Last Thursday, Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and adviser, and President Trump held a counsel on prison–justice reform. The meeting was attended by politicians, religious leaders, and others from the right.
When Trump was elected, it was not expected that Trumpism would address prison–justice reform. However,Jared Kushner was personally interested in reform, since his father, had served time in federal prison for economic crimes. Six months ago, he was assigned reformation of the criminal justice system.
Unfortunately, liberal organizations, like the ACLU or the NAACP were excluded to obtain the support of far right conservatives like U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who attended the meeting.
The meeting focused on re-entry policies. In order to have effective re-entry, former inmates need housing, employment and education opportunities upon release. Effective re-entry programs would reduce our high rate of recidivism.
President Trump stated at the meeting, “two-thirds of the 650,000 people released from prison each year are arrested again within three years.”
Yet, President Trump, Jared Kushner, and everyone else at the meeting did not discuss sentencing reform–the topic was excluded in order to pacify right wing conservatives such as our present Attorney General Sessions. We cannot ignore that the United States has the most inmates and prisons in the world. There are over 2 million inmates in the United States. Locking up the mentally ill and incarcerating nonviolent addicted offenders does not benefit society. Although violent crime has decreased, mandatory sentencing and the three strike laws have removed discretion from many courts in sentencing offenders. All of these policies have led to mass incarceration.
Trump’s record does not reflect justice reform. The first actions by the Trump administration revealed their opposition toward justice-prison reform. Sessions instructed his 5,000 assistant U.S. attorneys to charge all defendants with drug offenses– the maximum penalties. While a senator, Sessions opposed reform of the justice system.
Sessions, during the end of the 2017 holiday season, rescinded the 2016 Obama Justice Department letter which opposed debtor’s prisons. Numerous state’s jails are considered modern debtor’s prisons, because so many poor people are locked up, since they cannot pay fines or make bail.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced that he was rescinding an Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana.
You cannot discuss and advocate prison–justice reform, without reforming the harsh sentencing policies of the United States, which has led to our country having 25% of the world’s inmates, but only 5% of the world’s population.
Trump’s and Jared’s prison justice reform policies should not be judged by meetings, but by the Trump administration’s actions.