Will Prison Reform Follow Kanye West-Trump Sitdown?

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The “bizarre” White House meeting between Kanye West and President Trump, supposedly to discuss criminal justice reform, masks the fact that the Trump administration has “reverted to the failed ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ practices of the past,” former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates writes in the Washington Post. “We can’t lose sight of the reality that people’s lives, the fairness of our justice system and the safety of our communities hang in the balance.” Yates accuses Trump of returning to the “indiscriminate use of lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for lower-level, nonviolent drug offenders,” erasing “significant strides in police reform” and revoking guidance on potential legal consequences of “excessive fines, fees and cash bail that criminalize poverty.”

Despite its professed interest in prison reform, the administration ended Obama-era reforms to the Federal Bureau of Prisons designed to provide inmates with tools they need to successfully reenter society, including the creation of a “school district” that would for the first time offer high school diplomas and address learning disabilities and illiteracy in our federal prison system, Yates says. Any form measure that advances “requires that we restore proportionality to drug sentencing” and “reorient our prisons toward rehabilitation,” in Yates’ view. Research shows that inmates who participate in meaningful correctional education programs are 43 percent less likely to return to prison. Yates notes that thousands of inmates are already on a waiting list hoping for a chance to enroll in a GED prep program. “We need a wholesale rethinking of the prison experience and smart investment to increase the likelihood that inmates successfully reenter society,” she contends..

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