President Donald Trump called to give felons “second chances” at his Tuesday night State of the Union address, sending a green light on prison reform that many conservatives were hoping to hear.
Criminal justice reform advocates at Koch Industries and the Justice Action Network (JAN) lauded the president’s statement, saying there is “no more cause for delay” in pushing federal prison reform legislation through Congress. Trump’s support comes after months of work from senior adviser Jared Kushner alongside KI General Counsel Mark Holden and other advocates of justice reform.
“We applaud the president for acknowledging the need to change our policies and expectations around prisons, which are failing to equip individuals to successfully return to society and succeed,” Holden said in a statement. “The president’s support for this idea is very encouraging and we look forward to continuing to work with the White House, the administration, members of Congress and states to make this vision a reality nationwide.”
Republican Georgia Rep. Doug Collins is one such Congressman. He’s sponsoring the Prison Reform and Redemption Act alongside New York Democrat Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. The legislation would target national recidivism rates by focusing on inmate re-entry and rehabilitation. Collins has said he’s met with the White House several times and felt nothing but support on the issue, but Trump’s Tuesday night address solidified the issue and gave further incentive for other Republicans to get on board.
“Our president promised to make America safer and stronger,” Rep. Collins said in a statement. “He’s ushering in prison reform to reduce crime, rebuild communities and better equip our workforce for a growing economy.”
Critically, prison reforms have enjoyed support–or at least a lack of opposition–from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been a major opponent of criminal justice reform under the Trump administration. Opponents of reform are running out of allies, however, with recent polling showing that large majorities of both parties support prison reforms.
“The President used the world’s grandest political stage to tell millions of Americans that opportunity should be extended to everyone, including those in our prisons. Legislation with broad, bipartisan support — that has passed in dozens of states across the country — is ready for lawmakers to move through committee and pass through Congress,” Holly Harris, executive director of the JAN said in a statement.
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