It’s something you don’t hear often in the news: President Donald Trump is endorsing a measure that has the support of Democrats and Republicans in Congress. This rare occasion for bipartisanship represents what some consider the biggest overhaul to the nation’s criminal justice system in recent memory.
Shaila Dewaun is national criminal justice editor for The New York Times. She says the bill would help people leaving prison with reentry into the outside world, including providing money for education and treatment programs.
“Another major thing it does is soften some sentences, some mandatory minimums. There were some three-strikes provisions that it will lower,” Dewaun says.
The bill would also address lingering disparities in the way offenders are sentenced for crimes involving crack and cocaine.
The push for criminal justice reform has been ongoing for years, with cooperation among Democrats and Republicans. Dewaun says the crime rate has decreased in the past 20 years, causing many people to be less strident in their demands for harsh punishments. The opioid crisis, too, has played a role.
“The opioid crisis has made people a lot more familiar with how drug addiction is criminalized,” Dewaun says. “And a lot of people who didn’t think about this before are saying, ‘Now, we shouldn’t be putting people in prison for this, we should be giving them treatment.'”
Supporters of the new bill include the Libertarian Koch brothers, progressive criminal justice advocates and even cultural personality Kim Kardashian. Dewaun says law enforcement has gotten behind the effort, as well.
“People realize that the pendulum swung too far,” Dewaun says.
The phrase “tough on crime,” she says, is being replaced by “right on crime” or “smart on crime.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.
Note; A previous version of this post indicated that the Center for American Progress is a supporter of the criminal justice reform initiative. The group has taken no official position on this proposal.