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Federal Prison Reform Comes Right Out of Sen. Kennedy’s Playbook

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Since the start of the Trump administration, the calls to reform America’s outdated prison and sentencing policies have grown into a massive chorus that transcends partisanship, race, and class.

Thanks to President Trump’s leadership and willingness to work with elected officials across the political spectrum, we are closer than ever to passing new policies that will equip inmates with the skills necessary to enter the workforce while also ensuring our communities remain safe.

This can be the most significant legislation for minorities since the 1964 civil rights bill Federal prison reform comes right out of Sen. Kennedy’s playbook

Of course, many states have tried to implement solutions to reform prison systems closer to home, but those efforts have produced only mixed results. Such deficiencies at the state level have caused angst and frustration on the part of many national leaders. U.S. Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana is one of them.

In June, Louisiana officials announced that their reforms resulted in a substantial decrease of its prison population, but while the state's effort to reform its prison system was a noble attempt to address a very important problem, there were some problems with the state’s reform package. As Senator Kennedy pointed out in August, the reforms underperformed in three ways.

First, the state seemed to be far more concerned with fixing its reputation and saving money than with implementing meaningful prison reform.

“Louisiana started freeing several thousand inmates last year by reducing the mandatory amount of time that they had to serve,” Kennedy wrote in a letter to President Trump. “The overall goal was twofold: reduce costs and give another state the title of world’s highest incarceration rate.”

Second, the reduction in the rate of re-arrests was not as impressive as some had hoped.

“Justice Reinvestment Act is failing the law-abiding public in Louisiana,” wrote Kennedy. “Already, 22 percent of inmates have been rearrested, and it hasn’t even been a year since the releases started.”  

Third, some prisoners who were released early as a result of the reform posed a danger to the public.

According to Kennedy, “the head of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association publicly said that Louisiana’s streets are not safer because of criminal justice reform.” He further observed that the official “also noted that simply reducing prison population is not a measure of success.”

Pastor Darrell Scott is CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump and a member of the Donald J. Trump for President Inc. advisory board.

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