by Pastor Darrell Scott
President Trump has cracked the code on criminal justice, correcting long-standing injustices while simultaneously empowering law enforcement to combat crime more effectively. And the progress we’ve made so far is only the beginning.
For too long, politicians in Washington considered those goals mutually exclusive, preventing them from reaching the sort of compromise that would have allowed them to accomplish both objectives.
After decades of failures by establishment politicians, however, Donald Trump managed to bridge the partisan divide and achieve the most significant prison reforms in a generation. Thanks to President Trump’s exceptional leadership and enthusiastic support, Republicans and Democrats came together in 2018 to pass the FIRST STEP Act, which directly addressed the problems of over-incarceration, racially-biased sentencing laws, and recidivism that both undermined public trust in the justice system and overwhelmed the capabilities of both law enforcement and corrections officers.
While Democrat lawmakers and mainstream media outlets have largely avoided praising the President for his role in making the FIRST STEP Act a reality, Benedict College — a historically black college in South Carolina — bucked that trend by inviting him to headline a three-day forum dedicated specifically to discussing how the new law has set the stage for future criminal justice reform efforts.
Although numerous Democrat presidential candidates accepted invitations to attend the same forum on a different day, viewing it as an important campaign event in a crucial early primary state, the college commendably kept the event as bipartisan as the legislation that inspired it. By hosting each party’s candidates separately, the organizers ensured that the focus would remain where it belongs — on the historic prison reforms that are giving thousands of people a second chance at life.
In addition to reforming mandatory-minimum sentencing laws of the Clinton-Biden crime bill that disproportionately affected African Americans, the new legislation expands “good time credits” so that qualified non-violent inmates can earn early release. Thousands of inmates have already earned early release, and about 90 percent of them are black.
At the same time, the FIRST STEP Act advances the fight against crime by promoting rehabilitation programs for non-violent inmates that will reduce the likelihood that they will go back to a life of crime after being released. New job-training and life-skills programs are offering inmates an opportunity to learn the skills that will enable them to succeed in life after prison.
Whereas the Democrats often present the issue of criminal justice through the lens of a false dichotomy, portraying it as a choice between minorities and the police, President Trump has demonstrated that an equitable justice system goes hand-in-hand with support for our brave men and women in blue.
Instead of slandering law enforcement as a force of tyrannical oppression, the President has placed immense confidence in our nation’s police officers, empowering them to fight crime in our communities.
“Today, I stand before you, as the President of the United States, to tell you that my administration will always honor, cherish, and support the men and women in blue,” President Trump pledged last year, condemning “political attacks” on law enforcement. “Politicians who spread this dangerous anti-police sentiment make life easier for criminals and more dangerous for law-abiding citizens,” he added.
The President stayed true to this promise — last year, his administration allocated $100 million in grants to hire additional peace officers across the country, and also made it easier for police departments to acquire surplus military equipment.
Those efforts are already paying off. After trending upward in 2015 and 2016, the violent crime rate fell by 3.9 percent in 2018, which translates to more than 1,000 lives saved from the decrease in homicides alone.
But despite all of this progress, Donald Trump isn’t done fighting for a fair criminal justice system just yet. Earlier this year, for instance, the White House unveiled a “second chance hiring” initiative that will make it easier for people with prior criminal records to secure employment by reducing barriers to federal hiring and providing financial incentives for private companies to hire workers with criminal backgrounds.
The President’s keynote speech at the Benedict College criminal justice forum outlined the conservative case for criminal justice reform in detail and explained his future plans to promote law and order in our communities.
The Democrat candidates competing to run against him in 2020, conversely, made it clear in advance that they would not join President Trump in calling for bipartisan solutions that improve the lives of minorities, with Sen. Kamala Harris’ campaign resorting to partisan bickering days before the President spoke.
President Trump has found the magic formula to get lawmakers in Washington to finally take responsible action on criminal justice reform. As the name suggests, the FIRST STEP Act is just the beginning.
– – –
Pastor Darrell Scott is CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump and a member of the Donald J. Trump for President Inc. advisory board.