June 16, 2018

NARRATIVE FAIL: Why President Trump will be the greatest civil rights president in a generation.

In January, I attended a meeting at the White House on prison reform with President Trump. The president was the biggest advocate for prison reform at the meeting, and his actions these last few weeks prove exactly why he has the guts to bring desperately needed change in our criminal justice system.

For me, overturning these failed Clinton-era policies is personal. In the mid-1990s, a close relative of mine had her life tragically altered by a law referred to as the “Clinton crime bill.” At the time, Hillary Clinton labeled young African-Americans as “superpredators” with “no conscience” and “no empathy” that the government had to “bring to heel.”

Millions of people like my family member ultimately had their lives destroyed because of these prejudiced and discriminatory policies put in place by a man considered “the first black president.” Laws like these are the reason that, while only five percent of the entire world’s population lives in the United States, we are responsible for 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

Instead of focusing on imprisoning the most dangerous and violent offenders, our criminal justice system too often traps nonviolent offenders in decades-long prison sentences — disproportionately African-American men — resulting in a cycle of poverty, unemployment, and imprisonment.

This is a tragedy for these young people and their families, but it’s also bad for taxpayers. Operating all federal and state prisons and local jails costs American taxpayers about $80 billion a year.

President Trump believes this money would be better spent on rebuilding America’s infrastructure and communities. That’s why he has embraced bipartisan legislation such as the FIRST STEP Act (H.R. 5682), and worked with Democrats such as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York to pass the bill in the U.S. House last month.

Stay tuned.

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