The passage of the First Step Act, the prison reform bill backed by President Donald Trump, in the Senate on Tuesday “proved we can come together as a country,” a senior White House official told Breitbart News on Wednesday.
Brooke Rollins, Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives, told Breitbart News, “We thought it was a historic win for a lot of reasons.
“This is the most significant criminal justice reform bill at the federal level for at least a generation, maybe more. [It’s] significant because the Senate vote of on 87-12 [in favor] — you just don’t see that kind of vote anymore; significant because of the kind of coalition that was built — as some of the senators said, it was unlike anything they had seen in Washington; significant, most importantly, because of the number of people it helped, the communities that are going to be safer.”
Asked how the First Step Act would avoid the problems of prison reform in states like California, where it resulted in an increase in property crime by 9%, Rollins said that the White House had modeled its effort on prison reform legislation in Republican-run states.
The Democrat-run states, she said, “really focused on decreasing incarceration rather than increasing public safety.”
By contrast, “Our focus was always, ‘How do we increase public safety?’ — and … we do that through rehabilitation, education, [and] training so that when [prisoners] come back, they don’t return to a life of crime.”
She cited the example of Texas, where she had worked on the issue previously, and which she said had been able to close a number of prisons, including juvenile prisons, while seeing crime rates drop.
The version of the First Step Act that passed in the House earlier this year included sentencing reforms that were included in the Senate bill on the insistence of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), she said. The final version of the bill will likely be considered by the House on Thursday.
Asked about conservative criticisms that the Trump administration had placed higher priority on passing prison reform than on funding the border wall, Rollins said: “I first would clarify that the First Step Act was certainly not more of a priority. Certainly no one has been as focused on border security and public safety as this president, more than any other in history.”
“There’s room for all these priorities … the First Step Act proved we can come together as a country — as Democrats and Republicans, and liberals and convervatives, and faith groups and law enforcement.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.