Obama announces efforts to help ex-convicts
As part of a push to tackle criminal justice issues in his final year in office, President Barack Obama announced new efforts to help former prisoners reintegrate into society.
Speaking in Newark, N.J., on Monday, Mr. Obama announced $8 million in new grants to support educational opportunities for ex-convicts returning from prison. Mr. Obama also asked the federal Office of Personnel Management to work to remove criminal history questions on early rounds of the federal job application process where possible — though Congress may ultimately be needed to adjust the rules involving criminal history across the entire federal hiring process.
“The problem we’re trying to solve is not just to keep on catching people and putting them back in jail. The problem we’re trying to solve here is giving people a foundation through which they can then become productive citizens,” Mr. Obama said.
The president visited Newark with former Newark mayor and current New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. He was joined by the city’s current mayor, Ras Baraka.
Mr. Obama visited Integrity House, a residential halfway house and drug-treatment facility, and participated in a roundtable with former prisoners before speaking at an event.
Neither of the actions Mr. Obama announced Monday require approval by Congress. Criminal justice is considered one of the top targets of potential bipartisan compromise in Mr. Obama’s final 14 months in office. In July, Mr. Obama visited the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma to push for a reduction in the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders.
Congress is considering a bipartisan bill that would seek to reduce sentences for some nonviolent crimes. Many Republicans have increasingly expressed a desire to reduce the size of the prison population, citing potential cost-savings. Democrats have emphasized the social impact of mass incarceration on communities and families.