Amid Apparent Spat, Trump Sides With Jeff Sessions On Prison Reform

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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President Donald Trump sided with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and tabled his administration’s prison reform initiative Thursday, despite the pair’s apparent spat on social media.

Sessions, Trump, and senior adviser Jared Kushner met at the White House to discuss the administration’s path forward prison reform, which the president named as a priority in his State of the Union address, CNN reported. Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump had been attempting to push the administration toward softening mandatory minimum sentences and funding efforts to cut recidivism rates.

“We’re pleased the President agreed that we shouldn’t support criminal justice reform that would reduce sentences, put drug traffickers back on our streets and undermine our law enforcement officers who are working night and day to reduce violent crime and drug trafficking in the middle of an opioid crisis,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement to CNN.

Sessions and Kushner had appeared to reach a compromise this spring in which Sessions wouldn’t speak out against prison reforms and Kushner won’t try to cut sentences, focusing his efforts instead on prison reforms. Trump’s decision Thursday means Sessions has ultimately won the battle on the federal level for now. (RELATED: Prison Reform Bills Clear Biggest Hurdle Yet: Attorney General Jeff Sessions)

Criminal justice reforms have appeared to enjoy wide bipartisan support for years, yet little action has been taken on the federal level. State-level initiatives have been far more successful, however, led primarily by red states such as Texas, Kentucky and Oklahoma.

Louisiana, the state sporting the highest incarceration rate in the country, adopted a 10-bill package of justice reforms in early 2017, aiming at cutting the prison population through both anti-recidivism efforts and sentencing changes. Such all-encompassing reforms are unlikely on the federal level so long as Sessions has a say, however, advocates say they should take what they can get now and hope the administration has a change of heart later.

“There were some who took the position that we should wait on criminal justice reform until [Hillary] Clinton is president and Democrats were in control of the Senate. How did that work out?” New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries asked Politico.

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