To pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to schedule a vote on a prison reform bill, advocates say a survey shows that 70 percent of Kentuckians back it. McConnell won’t bring the bill to the floor before the midterm elections.
Supporters of efforts to improve federal prison conditions are using a poll of Kentucky voters — and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell into putting legislation up for a vote, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Kushner joined a call Thursday with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and conservative prison reform advocacy groups to tout a poll of Kentuckians that found widespread support among Republicans, Democrats and independents for legislation that would beef up education, vocational training and rehabilitation programs in the federal prison system. “This is not a red state issue or a blue state issue, this is a real issue that Americans want to see advanced and they want to see politicians in Washington make progress,” Kushner said.
Critics say the bill, which has been passed by the House, doesn’t address the “front end” problem of longer prison sentences which have fueled decades of growth in the federal prison population. A Senate proposal would loosen federal sentencing guidelines for repeat non-violent drug offenders and scrap the “three-strike” mandatory life in prison provision. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the proposal a “grave error,” while some senators have been seeking a compromise that would combine provisions of both bills. McConnell has made it clear after the meeting that the legislation won’t come up for a vote before the November election. Paul said the bill could get 65 to 70 votes in the Senate. Pollster Robert Blizzard said a poll of 500 people in Kentucky found 70 percent support for what was described in the poll as bringing “President Trump’s prison and sentencing reform bill” to a vote.