Leaders of the influential Koch network are downplaying the challenge Attorney General Jeff Sessions might pose to their objectives on criminal justice reform, which the network said would be a key policy focus this year.
Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries, said he met with the Sessions and others at the White House in recent weeks on criminal justice reform. But their discussions focused narrowly on prison reform, not on a broader criminal justice reform proposal that some lawmakers and the Koch network have championed.
"I think there is an appetite to at least advance prison reform, and I think that's a great place to start," Holden said.
Holden noted his work on the issue with Jared Kushner, who has taken on criminal justice reform as part of his broad White House portfolio. But Sessions has publicly rejected the need for sentencing reform, saying last year, ""I'm afraid we don't have a sentencing problem, we have a crime problem."
Holden downplayed the roadblock that Sessions could present. On prison reform, Holden said, Sessions "is totally on board." But Holden also suggested criminal justice reform efforts might need to be done piece by piece to satisfy Sessions and other holdouts.
"I had a good discussion with him in a meeting at the White House a couple of weeks ago," Holden said. "He believes in second chances. ... So we're going to meet people where they are. And hopefully we can get more success in this area when we show some success with prison reform."
The push for criminal justice reform is set to be a prominent topic of discussion as the Koch network's donors convene in the California desert this weekend for an annual retreat. The network announced this week a $4 million investment in a "Safe Streets and Second Chances" initiative to reduce recidivism.