Watch: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries absolutely destroys opponents of prison reform on CNN
Hakeem Jeffries on CNN/Screenshot

For the first time in the Trump era, a piece of major domestic legislation with broad bipartisan support is headed from the House of Representatives to the Senate.


The bill frees 4,000 people in prison for nonviolent drug crimes, ends shackling of women giving birth and allots money to help reduce recidivism by funding substance abuse treatment, anger management therapy, education and other programs.

The bill's sponsors are Brooklyn Democrat Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Georgia Republican Doug Collins.

On Saturday night, Jeffries went on Van Jones' CNN show to defend the bill, which has drawn fire from some on the left because it doesn't go far enough. Jeffries obliterated that argument.

"When we attempted to negotiate a bill that the Obama administration supported in the last Congress, there was some of our friends, allies, advocate, who were of the view that that the Obama administration criminal justice reform bill didn't go far enough and said let's wait until Hillary Clinton is president," Jeffries said. "How did that work out?"

Jones is a fan of the bill—he even lobbied Trump to sign it, getting some pushback from the left.

"Why in the era of division and dysfunction and craziness would you walk out into the killing fields to try to get a bill done for prisoners? Prisoners ain't got no lobbyists, man! They can't help you! They can't vote!" Jones said. "Why take this kind of risk for people behind bars?"

That's exactly why, Jeffries said.

"To focus on the least, the lost, the left behind individuals who are incarcerated without hope, without opportunity, without a second chance at getting a start in life once they are able to leave the federal penitentiary," Jeffries said.

Jeffries laid out the stats: When the War on Drugs started under President Nixon 50,000 people were in federal prison. Today it's 2.2 million, disproportionally black and Latino men.

"It's a stain on our democracy," Jeffries said.

Some Democrats seem willing to let prisoners rot in prison rather than give Trump a win—Jeffries subtly shamed them.

"For too long, the criminal justice issue has been used as a political weapon against vulnerable individuals, communities, black and latino communities, low income folks of every single race," he said. "We took the position that if you can take criminal justice reform out of the political space, so that we're working on it together, then Democrats and Republicans will be all about the merits of the issue moving forward as opposed to using crime and punishment as a political weapon against each other."

Watch the full interview below.