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Liberals, Law Enforcement Officers And Even Donald Trump Come Together On Criminal Justice Reform

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From Texas Standard:

It's something you don't hear often in the news: President Donald Trump is endorsing a measure that has the support of Democrats and Republicans in Congress. This rare occasion for bipartisanship represents what some consider the biggest overhaul to the nation's criminal justice system in recent memory.

Shaila Dewaun is national criminal justice editor for The New York Times. She says the bill would help people leaving prison with reentry into the outside world, including providing money for education and treatment programs.

"Another major thing it does is soften some sentences, some mandatory minimums. There were some three-strikes provisions that it will lower," Dewaun says.

The bill would also address lingering disparities in the way offenders are sentenced for crimes involving crack and cocaine.

The push for criminal justice reform has been ongoing for years, with cooperation among Democrats and Republicans. Dewaun says the crime rate has decreased in the past 20 years, causing many people to be less strident in their demands for harsh punishments. The opioid crisis, too, has played a role.

"The opioid crisis has made people a lot more familiar with how drug addiction is criminalized," Dewaun says. "And a lot of people who didn't think about this before are saying, 'Now, we shouldn't be putting people in prison for this, we should be giving them treatment.'"

Supporters of the new bill include the Libertarian Koch brothers, the left-leaning Center for American Progress and even cultural personality Kim Kardashian. Dewaun says law enforcement has gotten behind the effort, as well.

"People realize that the pendulum swung too far," Dewaun says.

The phrase "tough on crime," she says, is being replaced by "right on crime" or "smart on crime."

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.