President Donald Trump on Wednesday backed a criminal justice reform plan being pushed by one of his top advisers, son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The “First Step Act,” developed by Kushner and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, is designed to improve rehabilitation programs for former prisoners and give judges more discretion in sentencing offenders for nonviolent crime, particularly drug offenders.
Trump said the legislation would “make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time.”
Proponents have sought changes for years, arguing that mandatory sentencing, including for repeat offenders, has led to excessively long imprisonment for relatively minor crimes. And they note those sentences tend to disproportionately fall on African-Americans.
Supporters said they hoped the president’s support could speed the legislation’s approval, possibly before the new Congress is seated in January. Others were skeptical lawmakers would move that fast.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., released a joint statement praising Trump’s endorsement and said it would allow the proposal’s sponsors to “quickly take a critical first step towards reforming our criminal justice system.”
The legislation also would place federal prisoners closer to home, allow more home confinement for lower-level offenders and expand prison employment programs.