Obama WH Aims to 'Improve Outcomes for Justice-Involved Individuals'

By Susan Jones | April 25, 2016 | 11:07am EDT
(AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Justice Department has designated April 24-30 as "National Reentry Week," a time to discuss how the Obama administration is trying to ease the path from prison to productive lives for "returning citizens."

"Too often, justice-involved individuals who have paid their debt to society confront daunting obstacles to good jobs, decent housing, adequate health care, quality education, and even the right to vote,” Attorney General Lynch said in a news release announcing National Reentry Week.

Lynch and Housing Secretary Julian Castro were traveling to Philadelphia on Monday to "announce new efforts to improve outcomes for justice-involved individuals, including youth."

Speaking at a White House event Monday morning, top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett said that Lynch not only will visit a prison in Philadelphia, "but she'll be sending a letter to our nation's governors asking them to provide state IDs to people when they are released, immediately. Because if you have a state ID, that's a first step toward being able to get a job."

It's also a first step toward being able to vote. And it appears the Obama administration may be planning to put more pressure on states to re-enfranchise felons.

The push to reenfranchise ex-convicts got heightened attention this past Friday, when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, announced that he was restoring voting rights for more than 200,000 felons -- because "second chances matter," and "everybody ought to have a second chance."

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, more than 20 states have taken action (legislative or executive) to allow more people with past criminal convictions to vote, to vote sooner, or to access that right more easily.

Valerie Jarrett told a gathering at the White House on Monday that some 600,000 people leave prison each year, but the recidivism rate is "enormous."

The solution, she said, is found in liberal, big-government programs:

"So we have a collective responsibility...to improve our communities. And it's everything from early childhood education, to breaking the school to prison pipeline, to breaking the sexual assault to prison pipeline -- to insuring that every child gets a fair shot."

Jarrett talked about the push to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders; and the need to help inmates with job training, counseling and substance abuse treatment.

She also noted that around half of prison inmates have some kind of mental illness. "So certainly while they're incarcerated, part of our responsibility is to help them, again, so they have whatever they need to re-enter society."

Jarrett said with 2.2 million people currently in prison and the 70 million who have interacted with the criminal justice system at one time or another, the problem of reentry "touches every community in America."

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