Obama's prison reform helping former felons in Columbus

Obama's prison reform helping former felons in Columbus

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - As thousands of inmates are released from prison, President Obama is making moves, hoping to provide more resources and jobs for those ex-inmates.

In hopes of removing hurdles of employment for qualified workers with criminal pasts, a new federal order ensures applicants will not be discriminated against before getting an interview.

Over the past three days, more than 6,000 people serving time in federal prisons for non-violent drug-related crimes were released by the Justice Department.

"I think it's an idea whose time has come. We need to take a look at it and give it its proper consideration," said Sen. Ed Harbison.

Now those people will be looking for jobs.

On Monday, President Obama announced executive actions stopping federal government agencies from asking job applicants about their criminal records until later in the hiring process.

Jerome Lawson was convicted of armed robbery and aggravated assault at 16 years old, and he spent 10 years in prison. When he was released, he was given a chance for employment.

"She gave me an opportunity to be more than what the box said I was. Cause you can't change what you done and that's what you have to put. No matter how you explain it," said Jerome Lawson.

Called 'Ban the Box' the city of Columbus removed questions from applications asking people about their past convictions.

"So for everybody to be on board to let people know that we are concerned about returning citizens .We are concerned about safety in our community. We are concerned about recidivism," said Tonza Thomas, President of NAACP Columbus.

The Safe House on Hamilton Road sees about 300-400 recently released inmates every month and provides job resources.

"We try to get them in the jobs to where they don't end up going back to prison," said Ronald Jackson of Safe House.

There are grants to provide job training for those with criminal records, which provides another way to ease the path from prison to life on the outside.

The Urban League of Columbus and the NAACP offer an employment workshop every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for returning citizens at the Georgia Department of Labor on Veterans Parkway.

Georgia has about 60,000 prisoners primarily about half are violent offenders and only about 16% would reach status of drug offenders, possession.

Georgia has the fifth largest prison population in the United States of America.

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