Trump Calls for New Focus on Finding Jobs for Former Prisoners
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said on April 1 that he wants to follow up on criminal justice reform with efforts that help federal inmates find jobs after they leave prison with a Second Step Act.
Congress passed legislation last year called the First Step Act that gave judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders and boosts prisoner rehabilitation efforts. The effort drew strong support from Republicans and Democrats worried that mandatory minimum laws had generated unfair sentences in many drug-related cases.
Trump said Americans with criminal backgrounds are unemployed at rates up to five times the national average, which stood at 3.8 percent in February.
He said that a Second Step Act will focus on “successful re-entry and reduced unemployment for Americans with past criminal records.” His goal is to cut that unemployment rate for ex-prisoners to single digits within five years.
The president was short on details about what future legislation would include, but the White House said Trump’s budget for the next fiscal year proposes more than $500 million to help prisoners succeed after their release.
“When we say ‘hire American,’ we mean all Americans, including former inmates who have paid their debt to society,” Trump said.
Trump was joined on stage by a handful of former prisoners who have been helped through the First Step Act. He asked each of them to speak, sparking a unique level of spontaneity, sadness and cheer in the White House East Room as they recounted their experience.
Gregory Allen noted that two months ago, he was in a prison cell and now he was telling his story at the White House, calling it an example of what would “make America great again,” Allen said, borrowing from the president’s trademark phrase as the audience laughed and applauded.
First Step Act
Trump signed into law a landmark criminal justice reform bill dubbed the First Step Act, on Dec. 21, last year.
The Act gave judges more discretion when sentencing drug and lower-level offenders, while also reducing the recidivism risks of prisoners by expanding on programs such as job training. It passed the House of Representatives a day ago by a landslide vote of 358 to 36.
Earlier the Senate had pushed the bill—that only affects federal prisoners—through with a similar show of support by 87–12. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner had both lobbied for the measure.
“Everybody said it couldn’t be done. They said the conservatives won’t approve it, they said the liberals won’t approve it,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “They said nobody’s going to approve it, everybody’s gonna be against it. It’s been many many years … and nobody came close.”
Co-sponsored by more than a third of the Senate, the act received support from both Democrats and Republicans. It aims to make the federal criminal justice system fairer, reduce overcrowding, and save taxpayer dollars. Certain mandatory minimum sentences were also adjusted.
Original post can be found at The Epoch Times