The focus will be on helping prisoners re-enter the workforce and reduce the rate of recidivism — ultimately saving taxpayer money.
WASHINGTON — President Trump invited governors, faith leaders and conservative activists to the White House Thursday to discuss a law-and-order issue with a fiscally conservative twist: Prison reform.
The focus is on programs to help prisoners re-enter the workforce and reduce the rate of recidivism — ultimately saving taxpayer money.
“We will be very tough on crime, but we will provide a ladder of opportunity for the future,” Trump said. “We can help break this vicious cycle.”
On the surface, criminal justice reform is an issue that unites the left and the right. But Congress has found consensus elusive in recent years, leading President Barack Obama to take executive action to shorten sentences of drug offenders and encourage employers to hire former prisoners.
“It’s the right thing to do to take it on, and it’s also smart to take it on,” said Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union, one of the participants in Thursday’s roundtable discussion. “This is one of those interesting public policy issues that is supported by a lot of people on the right and supported by people on the left, and that’s a refreshing change of pace from the policy issues that seem to fall in the gutter of one side or another.”
Trump’s effort, still in its early stages, grows out of an initiative led by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner over the past few months, culminating in a meeting at the Camp David presidential retreat last weekend.
Trump hosted the afternoon roundtable discussion with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a number of state and local leaders, including Republican governors Matt Bevin of Kentucky and Sam Brownback of Kansas.
Kentucky passed a law last year that focused on job training for prisoners and allowing more occupational licenses for convicted felons. Kansas has been implementing changes to its juvenile justice system, focusing on alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders.
Afterward, Bevin told USA TODAY that Trump was uniquely positioned to provide leadership on the issue, given his unequivocal support for law enforcement.
“It takes someone to stop blowing smoke on it, which is what liberals have done for years,” he said. “This has the ability to be something transformative, something like Nixon going to China and turning the world on its head.”

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