Jan 11, 2018

Trump and Sessions show interest in prison reform

Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed openness to prison reform proposals focused on reducing recidivism and aiding re-entry to society presented in a meeting Thursday afternoon, Koch Industries' general counsel Mark Holden, who was in the room, tells Axios.

Breaking it down: Prison reform focuses on helping convicts prepare for re-entry and find jobs once released, and has bipartisan support, while sentencing reform efforts tend to lose "tough on crime" conservatives — i.e. Jeff Sessions. Holden said he hopes prison reform can be the start to broader federal criminal justice reform.

Who was there: President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Reed Cordish, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Jared Kushner, who has spearheaded criminal justice reform research and efforts, and Shon Hopwood, now a professor at Georgetown Law who shared his story of struggling to find a job after being released from prison for bank robbery. Other advocates for criminal justice reform were also included.

Two key takeaways:

  • During the meeting, Cornish drew parallels between those in federal prisons and the "forgotten men and women" Trump promised to stand for.
  • Sessions, who is a tough sell on criminal justice reform, said changes need to be made to the federal prison system to reduce recidivism.

What's next: On the Hill, it’s not likely that the bipartisan bills including both prison reform and sentencing reform such as the Grassley-Durbin Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act will see much movement as a result of this meeting because of the controversy surrounding sentencing reform, former legal counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Lars Trautman told Axios. The focus will likely be on prison reform exclusively for now.

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