Law & Justice

President Obama Calls for a Ban of the Box During Newark Speech

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President Barack Obama visits Newark to discuss Criminal Justice Reform Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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President Barack Obama visits Newark to discuss Criminal Justice Reform Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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Pastor Vincent Rouse and Pastor David Jefferson attend the criminal justice reform speech of President Obama in Newark Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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U.S. Attorney for NJ Paul Fishman (center) Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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Senator Ray Lesniack and student journalists Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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Jersey City Mayor Fulop, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Sen. Sandra Cunningham Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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Jersey City Mayor Fulop, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Sen. Sandra Cunningham, fmr. Gov. Jim McGreevey Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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President Barack Obama visits Newark to discuss Criminal Justice Reform Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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President Barack Obama visits Newark to discuss Criminal Justice Reform Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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President Barack Obama visits Newark to discuss Criminal Justice Reform Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
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NEWARK, NJ - President Barack Obama paid a visit to Newark on Monday to discuss criminal justice reform and the prisoner re-entry initiative that he is supporting.

After Air Force One landed at Newark Airport on Monday afternoon at 1:20 p.m., Obama visited the Integrity House in Newark along with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and U.S. Senator Cory Booker. Sometime around 4:30 p.m., Obama arrived at Rutgers Newark Law School to discuss his plan.

During his brief 10-minute speech, Obama spoke about the need for criminal justice reform in America. He mentioned the cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration that affects many Americans. 

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In a speech given during the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference on Oct. 27, Obama told the crowd that he believes that "...we can disrupt the pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, and make our criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more effective". 

During the Newark visit on Monday, Obama met with those who are working to improve the criminal justice system, from law enforcement officials whom he highlighted during his speech to former prisoners who are earning their second chance. He recognized those local individuals and had them stand during his speech.
 

 
 

 

Obama said, "We try to make sure that the good work that we saw here today, we can start expanding."

The President spoke on the prisoner re-entry process of formerly incarcerated individuals and proposed new reforms aimed at helping Americans who’ve paid their debt to society rehabilitate and reintegrate back into their communities.

Obama told the crowd that one of his goals is "...to put more money in the system. It is no where what wee need, but we will have the ability to create more programs that serve as an example and can be duplicated."

Each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. Obama stated that without policies and programs to support those individuals in putting their lives back on track and give them a second chance, then the cycle of poverty and crime may continue. 

Obama discussed the work of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a cabinet-level working group to support the federal government's efforts to promote public safety and economic opportunity through cross-agency coordination and collaboration.

The President has also called on Congress to pass meaningful criminal justice reform, including reforms that reduce recidivism for those who have been in prison and are reentering society.  He mentioned that Booker would soon introduce supporting legislation with a bipartisan colleague.

Obama said, "We know that having millions of people in the criminal justice system, without any ability to find a job after release, is unsustainable.  It’s bad for communities and it’s bad for our economy."

In Obama's proposed legislative effort, he spoke of reducing overlong sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, providing additional funding through grants that would further support reentry services, programs for mental illness and addiction, and state and local law enforcement. 

During his speech, President Obama outlined the following measures to help promote rehabilitation and reintegration:

  • Adult Reentry Education Grants.  The Department of Education will award up to $8 million (over three years) to nine communities for the purpose of supporting educational attainment and reentry success for individuals who have been incarcerated. This grant program seeks to build evidence on effective reentry education programs and demonstrate that high-quality, appropriately designed, integrated, and well-implemented educational and related services in institutional and community settings are critical  in supporting educational attainment and reentry success. 
  • Arrests Guidance for Public and other HUD-Assisted Housing.The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will release guidance today to Public Housing Authorities and owners of HUD-assisted housing regarding the use of arrests in determining who can live in HUD-assisted properties. This guidance will also clarify the Department’s position on “one strike” policies and will include best practices from Public Housing Authorities.
  • Banning the Box in Federal Employment.  The President has called on Congress to follow a growing number of states, cities and private companies that have decided to “ban the box” on job applications.  We are encouraged that Congress is considering bipartisan legislation that would “ban the box” for federal hiring and hiring by federal contractors.  In the meantime, the President is directing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to take action where it can by modifying its rules to delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process.  While most agencies already have taken this step, this action will better ensure that applicants from all segments of society, including those with prior criminal histories, receive a fair opportunity to compete for Federal employment. 
  • TechHire: Expanding tech training and jobs for individuals with criminal records.  As a part of President Obama’s TechHire initiative, over 30 communities are taking action – working with each other and national employers – to expand access to tech jobs for more Americans with fast track training like coding boot camps and new recruitment and placement strategies.  The following new commitments were announced:
    • Newark, NJ, working with the New Jersey Institute of Technology and employers like Audible, Panasonic, and Prudential, will offer training through the Art of Code program in software development with a focus on training and placement for formerly incarcerated people.
  • Establishing a National Clean Slate Clearinghouse.  In the coming weeks, the Department of Labor and Department of Justice will partner to establish a National Clean Slate Clearinghouse to provide technical assistance to local legal aid programs, public defender offices, and reentry service providers to build capacity for legal services needed to help with record-cleaning, expungement, and related civil legal services. 
  • Permanent Supportive Housing for the Reentry Population through Pay for Success.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice have launched an $8.7 million demonstration grant to address homelessness and reduce recidivism among the justice-involved population. The Pay for Success (PFS) Permanent Supportive Housing Demonstration will test cost-effective ways to help persons cycling between the criminal justice and homeless service systems, while making new Permanent Supportive Housing available for the reentry population. PFS is an innovative form of performance contracting for the social sector through which government only pays if results are achieved. This grant will support the design and launch of PFS programs to reduce both homelessness and jail days, saving funds to criminal justice and safety net systems.
  • Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program Awards to Support Public Housing Residents.  With funding provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide $1.75 million to aid eligible public housing residents who are under the age of 25 to expunge or seal their records in accordance with their applicable state laws.  In addition, the National Bar Association – the nation’s oldest and largest national association of predominantly African-American lawyers and judges – has committed to supplementing this program with 4,000 hours of pro bono legal services.  Having a criminal record can result in major barriers to securing a job and other productive opportunities in life, and this program will enable young people whose convictions are expungable to start over.

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