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January 29, 2018

Is Prez Trump really going to talk about criminal justice and prison reform in his first State of the Union address?

Images (7)The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable report from Jim Geraghty at the National Review headlined "Expect Criminal-Justice and Prison Reform from President Trump Tuesday Night."  Here is what he is predicting:

Let’s start this week off with some news: President Trump will talk about criminal-justice reform and prison reform in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

For several months now, the president’s son-in-law and key adviser Jared Kushner has had monthly meetings with Mark Holden, Koch Industries general counsel; Brooke Rollins, president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation; and Doug Deason, a wealthy businessman and advocate for criminal-justice reform. The conservative groups aim to bring prison reforms and anti-recidivism programs that have achieved sterling results in Texas and Georgia to the nation’s federal prison system.

About 10 percent of all incarcerated individuals in the United States are in federal prison. “If they were a state, they would be the largest state in the country,” Deason said. To bring these kinds of anti-recidivism programs to federal prisons, “all it requires is an executive order instructing Jeff Sessions to open up the Bureau of Prisons to outside service providers,” he explained. “Right now they do so, but only on a very limited basis.”

The Koch network hopes to add momentum to the effort with new initiative called Safe Streets and Second Chances, which will research the most effective methods across eight prisons in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana, featuring a “randomized controlled trial involving more than 1,000 participants in a mix of urban and rural communities.” The research will be directed by Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis of Washington University in St. Louis. The aim is to provide “a counselor for a prisoner from the time he enters prison to years after he’s left, to stop this cycle of recidivism,” Deason said, and “have them leave better equipped to be a productive member of society than when they went in.”

Deason characterizes Sessions as open to proposals on prison reform and programs focused on a prisoner’s re-entry into society, but still “closed-minded” on reducing mandatory minimum sentences.

Interestingly, and perhaps enhancing my basis for reasonably hoping Prez Trump brings up this topic, this CNN article has different Senators talking about what they hope to see in the SOTU speech, and it includes this tidbit:

"I talked to the President about talking about prison reform," Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said, which is "something I've been working on, something I know that he and others are interested in."

Inspired by these reports, we ought to collectively work on a 2018 State of the Union drinking game.  Perhaps it ought to be a gulp of beer or a sip of wine/liquor for every time Prez Trump says prison reform or job training or mentoring or addiction treatment.  And if he says mandatory minimums or sentencing guidelines need to be reformed, I will buy a round for everyone!

A few prior recent related posts:

UPDATE: I just noticed this White House webpage detailing "Special Guests for the State of the Union Address." Because it does not seem that any of the special guests have a prison past, I am now doubting prison reform is getting any significant attention in the speech. Some of the listed guests, though, do suggest some other criminal justice issues will be getting mentioned:

Elizabeth Alvarado, Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez, and Freddy Cuevas are the parents of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, who had been close friends since elementary school, but in September 2016, the two girls were chased down and brutally murdered by MS-13....

Police Officer Ryan Holets and his wife adopted a baby from parents who suffered from opioid addiction, breaking down walls between drug addicts and police officers to help save lives....

Agent CJ Martinez has spent much of his 15-year tenure working with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations to dismantle criminal organizations, resulting in more than 100 arrests of MS-13 gang members who were prosecuted for crimes including homicide, assault, and narcotics and weapons trafficking.

January 29, 2018 at 09:09 PM | Permalink


Was the trial court in the best position to assess the facts, and to sentence the prisoner?

Is there a fact showing the verdict or the sentencing was wrong?

If the prisoner has done very well in prison, what will happen when he is on the street, and responding to that environment?

Is prison not the safest and healthiest place for criminals? Don't their morbidity and death rates shoot up on the street?

Whose responsibility will it be when the criminal returns to the highly lucrative and easy life of crime, with hundreds of victims a year?

Do the black people who advocate for reform still live in black areas? Or are all of them middle class lawyers, living in low crime areas? Aren't most advocates lily white, living in low crime areas?

Donald Trump is a NYC liberal. So, I do not expect him to represent the interests of crime victims.

Posted by: David Behar | Jan 29, 2018 10:03:12 PM

I love the idea of the drinking game, but i surmise all participants will be sober after the SOTU address.

Posted by: john Webster | Jan 30, 2018 8:15:25 AM

He very well might reference the FBI investigation.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 30, 2018 11:00:18 AM

Let's hope Trump talks about getting rid of this criminal: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/01/29/federal-judge-blasts-ice-for-cruel-tactics-frees-immigrant-rights-activist-ravi-ragbir/?nid&utm_term=.6f7e8cdf6f74

Posted by: federalist | Jan 30, 2018 6:53:56 PM

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