President Obama discusses criminal reform at Rutgers—Newark
More than 2 million people live in prison at any given time, said President Barack Obama during a speech at Rutgers—Newark.
Obama visited the S.I. Newhouse Center for Law and Justice at Rutgers—Newark on Nov. 1 to discuss the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Educations in Prison Consortium (NJ-STEP), a program dedicated to providing higher education for inmates.
“Here in Newark, when it comes to rehabilitating prisoners and reintegrating former inmates into society, we’ve got organizations that are doing extraordinary (things),” Obama said.
He cited the case of Dequan Rosario, who was arrested for selling drugs at the age of 17 and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
Today, Rosario is an emergency medical technician in Newark after being released with no money, no job, no home and no immediate family or friends.
Rosario exemplified successful reform stories, Obama said.
“(Rosario) had the motivation to say ‘I’m going to change,’ which is pretty hard to do when you’re 37,” he said.
During his trip, the president visited Integrity House, a Newark facility that rehabilitates addicts.
Obama said he intended to expand or introduce three programs to further help convicts adapt to post-incarceration life.
Pell grants will help those looking for higher education, Promise Zones will improve living conditions in several United States cities and the “Ban the Box” initiative will prevent potential employers asking about applicants’ criminal history.
There are 14 states that already implemented this measure, though Virginia limited the scope of this program to state agencies.
Rosario said speaking with Obama was an exhilarating experience.
“You just got to give people a chance,” he said. “If they don’t get a chance, then they can’t prove themselves to be right or wrong.”