White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett said criminal justice reform that reduces the prison population would make America safer.
Jarrett also said President Obama is focused on tackling the issue along with Congress and is not a “lame duck.” Obama has directed federal agencies to “ban the box,” which prohibits them from asking about an applicant’s criminal history. Jarrett said Obama wants Congress to do the same for federal contractors as well, which requires congressional action.
In addition, the Justice Department has decided to release about 6,000 inmates from federal prison who were convicted of drug-related offenses.
Jarrett was asked if reforming the criminal justice system could cause crime to rise.
“We are seeing crime go up in some cities. We’re also seeing it leveled in others and going down in the third category,” Jarrett said during the “Race and Justice in America” Summit held by The Atlantic.
She said Obama has instructed Attorney General Loretta Lynch to meet with the mayors and police chiefs in cities where crime is rising to figure out what the federal government can do to help.
“The reason why we have so much support from law enforcement for criminal justice reform – and the president was just speaking to the International Association of Chiefs of Police of Chicago a couple weeks ago – they fully support it and they believe if we have meaningful reform it will actually make the streets safer,” Jarrett said.
“If you keep people from going to prison in the first place, and they don’t get caught up in that system and they are getting employed and they have ways of taking care of their family, that brings crime down, and so I think we have all of the stakeholders firmly engaged in this process as a way of keeping our neighborhoods safer and allowing people to lead productive lives.”
Jarrett predicted “really big things” would happen during Obama’s final year in office.
“Even though we only have one year left, it’s the second half of the fourth quarter but really big things happen at the end of the game as we all know. Just look at this last year, we’ve had a terrific year, and if you recall not that long ago the press was calling the president a lame duck – I believe it was – it doesn’t feel much like lame duck to me,” she said.
“So he has decided that building on the momentum since day one that he really wants to focus on criminal justice reform writ large – the community, the system itself and what we can do.”