Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks on Employment Opportunities for Former Inmates

June 13, 2019

The President. Thank you very much. Please, please. Great occasion.

I want to welcome everyone to the White House. We're here today to announce a vital new action that we're taking to help former inmates find a job, live a crime-free life, and succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

And this afternoon we're very grateful to have many distinguished guests, including Secretary Alex Acosta. Alex, thank you very much. Governor Phil Bryant. Thank you, Phil, very much, very much. Governor Bill Lee. We just spent some time together. Tennessee.

And I have to say, my administration is focused on lifting up all Americans. And that's exactly what we're doing with this. As part of our working families agenda, we've expanded apprenticeships and job training, we've delivered historic tax cuts—the biggest ever in the history of our country—and regulatory reform, and we've increased access to affordable health care and childcare. So it's been really important. Thank you.

And as a result of the booming economy, we're bringing Americans who have been on the sidelines back into the workforce, including former inmates and those recovering from opioid addiction. Very important. And it's been incredible, the success we've had.

Since the election, we've created 6 million new jobs. We've added more than a million new jobs in manufacturing, construction, and steel alone. And everyone said that was going to be an impossibility to do, manufacturing jobs. African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment have reached the lowest levels and the lowest rates in history of our country. It's been an incredible situation.

Our policies are rebuilding lives, rebuilding families, and rebuilding communities. To realize America's full potential, we must unlock the talents of every single citizen. We want to lift every American family out of poverty and into a future of hope and opportunity.

In December of last year, I signed into law groundbreaking and historic reform to our criminal justice system: the First Step Act. That's terrific. Great. Great. [Applause] That's terrific. Thank you. Thank you very much. I think you like it. [Laughter]

It is true though, since we've got it passed, nobody realized how tough it was. They've been trying to do it for many years. And many, many years. And nobody thought they could do it. And we got it done. But we had tremendous conservative support and tremendous liberal support. It was very bipartisan. Some of the most conservative people—I know Mike Lee was in favor of it, and Chuck Grassley was in favor of it. And then, on the other side, you had people that, frankly, I didn't think would be signing too many of the things that I wanted to do, Phil Bryant, you know? [Laughter]

But they all wanted it. And it's something that I'm very proud of. And Jared and Ivanka were incredible. And they really pushed it. [Applause] True. And I think they were being pushed a little bit also by Kim Kardashian. [Laughter] She's right here. So thank you, Kim. And Kanye. Thank you.

Since its passage, more than a dozen States have advanced similar reforms at the State level. Now we must make sure that Americans returning from prison get a true second chance. Right? America wins when citizens with a criminal record can contribute to their communities as law-abiding members of our society. When former inmates come home, the single most important action we can take is to help them find a really, really good job, where they love the job, they want to go there, they're making a lot money. Right? And that's what's happening. And that's because of a lot of reasons, including the people in this room. But it's also because we have a great economy.

And some people that wouldn't have normally made that choice, they've made that choice, and they are so happy. I'm talking about employers. They are so happy; they can't even believe it. They've got—one man told me some of the best people that work for him now came out of prison. And these are people that a few years ago, they—he would not have given a chance. And now he considers them among his best people.

Too often, former inmates are not considered for jobs even if they're qualified, rehabilitated, and ready to work. And that's why we're taking crucial steps to encourage business to expand second-chance hiring practices.

So when we say "hire American," we mean all Americans. And that's what's happening. First time, probably, ever. And I think I can say, truly—and a lot of the folks in the room are experts, and you've been doing this for a long time—but I think it's probably the first time we can truly say that in the history of our country that that's happening. So it's really been fantastic.

The unemployment rate for former inmates is up to five times higher than the national average. My administration has set an ambitious goal: We want to cut the unemployment rate for these individuals to single digits within 5 years. And we think there's a really good chance of doing it. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you.

Second-chance hiring is about safer communities, a stronger workforce, and a thriving economy. We believe in the dignity of work and the pride of a paycheck.

Here with us today is Johnny Koufos. And I worked on that name, because it's spelled a little bit differently. [Laughter] It's spelled a little bit differently than was supposed to, but I got it right, I think, Johnny. I don't know. Close enough. [Laughter] A lawyer who served time in prison for an alcohol-related accident and now runs a reentry program. He's done incredibly well. He's highly respected in the community. He's a tremendous guy.

