Congress to Consider Texas-Style Prison Reforms

The House plans action on a prisoner reentry plan crafted by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). Broader sentencing reform proposals have been introduced but they may not proceed without White House support.

Stalled efforts to reform the federal criminal justice system are getting a second look in Washington after the White House saw how much money Texas and other states saved overhauling prisons, McClatchy Newspapers reports. President Trump campaigned on a promise to be tough on crime, and rejected Congress’s sentencing reform plans that drew support from both parties. After months of behind-the-scenes lobbying from Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump has come around to some of their ideas. The White House says the president supports reforms like those Texas implemented more than a decade ago, which since saved the state more than $3 billion and has resulted in the closure of prisons and a lower crime rate. South Carolina has saved $500 million with similar changes.

“Texas has driven this revolution… showing that you can reduce incarceration rates safely, while reducing crime rates and saving money,” said Mark Holden of the conservative Koch network. “That was explained to the people in [the White House], including the president, and I think that got everyone’s attention” Members of Congress will work on a proposal pared down to the reforms the president likes. Kushner, whose father was incarcerated in federal prison, has coordinated those efforts. Texas invested in helping prisoners find jobs after their release, reducing the likelihood they would be re-arrested. Kushner has worked with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who crafted a plan the House will begin debating this month. The House version, sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), pulls from Texas programs, including prisoner rehabilitation, risk profiling initiatives and community partnerships. The scaled-back proposal is drawing push-back from left-leaning groups, who don’t want Congress to abandon sentencing changes that they say address the underlying problem.