long established truth-in-sentencing principles, create impossible administrative burdens, effectively reduce the sentences of thousands of violent felons, and endanger the safety of law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers."

#Cut50's Gudich says the letter uses the same sort of "dehumanizing language and baseless fear tactics" that led to mass incarceration in the first place. "In some cases, we're talking about a matter of weeks," Gudich says. "Claiming that keeping them in prison for a couple more weeks is going to keep communities safer makes no sense."

The Justice Department letter also ties the declining federal prison population to rising crime rates, as Sessions has done in many of his public speeches. "The number of federal inmates has declined more than 16 percent since 2013 and is at its lowest level since 2004," the letter reads. "It is likely no coincidence that, at the same time, we are in the midst of the largest drug crisis in our nation's history and recently experienced the two largest single-year increases in the national violent crime rate in a quarter of a century."

Conservative and libertarian groups that support criminal justice reform pushed back against the Justice Department letter today. FreedomWorks published a lengthy rebuttal. "Simply put," it said, "correlation doesn't equal causation."

Those groups have been bolstered by a poll released last week by Freedom Partners, a nonprofit group that funds conservative and libertarian causes, showing 70 percent of voters nationwide think the Senate should pass the FIRST STEP Act. Opposing the bill "means accepting a status quo in which two out of every three formerly incarcerated people is rearrested within three years of their release," former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, now a member of Right on Crime, another conservative criminal justice reform group, said in a statement provided to Reason. "We can't continue treating our federal prisons like warehouses and expecting things to change."

When reporters asked Grassley today about his former Senate colleague Sessions' efforts to derail the legislation, he didn't hold back. "With all that I have done to help Sessions, to keep the president from firing him, I think Sessions ought to stay out of it," Grassley told reporters.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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45 responses to “The White House Is Moving Forward on Prison Reform Despite Justice Department Resistance

  1. I don’t understand, why doesn’t he just use his pen and phone to resolve the issue of separating these ‘illegal persons’ from their families once and forever?

    Fucking Trump.

    1. His pen is too busy writing checks at the grocery store, apparently.

    1. Scott made a joke about feeling up tits in an earlier post. That’s right, the gay dude made a joke about titty-squeezin. So Reason has fulfilled its perv duty for the day.

      1. Stay with your kind, Shhakferd!

        1. Girlfriend, nobody’s that gay.

          1. Me and my other me’s contradict your gay assertion, faggot.

    2. The Japanization of Poland? Or are these models over 18?

    3. I saw this story earlier, and I thought of you, Crusty.

    4. Customers can now buy the beer and taste the ‘essence’ of the models at various pubs after it premiered on July 28 in the Polish city of Katowice.

      It’s about time someone invented a beverage that pairs well with the taste of salty nuts.

  2. Despite opposition from the Justice Department

    The center and the left don’t like it when Trump defies the “independent” DoJ.

    1. Trump is such a rebel.

      *swoon*

  3. Well, a small ray of hope in an otherwise shitty time.

      1. How many did she hit from the three point line?

        1. She is one of USC’s top-five three-point shooters, so probably quite a lot, you misogynistic soyboy.

          1. While Kobe Bryant was guarding her?

            1. Jayne Appel > Kobe Bryant imo.

        1. I am not suggesting that her purported romantic interest in men is motivated by financial greed, I will simply note that I have not observed her with any low-income African-Americans.

    1. I wish this were a shitty time. I love the thought of some cute anus pinching some steamy loafs on my penis. Yummers!

    2. Wages are up and unemployment is at 3.9%. This is a great time you narcissistic half wit.

  4. I would love to see Trump pardon all federal drug offenders but cutting their sentences is a great step too.

    Trump is not an Old Testament politician and he is not a drug warrior, so I bet he gets a lot of federal criminal justice rules changed. Not only would some of those early releases be potential Trump voters, it would good for the USA to not spend so much on non-violent drug offenders.

