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Trump Supports Changes to Criminal-Justice System (#GotBitcoin?)

Legislation could give judges more discretion in sentencing and reduce mandatory minimum sentences for some drug-related offenses.

President Trump endorsed bipartisan criminal-justice overhaul efforts at a White House ceremony on Wednesday, throwing his support behind changes to U.S. sentencing laws that he said also would give federal inmates a second chance when they are released.

“Did I hear the word bipartisan?” he joked during a speech at the White House. “I’m thrilled to announce my support for this bipartisan bill that will make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time—so important.”

A new bill under discussion in the Senate is expected to give judges more discretion in crafting sentences in some cases and could reduce mandatory minimum sentences for some drug-related offenses.

The bill also would seek to reduce some penalties affected by the disparity in crack and cocaine sentencing, which was narrowed in a 2010 law. And it would clarify that the practice of “stacking,” or creating a longer sentence from accumulated charges, was not intended for some first-time offenders.

Among the aims of an overhaul, according to a White House official, is to save money with fewer prisoners and ultimately redirect those funds to help law-enforcement efforts.

In May, the House passed a bill from Reps. Doug Collins (R., Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.) that didn’t overhaul sentencing guidelines. That bipartisan bill would allow some inmates to serve out the final stretch of their sentences in halfway houses or in home confinement, and would add new protections for pregnant and postpartum female prisoners, among other provisions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) had been reluctant to bring the House bill up in the Senate, but on Wednesday signaled he would be willing to consider the emerging compromise coming from the Senate.

Mr. McConnell said GOP leaders would be assessing how much support the new deal has once it has been finalized and weighed against the Senate’s other must-pass legislation remaining this year.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is among a group of Republicans who have said they would vote against the bill. A White House official said that they “welcome his feedback, but he’s just one vote.”

The latest effort was spearheaded by Mr. Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has been working with lawmakers on the legislation.

“Our pledge to hire American includes those leaving prison and looking for a fresh start—new job, new life,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday.

The White House said it supports new incentives for low-risk inmates to learn the skills they need to find employment, avoid old habits and follow the law when they are released from prison. The administration also said it supports placing inmates near their hometowns so they have family nearby to help support them, as well as changing sentencing rules to keep inmates believed to be dangerous off the streets.

“We are getting very much tougher on the truly bad criminals—which unfortunately there are many—but we are treating people differently for different crimes,” Mr. Trump said.

A number of Republican lawmakers were in attendance for Mr. Trump’s Roosevelt Room speech, including Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

The announcement by Mr. Trump comes a week after he ousted Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Mr. Sessions was a longtime opponent of a criminal-justice overhaul, favoring strict enforcement of drug laws and mandatory minimum sentences. He undid an Obama era policy that aimed to show leniency to lower-level drug offenders, urging federal prosecutors to instead pursue the most serious charges in almost all cases.

A White House official said that it was “more coincidental” than anything else that the legislation was timed for after Mr. Sessions’ departure, though lawmakers believed his ouster eased the negotiations.

His successor, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, has indicated he may be more amenable to the proposed changes. A Justice Department spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the issue.

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