Obama’s plans include millions of dollars in education grants for current prisoners, new policies to help former inmates find housing, a “clean slate clearing house” to help former prisoners clear their records where possible, and a call to Congress to “ban the box” – the space on a job application that asks about criminal backgrounds.
There are 2,200,000 (2.2 mil) people incarcerated in federal and state prisons around the US; about 20% of the world’s total number of imprisoned people. The number ballooned in the decades of the “war on drugs;” in particular due to “tough on crime” laws enacted during the 90s.
Nearly 1 in 3 Americans has a criminal record, and the Justice Department finds that employers are extremely reluctant to hire ex-offenders. The results of a 2009 study finds that 60-75% of ex-offenders are jobless up to a year after release; about 68% of former prisoners are rearrested within 3 years; and 76% rearrested within 5 years (Bureau of Justice Statistics).
To help ex-offenders avoid the traps and hurdles of life after release, Obama is expected to announce several initiatives. He has asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to change it’s policy on how authorities use criminal records to judge a potential tenant, and ordered an $8,700,000 ($8.7 mil) program to help provide housing for people who leave prison and end up homeless.