Trump urges Congress to over­haul na­tion's prison sys­tem

South Florida Times - - NATION - By KEN THOMAS As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON -- Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day urged Congress to over­haul the na­tion's prison sys­tem and help more for­mer in­mates re-en­ter so­ci­ety, hop­ing to jump-start leg­is­la­tion that's fac­ing fresh op­po­si­tion from Democrats.

Trump said at a White House fo­rum that a prison over­haul “unites peo­ple from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum'' and that law­mak­ers need to “work out their dif­fer­ences, get a bill to my desk - I will sign it.''

“It's go­ing to be strong, it's go­ing to be good, it's go­ing to be what ev­ery­body wants,'' Trump said, point­ing to bi­par­ti­san sup­port for the changes. “You're all in line, I think. You're all look­ing for the same thing.''

But five in­flu­en­tial Democrats have an­nounced their op­po­si­tion to a House bill sup­ported by the White House, say­ing the ap­proach would “be a step back­ward'' be­cause it is flawed and doesn't cover changes to fed­eral sen­tenc­ing guide­lines.

Their op­po­si­tion raises ques­tions about whether the bill could pass in a Congress run by Repub­li­cans, who hold a slim Sen­ate ma­jor­ity. The White House has ex­pressed hopes of win­ning ap­proval ahead of the fall elec­tions.

Trump has pushed for a plan that fo­cuses on help­ing fa­cil­i­tate re­leased pris­on­ers' re-en­try into so­ci­ety, as well as bet­ter de­vel­op­ing their skills in prison and im­prov­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices.

The pres­i­dent con­vened a group of gov­er­nors, faith-based lead­ers and ex­perts in Jan­uary to talk about find­ing ways of bring­ing job train­ing, men­tor­ing and drug ad­dic­tion treat­ment to the na­tion's prison pop­u­la­tion.

Dur­ing last week’s event, Jared Kush­ner, Trump's son-in-law and se­nior ad­vi­sor, said he “had per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with'' the is­sue. That was a ref­er­ence to his fa­ther, Charles Kush­ner, who served a year in fed­eral prison for il­le­gal po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions and tax eva­sion.

“The sin­gle big­gest thing that we want to do is re­ally de­fine what the pur­pose of a prison is,'' Kush­ner said. “Is the pur­pose to pun­ish, is the pur­pose to ware­house or is the pur­pose to re­ha­bil­i­tate?''

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF FOR­EIGN POL­ICY.COM

PRISON RE­FORMER: Jared Kush­ner, se­nior ad­vi­sor to the pres­i­dent, spear­heads prison re­form agenda.

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