President Trump gave a big nod to prison reform in his first State of the Union address, Tuesday, January 30th.

“As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens.
That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former
inmates who have served their time get a second chance at life.”

After months of meetings with the Administration, and the launch of the first-of-its-kind initiative, Safe Streets & Second Chances, reentry programs are gaining momentum – in large part due to efforts by Right on Crime Signatories and partners.

This historical moment can be drawn back to President Trump’s listening session on prison reform that included Right on Crime, Thursday, January 11th. This comes after several months of meetings with Trump’s Senior Advisor, Jared Kushner, on how rehabilitative programs, such as job training, can help former offenders get back on their feet as they reenter society.

Right on Crime was represented by our Signatory and President of Texas Public Policy Foundation, Brooke Rollins. Rollins spoke about the Texas success story where crime was cut 31 percent and a total of ten prisons were shuttered after enacting criminal justice reform. She underlined that the need for strong reentry programs can be seen in the sheer number of people leaving prison each year. “When you think about 95 percent of those folks… coming back out into communities…What can we do as a society to make sure that they are reintegrated at a successful rate?”

Studies show that former offenders who are able to find meaningful work are less likely to reoffend. Reducing barriers to employment, such as occupational licensing laws, further help offenders make the most at their second chance. “All the policy issues we’ve discussed with the administration have a conservative orientation,” said Right on Crime Director Derek Cohen, “Faith is going to be an integral part of any reentry plan.” The President’s unprecedented meeting signifies that the American value of redemption still persists. By implementing evidence-based reentry programs at the federal level, we can help returned citizens choose a more productive path, strengthening public safety nationally.

“We will be very tough on crime, but we will provide a ladder of opportunity for the future,” said President Trump, “My administration is committed to helping former inmates become productive, law abiding members of society.” Two Republican governors present at the meeting have had great success in that department. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin implemented job training programs in his state’s prisons and has worked to reduce regulatory barriers to occupational licenses for those with criminal records. At the meeting, Bevin said reentry programs can have a powerful effect on the economy. “The workforce in America demands this (and) is begging for this,” said Gov. Bevin, “There are millions of jobs that need to be filled.” President Trump gave a nod to both Gov. Bevin and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for enacting conservative reentry programs that have helped reduce recidivism in their respective states. In Kansas, Gov. Brownback implemented mentoring programs that have cut the recidivism rate in half, “from 20 to under 10 percent.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions applauded the President for taking action on this issue. He shared that after looking at reports on federal prison programs, he found that money wasn’t “being spent well.” The Attorney General was optimistic about the future and effectiveness of reentry programs, namely job training, at the federal level. As TPPF’s Brooke Rollins said, states like Texas have proven that reentry programs work to cut crimes and long-term costs brought on by recidivism. In closing remarks, Rollins told the President, “Amen, and we applaud you for bringing this on.”

Radio interviews with Right on Crime Director, Derek Cohen:
Tom Brown Show / 6:20 mark
The Joe Piscopo Show / 20:30 mark

Articles that cover the White House meeting:

The Daily Signal: Trump Joins Governors in Backing Prison Reform
The Hill: Trump, Kushner meet with advocates on prison reform
NPR: Trump Uses Bully Pulpit To Support More Services For People Leaving Prisons
Washington Examiner: White House to host prison reform meeting Thursday
Newsweek: Trump and Kushner’s Prison Reform Plan Not Expected to Reduce Sentences…
Fox News Trump hosts prison reform session, in break from prosecution focus

Present at the meeting: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, Texas Public Policy Foundation’s President Brooke Rollins American Conservative Union Foundation’s Chairman Matt Schlapp, and Republican Governors Sam Brownback (KS) and Nathan Deal (GA).