Coinciding with the mass release of federal inmates, the Obama administration is spending $1.7 million on a “re-entry program” to ease the transition from prison and ordering public housing facilities not to reject tenants with criminal records.
The goal is to reduce barriers to public housing, employment and educational opportunities by promoting rehabilitation and reintegration for the formerly incarcerated, the feds explain in an announcement. A key component of the program is a joint venture between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help public housing residents expunge or seal their criminal records. The administration considers these “Americans who’ve paid their debt to society” and need the government’s help to “rehabilitate and reintegrate back into their communities.”
A criminal record severely limits a person’s ability to seek higher education, find good employment, qualify for credit and secure affordable housing, the administration states in its announcement. This creates unnecessary barriers to economic opportunity and productivity for the convicts after they leave jail and President Obama is determined to ensure those returning from prison become “productive, law-abiding citizens.” His Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, says the DOJ is “committed to giving formerly incarcerated individuals the tools they need to become productive members of society.”
For starters, the cons must find a place to live after getting released from jail so the administration has issued updated rules for taxpayer-subsidized housing essentially prohibiting the exclusion of tenants who have been arrested or criminally convicted. “…arrest records may not be the basis for denying admission, terminating assistance or evicting tenants…,” the new rules say, adding that HUD does not require the adoption or enforcement of “one-strike rules that deny admission to anyone with a criminal record or that require automatic eviction any time a household member engages in criminal activity in violation of their lease.” The message from the administration to federally-assisted housing facilities appears to be to condone criminal behavior.
This is part of Obama’s broader effort to reform the nation’s criminal justice system as a way of ending racial discrimination. Back in 2010 the president signed a measure that for the first time in decades relaxed drug-crime sentences he claimed discriminated against poor and minority offenders. This severely weakened a decades-old law enacted during the infamous crack cocaine epidemic that ravaged urban communities nationwide in the 1980s. As part of the movement the U.S. Sentencing Commission lowered maximum sentences for drug offenders and made it retroactive.
This month the administration began releasing 6,000 drug convicts it claims are “non-violent” offenders whose sentences were too long under the old guidelines. News reports have already surfaced contradicting the administration’s assessment that the newly released convicts are not violent. Among them is the leader of a multi-million dollar operation that smuggled drugs from Canada to Maine. Prosecutors refer to the 29-year-old con as a “drug kingpin” who was one of “America’s Most Wanted.”
Shortly before the administration’s mass release of drug convicts, federal prosecutors warned that drug trafficking is inherently violent and therefore the phrase “non-violent drug offenders” is a misnomer. The nation’s prosecutors also cautioned that reducing prison sentences for drug offenders will weaken their ability to bring dangerous drug traffickers to justice.