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  • While You Can’t Get A Better Job: Obama Initiative Helps Criminals Get Federal Jobs

    President Barack Obama announced an initiative Monday to help criminals get federal jobs.

    Obama told the Office of Personnel Management not to ask if job applicants have a criminal record until later in the hiring process, potentially making federal jobs a haven for felons who cannot find employment elsewhere.

    “If the disclosure of a criminal record happens later in a job application process, you’re more likely to be hired,” Obama told inmates during his July visit to an Oklahoma federal prison.“If they have a chance to at least meet you, you’re able to talk to them about your life, what you’ve done, maybe they give you a chance.”

    This is a win for “Ban the Box,” the phrase reform advocates have rallied around which calls for prohibiting employers from asking about criminal history in the hiring process. But the victory is mostly symbolic  since most federal agencies already wait until later in the hiring process to ask about criminal history.

    Obama has called on Congress to prohibit the government and its contractors from asking about criminal history, the Associated Press reports.

    The decision came with several other measures to reduce recidivism by helping recently released prisoners reenter society. Obama ordered the Department of Education provide $8 million for adult education to released prisoners, as well as $8.7 million for more public housing for released prisoners from the Department of Justice and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    The White House also will work with the National Clean Slate Clearinghouse to help criminals get their records expunged and increase tech training for criminals to help them get better jobs.

    “We can help those who have served their time and earned a second chance get the support they need to become productive members of society,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday.

    The initiative come as part of a flurry of criminal justice reform activity from Congress and the White House. A Senate sentencing and prison reform bill has raised the hopes of criminal justice reform advocates. The bill was introduced in early October and is likely the best chance for passing of criminal justice reforms any time soon.

    The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 does not address “Ban the Box,” but it does lower several mandatory minimums, with a focus on alleviating sentences for low level drug offenders.

    “By reducing overlong sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, the bill would also free up additional resources for investments in other public safety initiatives, including reentry services, programs for mental illness and addiction, and state and local law enforcement,” the White House said in a statement Monday.

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