Sentencing Reform Off Trump Agenda at Sessions’ Behest

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Why was sentencing reform missing from the agenda last week when President Trump discussed prisoner reentry with several Republican governors and conservative activists? Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposes cuts in mandatory minimum sentences and effectively blocked it from becoming part of the White House reform agenda, reports Vice. “Sessions was very powerful in the Senate, but I think he’s actually more powerful now to oppose the bill,” said a source. Jared Kushner, who has led White House discussions on criminal justice, has expressed support for limiting mandatory minimum sentencing, as have some Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. Kushner dropped the issue from the agenda to get Sessions to attend the roundtable discussion last week.

At the meeting, Trump suggested creating more programs for job training, education, mentoring and drug addiction aimed at rehabilitation. There was no discussion of sentencing laws. A Justice Department spokesman said that, “Incarceration remains necessary to improve public safety, and the effectiveness of incarceration can be enhanced by the implementation of evidence-based reentry programs.” Sentencing reform is considered key to any reform package that could be brought to vote in the Senate. “Any proposal that doesn’t include sentencing reform is not going to get through” the Senate Judiciary Committee, said a spokesman for chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA). Holly Harris of the Justice Action Network, who served as general counsel for the Republican Party in Kentucky, said Republicans involved in this year’s midterm elections should consider that “across the board in a dozen states including Rust Belt battle states, women overwhelmingly support criminal justice reform, including reforming mandatory-minimum sentences.”

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