Just weeks after becoming the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, President Obama is ramping up his efforts to make criminal justice reform a key target in the last phase of his presidency. According to The Huffington Post:
President Barack Obama, who has made criminal justice reform a top priority of his last years in office, will announce actions on Monday to help formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society.
The White House said the steps, to be unveiled by Obama at an appearance in Newark, New Jersey, would include up to $8 million in federal education grants over three years for former inmates as well as new guidance on the use of arrest records in determining eligibility for public and federally assisted housing.
Obama is also directing the Office of Personnel Management to take steps where possible to modify its rules in order to delay inquiries into
backgrounds until later in the hiring process.
Efforts to “ban the box” (eliminate inquiries on criminal backgrounds in job applications) and to re-establish pipelines to education for formerly incarcerated people are vital after years of discrimination and policies stripping inmates and formerly incarcerated people of avenues to receive college educations. MSNBC reports:
About 60-to-75% of former inmates cannot find work within their first year out of jail, according to the Justice Department, a huge impediment to re-entering society.
Research shows the existence of a criminal record can reduce an employer’s interest in applicant by about 50%, and that when white and black applicants both have records, employers are far less likely to call back a black applicant than a white one. As a 2009 re-entry study in New York city found, “the criminal record penalty suffered by white applicants (30%) is roughly half the size of the penalty for blacks with a record (60%).”
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