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Prison Reform Bills Clear Biggest Hurdle Yet: Attorney General Jeff Sessions

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter

New polling revealing massive bipartisan support for criminal justice reforms will likely have both Democrat and Republican candidates racing to claim the issue as a masthead in the 2018 elections.

One such candidate is Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, a Republican who is co-sponsoring the Prison Reform and Redemption Act alongside New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. The legislation would target national recidivism rates by focusing on inmate re-entry and rehabilitation. Collins said he’s met with the White House several times and felt nothing but support on the issue, and Jeffries said he feels much the same way.

“I think that we do have strong advocate in the white house in senior advisor Jared Kushner,” Jeffries told reporters in a news conference. “I’m cautiously optimistic. If you look at state after state across the country, you’ll see strong evidence of Republican governors and Republican legislative bodies pushing forward incredibly constructive criminal justice reforms.”

Red states such as Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kentucky led the nation in slashing sentences and lowering prison populations in 2017, seeming to reject the more traditional tough-on-crime approach espoused by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. While Sessions has staunchly opposed soft-sentencing reforms as attorney general, he has not come out against prison reforms.

“There hasn’t been any opposition from Jeff Sessions,” a source familiar with the issue told The Daily Caller News Foundation, citing that the attorney general had thanked Kushner for his leadership on the issue in an early January meeting.

Kushner recently held a listening session with President Donald Trump on criminal justice reform, encouraging the president to support bills that make it easier for ex-convicts.

A new poll from Public Opinion Strategies (POS) for the Justice Action Network found that 76 percent of Americans believe the criminal justice system needs significant reforms, and 72 percent believe the country is spending too much on housing inmates. Critically, 85 percent believe the goal of the justice system should be to ensure that inmates don’t re-offend, according to POS spokesman Robert Blizzard.

Prison reforms also have overwhelming support from women, a critical demographic for Republicans in 2018.

“We’re headed toward a very challenging probably negative election cycle and you need to have positive issues to run on,” Blizzard told reporters in a news conference. “I can’t think of a more positive issue to run on that has more bipartisan support.”

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