President Obama has been digging in lately on the issue of criminal justice reform, prisons, sentencing and rehabilitation in America.
He’s talking specifically about mass incarceration and who it affects.
He’s visited prisons, prisoners and a drug rehabilitation center and halfway house in Newark on Monday.
Speaking yesterday at Rutgers University in New Jersey, the President spoke yesterday about this issue and how he’s been wrestling with it.
“I have at times despaired about the magnitude of the problem. I’ve asked myself how we break the cycle that has young children somehow on the pipeline where they end up incarcerated. And yet what’s interesting is that I have ended up hopeful as well during the course of this year because what I’ve’ seen is there are people across the board, folks who work inside the criminal justice system, folks who are affected saying there has to be a better way.”
On Monday the President temporarily ordered federal agencies to stop asking most potential employees about their criminal histories during the initial application process.
He also urged Congress to permanently “Ban the Box,” federally; the box that asks about prior incarceration and criminal activity.
“The federal government, I believe, should not use criminal history to screen out applicants before we even look at their qualifications. We can’t just dismiss people out of hand simply because of mistakes they’ve made in the past.”
The White House released a statement reading, “Each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons,” the White House said in a statement. “Advancing policies and programs that enable these men and women to put their lives back on track and earn their second chance promotes not only justice and fairness, but also public safety.”
The administration also announced new actions to promote “rehabilitation and reintegration,” which include $8 million in education grants from the Department of Education.
It also announced tech training and jobs for individuals with a criminal record.
You may recall that in October the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that they would grant early release to nearly 6,000 inmates between October 30 and November 2.
The guidelines are fairly stringent, only prisoners who have served an average of nine years and were due to be released in about 18 months.
Many of them were already in half-way houses.
Many of those who are and will be affected by this are black and brown people; most of them men of color.
Speaking to Lester Holt on NBC News yesterday, the President said he is proud of the work he’s been able to do on behalf of racial injustice, but said it must continue with the next president.
“I am very proud that my presidency can help to galvanize and mobilize America on behalf of issues of racial disparity and racial injustice,” he told NBC’s Holt. “But I do so hoping that my successor, who’s not African-American — if he or she is not — that they’ll be just as concerned as I am. Because this is part of what it means to perfect our union.”
A more perfect union, according to the President, includes rehabilitation and second chances for everyone.
Don Lemon: President Obama’s Mission To Reform America’s Criminal InJustice System was originally published on blackamericaweb.com