By Caleb Parke
More than 2,200 federal inmates are returning to their families this month from behind bars under the bipartisan prison reform bill President Trump signed into law last year, according to policy experts and prisoner advocates involved in the effort.
This month will see the largest group to be freed so far under a clause in the First Step Act that reduces sentences due to "earned good time." In addition to family reunification, the formerly incarcerated citizens, 90 percent of whom have been African-American, hope to get employment opportunities touted by Trump last month at the White House as part of the "Second Chance" hiring program.
"We’re a nation that believes in redemption," the president said, noting Americans with criminal backgrounds are unemployed at rates up to five times the national average, which was around 3.8 percent earlier this year. "You're gonna have an incredible future."
The Trump Administration has asked the private sector to help the ex-prisoners reacclimate to their newfound freedom with jobs and housing in one of the largest criminal justice public-private-partnerships ever assembled.
Kim Kardashian West, who successfully lobbied President Trump to free Alice Johnson, a great-grandmother who was serving a life sentence convicted of drug trafficking for a first-time, non-violent drug offense, announced a partnership with rideshare organization Lyft to hand out gift cards for reformed criminals to get to and from job interviews as transportation can be a barrier.
"I just want to thank the president for really standing behind this issue and seeing the compassion that he's had for criminal justice has been really remarkable," the "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" star said during a Second Chance Hiring and Re-entry event at the White House in June.
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has offered 300,000 human resources professionals behind this effort and Goodwill International pledged its national network of reentry providers.
Matthew Charles, the first inmate released from the program and recognized by Trump for being a “model citizen,” told the news that barriers to employment and housing need to be “eliminated” so former inmates don’t find themselves back in prison.
The Trump Administration has a broad amount of support across governmental departments from labor to DOJ to DOE, as well as governors across the country streamlining state services in order to reduce the barriers Charles mentioned.
Another provision of the First Step Act is moving prisoners to within 500 miles of their families to help with visitation.
“Relationships have been destroyed by the isolation of incarceration,” Jackson said. “This way, people will be able to grow their support network prior to release. It’s a huge benefit to public safety.”
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