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Dear Congress, Help Trump With Prison Reform

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

No one can legitimately deny that improving public safety has been a central focus of Donald Trump’s presidency since Day One.

But it seems as though many of the president’s political enemies relish attacking him more than they value developing solutions.

Reducing crime is something that Democrats and Republicans can and should work together to achieve. After all, crime is an equal opportunity offender, affecting liberals and conservatives alike.

It’s time for our lawmakers in Congress to set antagonism aside long enough to help the president in his endeavor to better protect all of America’s families.

Many from both sides of the political aisle are doing exactly that. Stepping away from their differences, a bipartisan coalition is finalizing legislation that would reduce crime by slashing our nation’s recidivism rates, which are shamefully among the highest in the world.

The president and White House staff, led by Jared Kushner, have held numerous bipartisan meetings with governors, lawmakers, prison and law enforcement officials to create a federal system that will more effectively reintegrate former convicts into society — convicts who will one day be your neighbors.

The current reality about life after prison is ugly: Nearly half of the 650,000 people released every year will end up back behind bars within three years. Thousands of others commit crimes for which they have yet to be caught.

This awful truth means more victims, more wasted tax dollars and more wasted human potential. Such a reality should be unacceptable in a civil society.

Yet out of fear of being dubbed “soft on crime,” many lawmakers have been content to pretend that they are “tough on crime” by refusing to even acknowledge, let alone address, the urgent need for prison reform.

Other lawmakers who advocate for comprehensive sentencing reform are stalling bipartisan efforts such as the Prison Reform and Redemption Act that had been scheduled for mark-up in late April in the House Judiciary Committee. For some ideologues, it is an all-or-nothing mandate.

The bill is now expected to go through mark-up in a few days.  Hopefully, this time the legislators will roll up their sleeves and do the work required to strengthen the bill and move the legislation forward, rather than allowing those who want “everything all at once” to tank the much-needed reform that we have a real chance of securing now. 

While there is an obvious need to make thoughtful changes in current sentencing laws on the federal and state levels, it is foolish and immoral not to immediately institute effective methods that we know reduce crime and help restore lives.

By halting prison reform efforts in the name of sentencing reform, even the most sincere lawmakers are holding men and women already behind bars captive from hope and help.

And make no mistake: If prison reform is killed, the net result will be more victims.

While the extreme left and mainstream media obsess over trying to divide our country, real people are suffering. That’s why the president and the bipartisan contingency continue their important work unfettered, methodically moving forward to increase public safety and provide a second chance to those who have served their time.

With 95 percent of federal and state prisoners destined to be released into society, the coalition is committed to making sure that those who want to start over are “job ready” and prepared for a successful new life.

A key element of the Prison Reform and Redemption Act — sponsored by Reps. Doug Collins, Georgia Republican, and Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat — is the requirement to assess each federal prisoner and match his or her risk and needs to proper resources, thus increasing their chances of successful reentry. 

Similar measures have been implemented in states such as South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma and others to reduce crime, save taxpayers billions of dollars and help redeem lives.

During his State of the Union address in January, President Trump stated: “As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.”

Successful reentry from prison starts the first day someone enters a cell. We as a nation can no longer afford to simply warehouse prisoners when we could be using their incarceration not only to punish but also to provide training and rehabilitation to help them succeed after release.

While some insist on a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system in one impossible sweep, real people are left languishing behind bars, deprived of the help they need to change.

The faster Congress acts to institute proven prison reform practices, the sooner all of America will benefit.

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