White House unveils measures to help inmates find work after prison

WASHINGTON The Obama administration on Friday rolled out a series of education and work training initiatives focused on helping convicted criminals avoid returning to prison.

The measures include a program that will link 67 colleges and universities with 141 correctional facilities to provide education and training to about 12,000 inmates. The program will offer federal Pell grants to prisoners, with an emphasis on inmates set to be released within five years of starting classes.

“The bottom line is that our communities are less safe when the stigma of incarceration prevents Americans from truly ever shedding their prison jumpsuit,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said on a call with reporters.

“When people leave prisons and can’t turn their lives around, they too often end up back behind bars,” she said.

Other programs unveiled on Friday will offer $31 million in grants for organizations to offer occupational training and apprenticeship opportunities for young adults and more than $5 million to organizations that help inmates prepare for employment.

With more than 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons and jails, President Barack Obama has pushed for changes to the nation’s criminal justice system as he prepares to leave office.

Despite bipartisan support for reform of mandatory minimum sentences for some non-violent federal drug offenders, legislation addressing the issue has stalled in Congress.

Jarrett said the White House remains hopeful that criminal justice reform will be approved by lawmakers.

“We would like to see those bills move forward as quickly as possible,” she said. “We are going to do everything we can to work with members on both sides of the aisle to make sure it comes to fruition.”

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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