Strange bedfellows on criminal justice reform could offer Trump a legislative win

Strange bedfellows on criminal justice reform could offer Trump a legislative win
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In a sharply-divided Washington, D.C., where even with Republicans in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House, nothing seems to be getting done, including the long-promised repeal and replace of Obamacare, and long talked about tax reform. But even as most of the items at the top of the Republicans’ agenda seem stalled, at least for the moment, there is one thing that has bipartisan support and could perhaps bring President Trump a much-needed legislative victory.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate panel reaches tentative deal for Kavanaugh accuser to testify Thursday Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Aide for GOP involved in Kavanaugh nomination resigns after past sexual harassment allegation surfaces MORE (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is one of several GOP senators who backs reforms to the current system. He joins Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeKavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Reexamining presidential power over national monuments Utah group complains Mia Love should face criminal penalties for improper fundraising MORE (R-Utah), Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Kim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' MORE (R-S.C.), Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal Coulter mocks Kavanaugh accuser: She'll only testify 'from a ski lift' Poll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it MORE (R-Ariz.), Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Trump to visit North Carolina on Wednesday in aftermath of Florence MORE (R-S.C.) and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (R-Mo.) along with Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (Ill.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseKavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Dem vows to probe 'why the FBI stood down' on Kavanaugh Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh MORE (R.I.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDem senator praises Ford opening the door to testifying Ford opens door to testifying next week Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh MORE (Vt.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEx-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report CNN editor: Booker's 'groping incident' 'different' from Kavanaugh allegation Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 MORE (N.J.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate The Memo: Could Kavanaugh furor spark another ‘year of the woman’? Sexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points MORE (Calif.) in renewed bipartisan calls for reforms to the criminal justice system.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, which seeks to reduce sentencing for prior drug offenses, reduce the current mandatory minimum sentences, and help recently released inmates reintegrate into society and become productive citizens.

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Lawmakers from both sides arrive at the same conclusion based on different reasons. However, what truly matters to voters is that they can, at least, arrive at the same conclusion.

 

Grassley introduced the bill in the Senate on Oct. 4. The Iowa Republican said the bill “ensures that these consequences fit their crimes by targeting violent and career criminals who prey on the innocent while giving nonviolent offenders with minimal criminal histories a better chance to become productive members of society.” Grassley added that the legislation “strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system.”

Democrats, like Booker, argue that the legislation prevents minorities and the poor from being “disproportionally affected” by what Leahy described as “ineffective and draconian mandatory minimum sentences.”

“The mass incarceration explosion of the last 40 years has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, held back our economy, undermined public safety, disproportionately affected communities of color and the poor, and devalued the very idea of justice in America,” Booker said. “The bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a critically important and urgently needed step forward to help right these wrongs.”

Booker is right. The U.S. prison population is among the highest in the world, with an estimated 6,741,400 inmates in federal, state and local prisons at the end of 2015, according to a Dec. 29, 2016 press release from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

According to the ACLU, the U.S. was the “world’s largest jailer” in 2014. Despite being home to just five percent of the global population, the U.S. inmate population accounted for 20 percent of the world’s total incarceration population during that year.

It’s a trend that has been rising steadily for decades. Between 1980 and 2014, the population of inmates in the U.S. increased 408 percent. Meanwhile, the violent crime rate in the U.S. has steadily declined since 1980, with the exception of a slight uptick in violent crime during the early to mid-1990s, Business Insider reported.

The issue of criminal justice reform is one of the few in Washington that could bring lawmakers from both sides of the aisle together to potentially pass landmark reforms, though it’s unclear whether Trump and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma White House proposes executive order to Trump that would examine tech companies’ practices MORE, who generally support stricter sentences, would support the legislation.

Yet, without the repeal of ObamaCare, and with the prospects for tax reform in question, the administration would be smart to embrace criminal justice reform as one significant legislative victory potentially within its reach.

Jon Street is a former assistant editor for The Blaze and the former Vermont Bureau Chief for The Franklin Center's Watchdog.org."