(WASHINGTON) — The nation’s “failure” to provide convicts being released from prison with real opportunities to work and rebuild their lives “represents an enormous waste of human potential” and a “betrayal of the principles” that led to America’s founding, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Monday while announcing new measures by the Obama administration to help ex-convicts “reenter” society.
“Too often, Americans who have paid their debt to society leave prison only to find that they continue to be punished for past mistakes,” Lynch said, kicking off the Justice Department’s first-ever “National Reentry Week.”
Visiting Philadelphia on Monday, Lynch and Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julian Castro announced an additional $1.75 million in grants to help people under the age of 25 “clean their records” as Lynch put it.
Having a juvenile or a criminal record can “severely limit” a person’s ability to seek higher education, find good employment or secure affordable housing, according to the Justice Department, which estimated that about 185,000 people between 18 and 24 years old are currently imprisoned in state and federal facilities.
The Justice Department also released a “Roadmap to Reentry” on Monday, which Lynch called “a major reform package” with “significant changes to how our Bureau of Prisons … prepares inmates for release,” including stronger job training and revamped education programs in prison.
The move could help “every mother who wants to come back equipped to help provide for her family, every father who wants to return as a role model for his kids,” and “every friend and neighbor who went down the wrong path, but is determined to give back to their neighborhood, to contribute to their community and to be more than their worst mistake,” Lynch said.
Lynch also announced Monday that she was sending a letter to the governor of every state, urging them to let citizens returning from prison exchange their BOP inmate ID cards for state-issued IDs.
“This basic step would have a powerful impact,” Lynch said.
Each year more than 600,000 citizens return to neighborhoods across the United States after serving time in federal and state prisons, and another 11.4 million people cycle through local jails, according to the Justice Department.
At least some of Monday’s announcements are a direct response to President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper Task Force,” which has been working with cities, towns, businesses and foundations across the country to “address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential,” according to the White House.
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