GOP senator 'open' to sweeping criminal justice reforms


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Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law Sunday shows preview: Top tier 2020 Democrats make their case before New Hampshire primary Democrat gives standing ovation to Trump comments on opportunity zones MORE (R-S.C.) said Sunday that he and other Republicans are eying sweeping criminal justice reforms that include the decriminalization of minor drug offenses.

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Scott said he's part of a congressional working group, including such top Republicans as Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (D-S.C.), who agree that reforms are needed and are weighing a congressional response.

"We have been working for the last several months on different proposals," Scott said on ABC's "This Week" program. "I'm very interested and very engaged in studying the patterns of who we incarcerate, why we incarcerate and what we can do about it.

"We're very open to it," he added.

The issue of criminal justice reform has churned countless headlines over the last year in the wake of a long list of incidents when unarmed black men died at the hands of police officers. The death last month of a Baltimore man in police custody – and the subsequent murder charges against six arresting officers – has only furthered the debate.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a 2016 presidential contender, last week called for an end to what she deemed mass incarcerations, particularly of low-income minorities.

Scott also touted "the power of education" in addressing the issue of entrenched poverty that's been under a microscope since Freddie Gray's death.

"I was once that kid that we're talking about drifting in the wrong direction," he said. "I found my way through the power of education, I found my way through the power of faith."

He urging a focus – "first and foremost" – on education to break the cycle.

"There is a trend that can be broken at its foundation if we focus first on education and second on work skills," he said.

"The national opportunity to provide resources is there."