As part of his trip to New Jersey today, President Barack Obama spoke at the Rutgers Newark Law and Justice Center. His main objective was to speak about two initiatives aimed at helping former prisoners “get their foot in the door” and get jobs after they leave the criminal justice system.
Two main actions were announced today. First, Obama’s administration has allotted new grants to help those reentering with things like education and childcare that often hold them back from finding proper employment. Second, the administration is moving towards a ban on the criminal history box that is currently found on many job applications. According to Obama, that box will soon be coming off of federal job applications.
“The federal government, I believe, should not use criminal history to eliminate applicants,” Obama said. “We are not suggesting ignore it, but when it comes to the application, give the people the chance to get through the door.”
According to Obama, initiatives like these will boost the economy because “it means less crime, it means less recidivism, it means less money spent on incarceration, it means police don’t have to arrest the same people over and over again. Businesses suddenly get more money and they are hiring more.”
During his remarks, Obama mentioned U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Congressman Donald Payne Jr. as all being champions for the cause in New Jersey and said that “Newark was helping to lead the way” on prisoner reentry.
Earlier in the day, the President went to Newark’s Integrity House—a dedicated prisoner reentry and training facility—to speak with those in the system and those who are helping with reentry in Newark.
“Places like Integrity House—the work that is being done in our federal renews program—they are accomplishing extraordinary things,” Obama said. “When you are meeting folks who are taking steps to beat addiction… you cannot help to feel hopeful about the future.”
While Obama was in Newark, Governor Chris Christie was in Camden. Like the President, the Governor was touting criminal justice reforms in the state. However, Governor Christie claimed that Obama’s visit today was merely the President “taking a victory lap” for issues that “he has been pushed to” by others.
Next, the president will head into New York City. He will leave Newark around 10 p.m.