Heard on the Hill

Cory Booker’s Mysterious Mission to Texas

New Jersey senator spent recent weekend visiting a private prison

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has been one of the leading voices of the congressional effort to overhaul the criminal justice system. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As most of his colleagues headed home last weekend, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker spent Friday night on a journey to the center of the country.

After flying from Washington to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Feb. 10, one of the rising stars in the Democratic Party sat unnoticed at a charging station, at the far end of Terminal B, where small regional jets arrive and depart.

The senator alternated between phone calls and reading a binder of material while catching occasional glances at CNN’s coverage of President Donald Trump on a monitor overhead.

When asked why he was venturing so far from home, Booker said he was “doing some investigative work.” Before too long, he boarded a plane for Midland/Odessa, Texas.

According to Booker’s office in a follow-up inquiry, the senator was visiting a private prison in the Lone Star State as part of a fact-finding mission.

Booker has been one of the leading voices of the congressional effort to overhaul the criminal justice system. He joined a bipartisan group of senators pushing for a sentencing overhaul in the last Congress, and reached across the aisle to work with conservatives, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, on a bill addressing juveniles in the system.

Booker has decried what he views as mass incarceration, which he has said is costly to taxpayers and impedes those caught in the system from improving their lives.

In August 2016, Booker toured a federal prison in New Jersey and said the visit boosted his sense of urgency that Congress must address the criminal justice system, according to The New York Times

While there was a glimmer of hope for a criminal justice overhaul in the last Congress, that has dimmed with Trump in the White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department. Sessions was part of a small group of GOP senators who staunchly opposed the sentencing overhaul, and ultimately prevented the legislation from moving forward in the Senate.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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