It’s unlikely that law-and-order President Donald Trump will have a change of heart about his hardline views on prison sentencing reform, despite his recent unexpected move.
Trump commuted the sentence Wednesday of Alice Marie Johnson, an African-American grandmother who had already served 21 years of a life sentence on a first-time nonviolent drug offense.
“Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades,” a White House statement said. “Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates.”
Trump didn’t suddenly realize that Johnson’s sentence was unfair. His decision came at the urging of celebrity Kim Kardashian West who met with Trump in the Oval Office May 30 to plead Johnson’s case.
As a candidate, Trump rode a wave of right-wing support for his vow to restore law and order in the United States. In February, he stayed true to his promise amid calls for criminal justice reform, even from members of his own party. The president called on lawmakers to pass legislation to help inmates transition to life after prison, but he declined to cross the line to call for criminal justice reform, such as changing mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been mapping out a strategy to return to the racially biased “war on drugs.” With the onslaught of the crack epidemic in the 1980s, Congress passed laws intended to get tough on crime. Former President Bill Clinton enacted a crime bill that included a “three-strike” rule that mandated life sentences. That crime-fighting tactic led to mass incarceration, costing taxpayers $80 billion a year and the disproportionate warehousing of African-Americans in prison for minor drug offenses.