Donald Trump pledges legislation to help federal inmates find work after they're released

U.S. President Donald Trump held an event at the White House on Monday, celebrating the bipartisan effort in December that passed The First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill.

President Donald Trump said Monday he wants to follow up on criminal justice reform with efforts that help federal inmates find jobs after they leave prison.

Congress passed legislation last year called the First Step Act that gives judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders and boosts prisoner rehabilitation efforts.

READ MORE: U.S. Senate passes criminal justice reform bill, hands Trump a bipartisan win

The effort drew strong support from Republicans and Democrats worried that mandatory minimum laws had generated unfair sentences in many drug-related cases.

Trump said Americans with criminal backgrounds are unemployed at rates up to five times the national average, which stood at 3.8 per cent in February.

He said a “Second Step Act” will focus on “successful re-entry and reduced unemployment for Americans with past criminal records.”

WATCH: Nov. 15, 2018 — Trump ‘thrilled’ to support criminal justice reform bill

His goal is to cut that unemployment rate for ex-prisoners to single digits within five years.

The president was short on details about what future legislation would include, but the White House said Trump’s budget for the next fiscal year proposes more than $500 million to help prisoners succeed after their release.

“When we say ‘hire American,’ we mean all Americans, including former inmates who have paid their debt to society,” Trump said.

READ MORE: Trump endorses bipartisan prison reform bill that helps inmates after release

Trump was joined on stage by a handful of former prisoners who have been helped through the First Step Act.

He asked each of them to speak, sparking a unique level of spontaneity, sadness and cheer in the White House East Room as they recounted their experiences.

Gregory Allen noted that two months ago he was in a prison cell, and now he was telling his story at the White House, calling it an example of what would “make America great again,” Allen said, borrowing from the president’s trademark phrase as the audience laughed and applauded.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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