Nov 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

White House pushes back at Rashida Tlaib prison stand

Jen Psaki

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House distanced itself from a proposal endorsed by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) that calls for closing federal prisons.

  • "The president does not support abolishing prisons," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a Tuesday briefing.

Why it matters: Psaki's remarks come amid a broader discussion on prison reform and after Tlaib was challenged on her stance by Axios' Jonathan Swan in an "Axios on HBO" interview.

  • "[E]veryone's like, 'Oh my God, we're going to just release everybody.' That's not — ," Tlaib said in the interview, which aired Sunday.
  • Swan interjected that the BREATHE Act "actually says: Release everyone" from federal prisons over 10 years.

In the "Axios on HBO" interview, Swan asked to what extent Tlaib has wrestled with potential downsides to the reforms:

  • Tlaib: "But did you see how many people are mentally ill that are in prison right now?"
  • Swan: "But there are, like, human traffickers."
  • Tlaib: "Oh, I know. ... Look at who's in prison now ... folks that are mentally ill, that have substance-abuse problems ... And obviously there's a process of looking at how can we get away from mass incarceration, and move towards care first."

On Tuesday, Psaki reiterated that Biden does not support defunding the police, adding that "he would not support legislation that includes it."

  • "He thinks measures like that will make us less safe," she added.
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