Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a key Senate Judiciary Committee member, is optimistic about getting an agreement with the Trump administration on prison and sentencing reform.
Jon Ponder, who served a prison term for robbery, is a minister and founded HOPE for Prisoners, which helps more than 300 former inmates each year adjust to life after prison by providing financial advice, personal mentoring and connections to local employers. He and other ministers met last week with President Trump in hopes that Congress and the Trump administration can strike a deal on prison and sentencing reform. Republicans and Democrats and have found rare common ground, agreeing that the federal government needs to jail fewer people for less time at a lower cost to society, McClatchy Newspapers reports.
Trump supports the First Step Act, a prison reform bill which passed the House in May. It would provide $250 million over 5 years to beef up education, vocational training and rehabilitation programs in the federal prison system. Inmates who participate would receive credits toward early release and would be expected to be better prepared for employment once they leave prison. Critics say the First Step Act doesn’t address the “front end” problem of longer prison sentences which have fueled decades of growth in the federal prison population. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 16-5 vote in February, calls for loosening federal sentencing guidelines for repeat non-violent drug offenders and scrapping the “three-strike” mandatory life in prison provision. After a long impasse, Trump and GOP senators are now discussing a compromise proposal that would combine provisions of both bills. After Trump and GOP senators huddled on the issue last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the meeting “promising.” He said, “(The House) prison reform bill got huge bipartisan support. Sentencing reform is an area where there’s a lot of bipartisan support. We’ll try to see, working with the administration, if we can find a package.”