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Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) Photo: Tom Williams / Getty

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) told Axios that he hasn't given up hope on Attorney General Jeff Sessions coming around on sentencing reform, pointing to that fact that as a senator Sessions helped pass the Fair Sentencing Act, which improved the racial disparity in cocaine crime sentencing.

Why it matters: In a White House meeting with criminal justice reform advocates, Sessions seemed open to pursuing prison reform in order to save money, but sentencing reform was not discussed. Prison reform has more bipartisan support, while sentencing reform is often seen as being "soft on crime" by hardline conservatives like Sessions.

  • Prison reform focuses on reducing recidivism through programs and training within prisons. In Texas, prison reform efforts resulted in $2 billion of savings for taxpayers.
  • Sentencing reform focuses on reducing harsh sentences for low-level, nonviolent crimes — often drug crimes.

Why sentencing matters: Scott said prison reform without sentencing reform doesn't do enough to address racial discrimination. He argues that the kind of crimes that receive the harshest penalties disproportionately affect African Americans.

  • In 2015, African Americans and Hispanics made up more than half of incarcerated Americans, despite only making up 32% of the U.S. population, according to the NAACP.
  • Scott and Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) unveiled a bipartisan prison and sentencing reform bill late last year as part of gaining momentum in the House and Senate to revive the criminal justice reform efforts which dwindled in 2016 heading into the election.

Go deeper

Biden picks up his pen to change the tone on racial equity

Vice President Harris looks on as President Biden signs executives orders related to his racial equity agenda. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden is making a down payment on racial equity in a series of executive orders dealing with everything from private prisons to housing discrimination, treatment of Asian Americans and relations with indigenous tribes.

The big picture: Police reform and voting rights legislation will take time to pass in Congress. But with the stroke of his pen, one week into the job Biden is taking steps within his power as he seeks to change the tone on racial justice from former President Trump.

Most Senate Republicans join Rand Paul effort to dismiss Trump's 2nd impeachment trial

Photo: Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images

Forty-five Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported an effort to dismiss former President Trump's second impeachment trial.

Why it matters: The vote serves as a precursor to how senators will approach next month's impeachment trial, making it highly unlikely the Senate will vote to convict. The House impeached Trump for a second time for "incitement of insurrection" following events from Jan 6. when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

Texas judge temporarily halts Biden's 100-day deportation freeze

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the Biden administration's 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants.

Why it matters: Biden has set an ambitious immigration agenda, but he could face pushback from the courts.