President Donald Trump made it clear Monday that he believes in second chances.
Trump spoke at a summit on prisoner re-entry and a celebration of the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform package passed last year that was designed to enhance the ability of those returning to society from prison to find work and get on with their lives, according to a White House media pool report.
Trump said criminal justice reforms included in the First Step Act are changing lives for many Americans.
“(W)e’re now proving that we are a nation that believes in redemption,” the president said.
Pres Trump said the First Step Act helps prove “we’re a nation that believes in redemption.” “You’re gonna have an incredible future,” he tells the First Step Act beneficiaries. Says it was his honor to be part of the process. pic.twitter.com/EuudXdRpAQ
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) April 1, 2019
Trump touted the bipartisan collaboration that saw the passage of reform legislation last year.
“As president, I pledged to work with both parties for the good of the whole nation,” he said. “And that’s what it is: It’s for the good of the whole nation. And it’s something that is so important to me in terms of this and lots of other things. And it’s happening. Slowly, but surely, it’s all happening.”
Trump said reform was essential because the system had become part of the problem, not the solution.
“The more I met and spoke with those involved in our criminal justice system, the more clear it became that unfair sentencing rules were contributing to the cycle of poverty and crime like really nothing else before,” the president said. “It was time to fix this broken system — and it’s a system of the past — and to improve the lives of so many people.”
Trump said an emphasis on drug treatment can help offenders get back to work when they leave prison, making it more likely that will not commit more crimes.
“(N)onviolent prisoners will have opportunities to participate in vocational training, education, and drug treatment programs. When they get out of prison, they will be ready to get a job instead of turning back to a life of crime,” he said, noting that since the First Step Act was signed last year, more than 16,000 inmates have enrolled in drug treatment.
During the White House event, Trump asked ex-offender Troy Powell to speak, noting that after serving 15 of his 20 years, Powell took courses to become an electrician and was hired by a North Carolina company.
Troy Powell was recently released from prison after serving 15 years for a drug offense.
“There’s more that can be done. I left so many people behind in prison doing 40 and 50 years for nothing” pic.twitter.com/ZUODkoMfif
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) April 1, 2019
“Oh, my God. Man, this is crazy,” Powell said after Trump finished introducing him. “I never thought — I never thought this bill would pass, and coming home and finding places like Boone Lumber Company that took a chance on me right out the door. I mean, ‘No problem. Come home to work.’ You know?”
Pres applauds Gregory Allen, one of several beneficiaries of the First Step Act. “Two months ago, I was in a jail cell,” said Allen, and today, “I’m in the White House.” He says that’s “making America great again.” pic.twitter.com/d8YoHwthAp
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) April 1, 2019
When ex-offender Gregory Allen was called on to speak, he simply said, “Two months ago, I was in a prison cell and I’m in the White House. That’s going to tell you to make America great again.”
Monday’s events also included a U.S. Department of Labor forum at which efforts to employ former prisoners were discussed.
“The American economy has produced a million more job openings than those searching for work,” Labor Secretary Andrew Acosta said in a statement. “Today’s event is a reminder that the successful transition into the workforce is a positive step for both individuals and communities.”
Trump said that ex-offenders can play a key role in providing workers for employers who see opportunity in America’s expanding economy.
“As a result of our incredible economic turnaround — we had a big stock market day today, so that makes it even better, but a big day — there has never been a better time for those who need a second chance and they get a fresh start,” the president said. “It’s so incredible to see people coming out of prison. They’ve done, historically, as you know, very, very poorly, oftentimes having to go back. Because they come out, they can’t get a job. Nobody wants to hire them because they were in prions. And because the economy is so strong, they’re getting an incredible start, as we say.”
Trump said he is proposing a Second Step Act to build even stronger connections to employment for ex-offenders, noting that unemployment for ex-offenders is usually in the double digits.
“Our goal is to cut the rate to single digits within five years,” he said. “And I think that’s very, very achievable, especially if the economy keeps going the way it is. And we’re going to keep it going the way it is.
“When we say ‘Hire American,’ we mean all Americans, including former inmates who have paid their debt to society. And they’ve paid it, in many cases, more than many of the people that we think of in our society. They have really paid their debt.
“If we work together for the common good, we can forge a future of even greater safety, opportunity, dignity, and freedom for the families across this incredible nation of ours.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.