President Trump and VP Mike Pence deliver remarks from the White House as part of the Prison Reform Summit.
This summit is part of a push from the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who proposed a prison reform bill with CNN commentator Van Jones and Americans For Tax Reform president Grover Norquist.
The Prison Reform and Redemption Act requires the federal prison system to evaluate inmates after sentencing and provide services to help them avoid becoming repeat offenders.
During a speech about prison reform, @POTUS announces he's nominating Robert Wilkie for Veterans Affairs secretary.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) May 18, 2018
“He doesn’t know this yet,” Trump says. “I’m sorry that I ruined the surprise.”
TRUMP: On another note -- very positive note -- I'm honored to be here today with so many leaders from across the nation who are committed to the crucial issue of prison reform.
Joining us today are several members of my Cabinet who are working diligently on this issue: Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Zinke, Secretary Acosta, Secretary Perry, Secretary DeVos and Acting Secretary Wilkie -- who, by the way, has done an incredible job at the V.A. and I'll be informing him in a little while -- he doesn't know this yet -- that we're going to be putting his name up for nomination to be secretary of the Veterans Administration.
Fantastic. I'm sorry that I ruined the surprise. I'll see you anyway.
We're very close to getting Choice approved. And we had just approved V.A. accountability, which for almost 40 years they could not get approved. And now, as you know, we just had -- the House just passed Choice, and it's the finer level of Choice. We had different levels of Choice, good, bad, OK and really good, and I think this falls into the really good category. Going to be a little more expensive, but that's OK. So impressed.
So, we are really -- we have so many terrific partners working on what we're doing and the reason we're here, prison reform, at the state level, including two who are with us today who have really been active, feel so strongly about it, Governor Mary Fallin and Governor Susana Martinez.
You've been fantastic.
I also want to thank Van Jones, primarily because he constantly says such nice things about me.
He did. He did. Every once in a while, right? Every once in a while, he did. He's -- hey. He actually has on occasion. Not too often.
But I'll tell you what, though, it does feel good.
And I also want to thank, then, I have to say Jared Kushner, who has worked so hard on this issue. Really has.
We're proud of you. We're proud of you.
Prison reform is an issue that unites people from across the political (ph) spectrum. It's an amazing thing: Our whole nation benefits if former inmates are able to re-enter society as productive, law-abiding citizens.
Every year over 620,000 inmates, primarily from state prisons, are released after completing their sentences. For many, living life outside the prison is a tremendous struggle. I see it. To find a job, to stay off drugs, to avoid old habits that lead them back to a life of crime, back to prison.
Unfortunately, more than one-third of former federal prison inmates and more than three-quarters of state prisoners will be re-arrested again within five years.