As the nation reeled from the horrific shooting in El Paso, most 2020 Democrat hopefuls spent the day at a forum hosted by the AFSCME labor union in Las Vegas, where the festivities turned somber as the reported deaths continued to rise.
Afterwards, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker headed to another campaign event: a tour of the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center.
YESTERDAY: Sen. Cory Booker shakes hands with inmates during his visit to the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center in Las Vegas. pic.twitter.com/eh3Cj2eTyF
— The Hill (@thehill) August 5, 2019
Booker spent Saturday afternoon at the women’s facility chatting with criminals in blue denim uniforms, shaking their hands and listening intently to their concerns. Booker toured the general population housing and quizzed about two dozen women about programing at the correctional center, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
The former Newark, New Jersey mayor learned about a local Hope For Prisoners organization that helped 25 women he spoke with to take classes at College of Southern Nevada, and Booker promised to bring “more justice in our justice system” if elected president.
Booker received a warm reception with some shouting “welcome to Las Vegas” from their cells and others gushing over his debate performances, which the women watch on television. In the most recent Democrat primary debate in Detroit, Booker clashed with former vice president Joe Biden over criminal justice, with the latter accusing Booker of pushing stop-and-frisk as Newark mayor.
Booker has touted himself as “an authentic leader” on criminal justice reform in previous interviews with the Review-Journal, and he continued that self-aggrandizing theme during his stop on Saturday.
He used coded phrases like “we should not be an outlier in humanity” while touting bills he’s pushed without success to shorten prison sentences, hard work he promised to continue to pursue as president.
“This is one of my big passion issues,” he told the women.
The inmates loved the spotlight.
“It helps any time there’s attention brought to the prison,” inmate Kathy Finster said.
“I appreciate you coming to see us and letting our voices count,” another inmate said, according to the Review-Journal.
The news site neglected to mention that President Donald Trump has already accomplished much of what Booker is promising through bi-partisan criminal justice reforms that swept through Congress in late 2018. Many of the benefits of that legislation are now playing out across the country.
The so-called “First Step Act” reduced mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes, expanded good time credits for well-behaved prisoners, and tasked the Department of Justice with developing a risk and needs assessment system to steer “housing, grouping, and program assignment,” according to The Hill.
The First Step Act passed the Senate 87-12 and the House 358-36.
Regardless, Hope for Prisoners CEO John Ponder and the Review-Journal are heaping praise on Booker for drawing attention to the criminals behind bars.
“I think that for the prison system to get the level of attention it’s getting, it shows that the eyes of the nation are opening up to the issue,” he said.