President, Vice President discuss prison reform at roundtable before rally

Updated: Nov. 26, 2018 at 7:03 PM CST
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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The eve of the midterm runoff was not just about drumming up support for Cindy Hyde-Smith. President Trump and other dignitaries gathered in Gulfport before the campaign rally to hold a round table meeting on prison reform.

In addition to the president, other notable officials attending the meeting included Vice President Mike Pence, Hyde-Smith, presidential adviser Jared Kushner, Gov. Phil Bryant, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Roger Wicker. Newly appointed district attorney Angel Myers-McIlrath also weighed in, along with the 2018 Miss Mississippi Asya Branch, who has advocated strongly for the children of incarcerated parents.

Up for discussion was the First Step Act, which is a piece of legislation instituted by Pence that is currently being debated in Congress. The act aims to provide programs that will help keep prisoners out of prison once they are released by providing them with better job training, workforce education, and other tools.

Citing Mississippi’s own prison reform laws that were passed in 2014, the president and other officials at the round table discussed ways those same policies can be expanded and implemented by other states.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham praised the Magnolia State for its legislation, part of which states a person can’t be imprisoned for owing a fine.

“The people of Mississippi should be proud of the folks at this table," said Graham. "This has been an amazing turnaround in how you approach incarcerating people.”

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Senator Cindy...
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., participates in the First Step Roundtable with Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryan and law enforcement leaders Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Miss. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

President Trump also talked about his vision for prisons once the First Step Act is passed, saying it would reduce crime and recidivism among inmates.

“Communities will be safer by helping inmates gain the skills that they need to obtain jobs and stay out of prison after they are released, which has been a tremendous topic," said Trump. "I think we’ve helped a lot because the economy is so good. and a lot of people who would not have had a chance... are now getting jobs. And the people who are hiring these people are saying some incredible things.

President Trump said he hopes to have a vote from Congress on the First Step Act by the end of year, saying it would be a great Christmas present for Americans.

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