President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his support for bipartisan prison reform — a measure Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, has spent months pushing.
“Today, I’m thrilled to announce my support for this bipartisan bill that will make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time,” Trump said in an announcement at the White House. “So important.”
“We’re all better off when former inmates can ... re-enter society as productive citizens,” Trump added.
The legislation is known as the First Step Act, a measure Trump says would reform prison sentencing while maintaining public safety. The future of the compromise bill, which the House already passed, now lies with the Senate. Trump urged lawmakers to send it to his desk.
“I’ll be waiting with a pen,” he said.
Trump has previously sent mixed messages about his views on criminal justice reform.
He has made vague promises of “law and order” central to his appeals to his base, but paused Kushner’s criminal justice reform efforts in August. His former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, staunchly opposed reduced sentencing as part of reform efforts and had actually pushed for stronger penalties for some types of offenders.
Trump has also issued a number of high-profile pardons and granted clemency in June to Alice Marie Johnson, a first-time nonviolent drug offender who was given a life sentence without parole. That move came after celebrity Kim Kardashian West lobbied Trump on Johnson’s behalf after learning about the case via Mic.
After Trump announced his support Wednesday, the White House released a fact sheet encouraging the bill’s passage, noting it “enjoys widespread support across the political spectrum.” In what appeared to be an effort to soothe concerns of conservatives who might, like Sessions, be uneasy about the measure, the White House also said “seven major police organizations, more than 2,700 faith and evangelical leaders, and hundreds of conservative organizations and leaders” have expressed support for the legislation.
Criminal justice reform advocates acknowledged that more work needs to be done, but praised the endorsement as a step in the right direction.
“While this approach still leaves many suffering people behind, we must embrace progress when we see it,” Kara Gotsch, director of strategic initiatives at the Sentencing Project, said in a statement.