William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney general, is expected to tell a Senate panel next week that he supports a new law easing prison sentences for some criminals, even though he advocated decades ago for just the opposite, Reuters reports. Barr for much of his career championed a get-tough approach to crime that has recently lost favor, culminating last month in Trump signing into law the biggest overhaul of federal sentencing laws and prison policies in a generation. The First Step Act, enacted with strong bipartisan support in Congress, reduces mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent, low-level offenders and makes it easier for prisoners to qualify for early release to halfway houses or home confinement.
Trump signed it into law after he nominated Barr, who issued a report during an earlier stint as attorney general in the 1990s called “The Case for More Incarceration.” “We believe that Barr’s position will be somewhat moderated when he testifies if for no other reason than that his boss (Trump) fully subscribes to the First Step approach,” said Fraternal Order of Police director Jim Pasco, who said he had been in touch with people helping Barr prepare for the Senate hearings. The Senate is expected to confirm Barr’s nomination to again head the Justice Department. Criminal justice advocates said they were working with Judiciary Committee members to make sure Barr will be questioned in detail about specific elements of the new law to ensure that he will support it. “It certainly appears he holds an old-school view of our criminal justice system, but there is an overwhelming majority of members of the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle who do not feel that way,” said Holly Harris of Justice Action Network, a coalition of criminal-justice groups across the political spectrum.