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How Biden Wants To Rehabilitate Ex-Convicts


The Biden administration on Tuesday released a blueprint of its new strategy for criminal justice reform that focuses on reintegrating the formerly convicted back into society. It centers around education and expanding access to jobs and will mostly be funded by grants.

The White House released a fact sheet listing its plans for pursuing what is on its face a restorative justice agenda. In its opening line, the statement said that the focus is on offering “meaningful opportunities for redemption and rehabilitation” that will help make communities safer.

“Advancing successful reentry outcomes makes our communities safer, disrupts cycles of economic hardship, and strengthens our economy,” read the White House’s statement.

As part of the First Step Act, $145 million will go to jobs, housing and loans for the formerly incarcerated upon their release.

The Department of Labor announced $140 million for job opportunities, which includes $85 million for education, “training, paid work experience, mentorship, and leadership development to justice-involved youth and young adults,” and $55 million for “job training, pre-apprenticeship programs, digital literacy training, and pre-release and post-release career counseling for justice-involved adults.”

The Department of Education will also expand its roster of participants in the federal Second Chance Pell Initiative program, which provides tuition grants to those who were previously incarcerated.

The Office of Personnel Management will publish proposed regulations to expand the positions covered by the federal government’s “ban the box” policy to avoid delays created by questioning an applicant’s criminal history in the hiring process.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development will also undergo a six-month examination of current regulations to see where it can better accommodate the previously convicted. The administration is also looking to remove restrictions on borrowing loans from the Small Business Administration for those with criminal records.

This announcement comes as President Joe Biden moves to balance Americans’ concerns about violent crime and demands for criminal justice reform that he promised on the campaign trail. To this end, the White House statement was keen to emphasize that it wants to “break the cycle of crime” while allowing law enforcement to focus on other threats to public safety.

The plan could have a strong impact over the long term. Recidivism rates are higher for younger Americans than older ones, according to the Council on Criminal Justice.

Crime rates have been a hot-button issue for Republican candidates ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. Polls show that voters rate Republicans higher than Biden or his Democratic Party on crime issues. 

The latest strategy is building on other initiatives launched by Biden to address violent crime. On April 11, the Justice Department announced new rules to help it crack down on difficult-to-trace “ghost guns” and nominated a candidate to lead the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives after seven years of only acting directors. 

On the same day Biden released the rehabilitation plan, the administration also announced it would be granting its first set of pardons and commutations for 75 people convicted of nonviolent offenses.

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