“It’s not too late,” President Obama said in a speech at Rutgers University November 2, 2015. “There are people who have gone through tough times, they’ve made mistakes, but with a little bit of help, they can get on the right path. And that’s what we have to invest in. That’s what we have to believe. That’s what we have to promote.”
The move has been a highly anticipated step for activists seeking to reform a system that they say makes it difficult for former inmates to reintegrate into society. According to a poll conducted by The New York Times/CBS/Kaiser Family Foundation last February, 34 percent of men with criminal records are nonworking males between the ages of 25 and 54 – a number that has grown recently particularly among black men. The 2008 financial crisis exacerbated unemployment for those with criminal records, leaving many homeless and excluded from society.
“Prior to the prison boom, when convictions were restricted to a smaller fraction of the population, it wasn’t great for their rehab potential but it wasn’t having a huge impact,” Devah Pager, a Harvard sociology professor, told The New York Times. “Now such a large fraction of the population is affected that it has really significant implications, not just for those people, but for the labor market as a whole.”