Siding with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the White House signals that it does not favor a Senate bill that would reduce mandatory prison terms, but it does back legislation that would improve the inmate reentry system.
The White House will not support legislation to reduce federal mandatory minimum prison sentences, instead throwing its support behind measures aimed at reducing recidivism rates. “The conclusion we reached was that, at this time, it’s appropriate for us to go forward with prison reform,” an unnamed senior administration official told The Hill. The White House position is a setback for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has been working to move his criminal justice reform bill through Congress after it stalled last session. The committee advanced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act to the floor by a 16-5 vote this month over the objections of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a few GOP members.
Sessions warned Grassley that the bill “would reduce sentences” for a “highly dangerous cohort of criminals” and that passing it “would be a grave error.” Grassley was furious. The White House official said, “The sentencing reform [bill] still does not have a pathway forward to getting done … what we see now is an environment where the prison reform does have enough support to get done.” The White House may back Rep. Doug Collins’s (R-GA) bipartisan Prison Reform and Redemption Act. It would allow inmates to serve the ends of their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement if they complete evidence-based programs while in prison that have been shown to reduce recidivism rates. Prison programming could include everything from job training to education and drug treatment. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have similar legislation. President Trump is planning to sign a order Wednesday to revamp the Federal Reentry Council and move it from the Justice Department to the White House.