Obama Announces Steps to Help Ex-Inmates Return to Society

Obama Announces Steps to Help Ex-Inmates Return to Society
U.S. President Barack Obama is taking steps he says will help former inmates re-enter society, as he continues to push for reform of America’s criminal justice system.

“There are so many Americans that desperately want to earn a second chance,” said the president during a trip to Newark, New Jersey on Monday.  “So we have got to make sure that people who have paid their debt to society can earn their second chance.”

The new White House actions include new grants to help ex-prisoners return to society through education, job training, housing, legal help and children’s services.

The president also announced action to “ban the box” on federal job applications for some of the government’s most competitive jobs.  The applicants are asked to check a box on the application if they have a criminal record.

“It is relevant to find out whether or not somebody has a criminal record.  We’re not suggesting ignore it,” the president said.  “What we are suggesting is when it comes to the application, give folks a chance to get in through the door. Give them a chance to get in there so they can make their case.”

Nineteen of the 50 U.S. states and more than 100 local jurisdictions throughout the country have already dropped the criminal history box from job applications.

Obama praised bipartisan efforts in Congress to reform the criminal justice system and encouraged lawmakers to pass legislation that he says will make America’s criminal justice system “smarter and more effective.”

The president spoke after visiting a residential drug treatment facility that focuses on helping those who have completed their sentences and taking part in a forum at Rutgers University on education for former inmates.

The president said currently there are 2.2 million Americans behind bars, and the prison population is disproportionately black and Latino.  He argued helping those who have completed their sentences return to their communities will benefit society and the economy.

The government began releasing 6,000 non-violent federal prisoners earlier than expected on Friday, after reducing their penalties for drug-related crimes.  Their discharges were to be completed by Monday.

In a string of media interviews, New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed concern about the prisoner release program, saying some of the inmates may have been jailed for non-violent offenses, but in fact may have violent pasts.

Although 600,000 people leave U.S. prisons each year, the country has a high rate of incarceration. The American Civil Liberties Union said that while the United States has 5 percent of the world's population, it accounts for about 25 percent of the world's prison population.


Somali Militants Attack Government Soldiers

Somali militants from the Islamist extremist group al-Shabab have ambushed government soldiers south of the Somali capital, killing more than a dozen military personnel.

Al-Shabab put the death toll from Monday's attack at 30, while a Somali military official says at least 15 government soldiers were killed.

Militants say they also seized several military trucks in the ambush, which took place nearly 100 kilometers south of the capital, Mogadishu.

The attack took place one day after the same group of extremists killed 12 people at a Mogadishu hotel.

The members of the United Nations Security Council condemned the hotel attack and "reiterated their determination to support Somalia's transition to greater peace and stability. They underlined that neither this nor any other terrorist attack would weaken that determination."

The Council also praised the response by Somalia's army, which killed all of the attackers, and stated that "terrorism in all its forms and manifestations" is one of the most serious threats to global peace.

Somali authorities said militants set off a car bomb Sunday morning at the entrance to the Sahafi Hotel. Gunmen then stormed the site, which is popular with government officials and business executives. The dead included two lawmakers, a military commander and the owner of the hotel.

Among those killed was General Abdikarim Yusuf Dhagabadan, a former army commander who led the offensive that forced al-Shabab to retreat from Mogadishu in August 2011. General Dhagabadan previously survived several al-Shabab attempts on his life.

Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu-Musab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement Sunday.

In recent months, al-Shabab has blown up another Mogadishu hotel, overrun three African Union peacekeepers' bases in Somalia and detonated a bomb on the grounds of Somalia's presidential palace.

The group controlled most of southern Somalia as recently as 2010, but was pushed into the countryside by African Union and Somali government forces. The militants carry out frequent attacks, often targeting government officials and African Union troops.

The group seeks to impose a strict form of Ilamic law on the country and has frequently beheaded, stoned to death or amputated the limbs of people accused of various crimes.


Media-absorbed US Teens Favor Music, TV

U.S. teenagers spend nearly nine hours a day absorbing media and despite all the new options, music and television remain the favorites.

Common Sense Media released an exhaustive survey Tuesday outlining how young people spend screen time. One concern: the number of youngsters who feel comfortable multi-tasking while doing homework.

Two-thirds of teenagers said they listen to music every day, and 58 percent said the same about watching television, the study said. By contrast, 45 percent reported using social media every day and only 36 percent said they enjoyed that activity "a lot''; twice as many said they really enjoyed their music.

Television is the favorite activity of teenagers in training, with 62 percent of respondents aged 8 to 12 saying they watched every day, the study said. Tweens said they spend just under six hours a day of media time.

Exactly half of the time teenagers spend with video involves watching a TV program at the time it originally airs. The rest is parceled out among time-delayed viewing, DVDs or online video, the study said.

Boys are much more likely to play video games than girls. The survey found male teenagers spent an average of 56 minutes a day gaming, while girls devoted only seven minutes. Girls spent more time on social media or reading than boys.


Half of the teenagers said they watch TV or use social media either "a lot'' or "sometimes'' while doing homework, and 76 percent said they listen to music while working. Half of the teens say that listening to music actually helps their work, while only 6 percent said they thought it hurt.

"As a parent and educator, there's clearly more work to be done around the issue of multi-tasking,'' said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, an organization that monitors youthful media use and gives recommendations to parents. Nearly two-thirds of teens today tell us they don't think watching TV or texting while doing homework makes any difference to their ability to study and learn, even though there's more and more research to the contrary.''

More kids said their parents have talked to them about the content of what they watch or listen to rather than the time spent on media, the study said.

Poor children have less access to computers, tablets and smartphones than wealthier kids, but spend more time on devices when they have one, the study said.

Black teenagers spend more time with media than other ethnic groups, an average of 11 hours and 13 minutes each day. Latinos spend just over nine hours and whites eight hours, 48 minutes, the study found.

Common Sense Media conducted a survey of 2,658 young people between Feb. 6 and March 9. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus nearly 2 percent.

Obama Announces Steps to Help Ex-Inmates Return to Society Obama Announces Steps to Help Ex-Inmates Return to Society Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 9:07 PM Rating: 5

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