- - Tuesday, October 2, 2018

President Trump is all-action on prison reform. The Democrats? All-talk.

In a matter of months, the president has done more for prison reform than Democrats managed to do in many, many years.

A problem that began well before Mr. Trump took office, over-criminalization and harsh sentencing in America, have had far-reaching effects. In fact, this president is actually fixing what some of his predecessors only made worse.

When Bill and Hillary Clinton pushed through the ruthless Clinton crime bill, it was the birth of America’s prison state. When Hillary Clinton called young African-Americans “super-predators” with “no conscience” and “no empathy” who had to be “brought to heel” — she meant it.

This lack of consideration and desire for political expediency led to the incarceration of a disproportionate number of black men in America. Instead of focusing on imprisoning the most violent offenders, the Clintons’ criminal justice system trapped non-violent offenders in decades-long prison sentences that ruined their lives, their families and their communities.

Inequities like these trickled down to sentencing as well, leaving black defendants with more time behind bars than whites.

Democrats, and even America’s first black president, endlessly promised to right these wrongs — and endlessly failed to do so.

It wasn’t until Donald Trump was elected that things actually started to change.

As America’s greatest jobs president, he’s working to get former prisoners back on their feet instead of using them for votes while they’re in prison.

“One of the single most important things we’re doing is to help former inmates in creating jobs. We’re creating so many jobs that former inmates, for the first time, are really getting a shot at it,” Mr. Trump said.

The president has met with members of both parties to address prison reform with the full force of the federal government, and created the prison reform roundtable, of which I am a member.

Making true on his promise to put former prisoners back to work, President Trump has been a vocal supporter of the First Step Act in Congress. This bill passed in the House this year, and is the first comprehensive attempt at the reform of our justice system in decades. It curbs mass incarceration, empowers former inmates to get their lives back on track and saves taxpayers money.

This legislation helps individuals reintegrate back into their communities by expanding evidence-based reentry programs, including drug treatment, job training, and counseling. It also offers prisoners time credits for good behavior, which incentivizes them to do the right thing, speeds up the judicial process, saves taxpayers money, and most importantly, gives them a second chance.

“We’ve passed the First Step Act through the House, and we’re working very hard in the Senate to refine it and pass it into law,” Mr. Trump said.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are stalling on the bill. They’re once again avoiding doing what’s right, choosing instead to obstruct Mr. Trump to score cheap political points.

They’ve even started a campaign opposing the current prison reform effort, stating that they won’t support the bill unless they can take credit for it. Even the left-leaning Politico, which is generally supportive of the Democratic Party, condemned the anti-prison reform Democrats for writing a letter “riddled with factual inaccuracies and deliberately attempts to undermine the nationwide prison reform effort.”

But Mr. Trump won’t let typical political posturing obstruct his progress — he isn’t here for talk, he’s here for action.

Above all the political rancor in Washington, Mr. Trump took the ultimate step earlier this year by using his executive powers to do something Barack Obama should have done long ago.

Alice Marie Johnson was one of the many young black Americans who had their lives ruined by the Clinton crime bill. Serving a life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense since 1996, Ms. Johnson appealed to President Obama multiple times while he was in office. She was denied each and every single time.

Mr. Obama was too busy granting pardons to violent drug dealers to care about doing the right thing for a grandmother and her family.

But in true Trump style, the president paid attention to the calls of none other than reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who lobbied aggressively for Ms. Johnson’s release. Mr. Trump answered those calls.

Now that it’s campaign season again, America has a clear choice on critical issues such as prison reform.

The two paths on this issue couldn’t be more clear. If the Democrats win in November, they’ll continue using prison reform as a political tool, at the peril of millions of Americans stuck in prison for decades.

Their goal is to take down Mr. Trump — not to help those thrown in jail because of outdated policies from the 1990s.

Unlike the all-talk-no-action Democrats, President Trump is actually fulfilling his promises, fighting to reform a system for those punished with harsh and excessive prison terms, and helping to integrate Americans who have already served their time back into their communities.

The Democrats had their chance to pass prison reform in the past and failed. Now they are blocking reasonable solutions from being passed, which would improve countless lives.

Our chance to enact comprehensive prison reform depends on our choice to bring more Republican leaders to Washington to support the president’s plan.

• Darrell Scott, a pastor, is CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump and a member of the Donald J. Trump for President Inc. advisory board.

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