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Obama Takes Steps to Help Former Inmates Find Homes and Jobs

Obama Takes Steps to Help Former Inmates Find Homes and Jobs

President Obama ordered federal agencies on Monday to stop asking most prospective employees about their criminal histories at the beginning of the application process, a change long sought by activists to help reintegrate former inmates into society.

During a trip to Newark, where he visited a residential drug treatment center, Mr. Obama said that America would be stronger if it found ways to move criminals emerging from prison into paying jobs, but that too many employers dismiss applicants out of hand if they are honest and check the box asking whether they have been convicted of a crime.

Mr. Obama also unveiled a series of small initiatives intended to make it easier for former prisoners to find jobs and live in subsidized housing, moves that were important less for their individual effect than for the momentum they continue. Collectively, they reflect a belief that former inmates should have greater leeway to apply for jobs and housing without disclosing criminal records.

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The president announced grants to provide job training for those with criminal records, including a software development program in Newark, and issued new guidance for public authorities that clarifies when arrest records can be used to determine eligibility for assisted housing. In addition, he announced the creation of a national clearinghouse to help former inmates expunge or seal records, when possible, and a program to help public housing residents under the age of 25 do the same.

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