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  5. I want to temporarily gain a female reproductive system so that Crusty can inseminate my eggs so that I might bear children that’ll grow up and post salacious links on Reason.
    I LOVE YOU CRUSTY! ( ? ? `)?? ?

    1. Right now, I’m looking at my peach/nectarine juice cocktail and thinking I need to add some psychedelics.

  6. Everyday a kid under 25 dead in my local newspaper , a town of 25k. I’d love to say free for all anything goes, but when bad shit goes around what day you do if no regs? What do you do!

      1. HOW MY BROKEN MARRIAGE WAS RESTORED BACK. My husband and I were always having issues, he cheat on me with different ladies, he sleeps outside our matrimonial home almost all the time, sometimes come home late at night drunk and he no longer take care of me and our kids instead he spends his money on achohol and women. all efforts to win his love back failed. One day i read a testimony of a boy on instagram testifying about a powerful magic spell caster called priest Otutu who use his spiritual powers to bring back ex girlfriend after 4 years of separation so I a gave Priest Otutu a try, I contacted him and told him what I am going through , he told me not to worry that he is going to cast out the evil spell of infidelity out of my husband and also make him love me. He told me what to do which i did, to my greatest surprise he cast a magic love spell for me and in two days time my husband came back home begging for forgiveness. Today i am happy to say my husband no longer cheat on me again, his love for me increased and he pays the family bills. thank you very much Priest Otutu for bringing back my lost joy. If you are out there facing similar issue don’t be shy to contact him on otutuspelltemple@gmail.com or whatsapp him on +2347030559372

    1. This is why newspapers are correctly identified as “the enemy of the people”.

      1. Yeah, if my newspaper kept turning up with dead kids in it I’d cancel my subscription.

    2. If drugs were legal then their potency would likely be consistent, and they’d be less likely to be adulterated.

      That’s what kills: the new batch being more potent than the last, or the new batch being laced with something.

      You don’t generally see that with Budweiser or Jim Beam.

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  7. OT.
    Snowflakes respond to training:

    “911 call amid training at base sets off active shooter fears”
    […]
    “DAYTON, Ohio (AP) – A 911 call at a sprawling Air Force base on Thursday sent armored vehicles and unmarked police cars rushing to a medical center where people hid behind locked doors until authorities determined there was no threat.”
    https://www.wdtn.com/news/u-s-world/
    officials-responding-to-active-shooter
    -reports-at-base/1341860823

    Prediction: This will soon be included in the ‘mass shootings’ count, regardless of the number of times it is debunked.

  8. to keep the president from firing him, I think Sessions

    Grassley once again proves the pointlessness of his existence.

  9. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch law-and-order conservative, fiercely opposes reducing mandatory minimum sentences and is no fan of the FIRST STEP Act either.”

    Why hasn’t Trump fired him? I thought Trump wanted supporters of his agenda in place to carry them out…

  10. HOW MY BROKEN MARRIAGE WAS RESTORED BACK. My husband and I were always having issues, he cheat on me with different ladies, he sleeps outside our matrimonial home almost all the time, sometimes come home late at night drunk and he no longer take care of me and our kids instead he spends his money on achohol and women. all efforts to win his love back failed. One day i read a testimony of a boy on instagram testifying about a powerful magic spell caster called priest Otutu who use his spiritual powers to bring back ex girlfriend after 4 years of separation so I a gave Priest Otutu a try, I contacted him and told him what I am going through , he told me not to worry that he is going to cast out the evil spell of infidelity out of my husband and also make him love me. He told me what to do which i did, to my greatest surprise he cast a magic love spell for me and in two days time my husband came back home begging for forgiveness. Today i am happy to say my husband no longer cheat on me again, his love for me increased and he pays the family bills. thank you very much Priest Otutu for bringing back my lost joy. If you are out there facing similar issue don’t be shy to contact him on otutuspelltemple@gmail.com or whatsapp him on +2347030559372

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