POLITICS
11/14/2018 09:13 pm ET

Donald Trump Endorses Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Bill

The bill, backed by Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner, would bring major changes to the federal prison system.

President Donald Trump has announced his support for a bipartisan prison reform bill that would overhaul prison sentencing laws in the U.S.

Trump endorsed the so-called First Step Act at the White House on Wednesday, saying the bill would “make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time.”

The bill, which Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been advocating for months, also “includes reasonable sentencing reforms while keeping dangerous and violent criminals off the street,” Trump added.

“We’re all better off when former inmates can receiver and re-enter society as law-abiding, productive citizens,” the president said.

The bill is one of the first major overhauls of prison sentencing laws in decades. It rolls back longstanding federal policies that disproportionately affected black inmates, according to The New York Times.

The First Step Act is designed to help federal inmates rehabilitate for life after prison by expanding their employment opportunities, incentivizing their participation in rehabilitation programs and other measures.

The legislative package was based on a previous version that overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives in May. Over the summer, a bipartisan group of senators added provisions that lowered the mandatory minimum sentence for drug-related offenses and reduced the “three strike” penalty from a life sentence to 25 years.

The criminal justice reform bill has gained support from both liberal and conservative groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Fraternal Order of Police and the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

A lineup of celebrities and public figures also lobbied for the legislation, including Kim Kardashian West, who met with Trump several times at the White House to discuss prison reform. 

Kardashian West has also teamed up with #cut50, an organization co-founded by CNN’s Van Jones that focuses on criminal justice reform, to advocate for the bill.

On Wednesday, over 50 celebrities signed a letter calling on Congress to get the bill signed before lawmakers take a break in December. Signees include celebrities like Alyssa Milano, Courtney Cox, Kanye West and Mark Cuban, Rolling Stone reported.

“Today’s announcement shows that true bipartisanship is possible. And maybe it’ll be thriving, if we’re going to get something done,” Trump said Wednesday.

He added, “I urge lawmakers in both the House and Senate to work hard and to act quickly and send a final bill to my desk.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who have worked together on criminal justice reform for years, applauded the president’s endorsement of the bill on Wednesday.

“By ensuring that punishments fit the crimes, we can better balance the scales of justice,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We are grateful for the White House’s ongoing engagement to make these long-overdue reforms a reality.”

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