In 2005, Jared Kushner, the 20-something scion of a leading New York real estate family, met with prison reformer Pat Nolan to help them navigate the next 14 months without the family patriarch, Charles Kushner, who had pleaded guilty to illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering and was in an Alabama prison camp. Nolan, a former prisoner himself, was a lobbyist for Prison Fellowship ministries, reports the Marshall Project. He gave the Kushners an insider account of prison conditions and programs and what they needed to do to make sure Charles Kushner received their material and emotional support.
A dozen years later, Jared Kushner, now the president’s son-in-law and trusted advisor, has raised Nolan’s hopes for criminal justice reform, including a pending bipartisan bill that would emphasize rehabilitation and give judges more leeway to ignore mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. In July, Nolan, now director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform and a leading figure in a conservative reform effort called Right on Crime, began sending Kushner memos on how private businesses and church groups could be mobilized to become mentors for released prisoners. Nolan thinks Kushner, driven by his own personal frustrations with the criminal justice system, stands a chance of getting the Trump administration to support reform. Sources in the Senate say Kushner has pledged White House support for at least one sentencing reform bill that has been opposed in the past by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. So far, it isn’t clear whether Kushner has more sway with President Trump than Sessions does or whether Sessions has reached a compromise on the issue.