And, John, maybe you could come up and say a few words, please. Okay?

Right on Crime National Director of Reentry Initiatives John Koufos. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you all for being here. And don't worry about the name; it's Greek. That's the best pronunciation anyone has done in many years. [Laughter] Again, my name is John Koufos. And, Mr. President, you know, your courage in criminal justice reform has made America safer, and it's made America better, and it's made America more prosperous. So, first and foremost, I want to thank you for that.

[At this point, Mr. Koufos continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

Folks, this is the public safety issue of our time. This is a justice issue of our time. This is a civil rights issue of our time. And this is a prosperity issue of our time. And, Mr. President, thanks to you, it's all of our time. God bless you.

The President. Thank you, John. That's incredible. That's an incredible story. And I can't tell you the job he's done. So respected.

Across the Federal Government, we're giving former inmates the resources they need to make the most of their new lease on life. Today the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that it will work with employers to help those leaving prison to have a job lined up when they are released. Something that pretty much has never happened before.

Also, earlier today the Department of Labor—Alex, that's good; he's done a great job. [Laughter] He's done a good job. Awarded $2 million to States to support "fidelity bonds," which underwrite companies that hire former prisoners.

We are expanding our Second Chance Pell Grant pilot program to allow individuals to use their time in prison to take college-level classes. That's great. That's great. That's great.

The Department of Energy has begun a new initiative to inform American workers, including former inmates, about great jobs in the booming energy industry. And that is a great industry. And just in case you didn't hear me say this before: We've now become the number-one energy producer, by far, in the world. We're topping Saudi Arabia, and we're topping Russia.

Our administration is also working to allow rehabilitated citizens with a criminal record to apply for both Federal Government jobs and affordable housing, something that we were unable to do before.

Here with us today is Marcus Bullock, who went to prison as a minor in 1996 and now runs a technology company. And he's doing a very good job. Marcus, please come up and say hello. You're here. Thank you.

Bring in the Community Founder and Chief Executive Officer Marcus Bullock. Thank you so much, Mr. President. When I was in cell C-12, I'd never thought that I would be standing here on this podium, so I'm going to suck all of this moment up while I'm standing right here. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. When I was 15 years old, I made one of the worst mistakes of my life, and it landed me in front of a judge, listening to him sentence me to 8 years in adult maximum security prisons. I grew up in a prison cell, and I'll tell you, that was one of—some of the darkest times of my life.

[Mr. Bullock continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

We've connected over 140,000 families around the country. And I'm so grateful because the resources that are flowing back into these prison cells, using our tech, is building the next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders, business executives like me, and great employees at some of you all's incredible companies.

I'm so grateful to be a small part of the solution, because we do understand that this crisis is huge. But with you guys' leadership, I feel very, very optimistic about the future of employment. Thank you.

The President. And tomorrow Marcus will be announcing a run for a major public office. You did a good job. Huh? You guys, great job. Thank you both very much. Really fantastic.

Today we're also joined by many employers who are hiring former inmates and helping us build the strongest economy on Earth. We have some very successful people in this room, and we appreciate it all very much. Thank you very much. Great job.

Among the leaders who join us today is Steve Preston, the CEO of Goodwill. Goodwill employs and provides training and other services for more than 100,000 former inmates each and every year. Steve, I want to thank you for the devotion and all that you do for a second chance. Steve. Steve. Please, Steve. Say a couple of words.

Goodwill Industries President and Chief Executive Officer Steven C. Preston. All right. Right. Well, thank you very much, Mr. President, for your leadership in the First Step Act, and for working with Congress to pass this in a bipartisan fashion. That just sounds great, doesn't it? The President. It sounds great.

Mr. Preston. Yes, it really does. Because we know that it's not an issue of one side of the aisle or the other. It's an issue for the entire country. And now we all get to work together to ensure that we truly give people, who are coming back home, a real second chance.

[Mr. Preston continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

So thank you again, Mr. President, for all that you are doing to be part of—to advance this important effort. Thank you guys for your stories. These are—like, there is no better testimony than to see what's happening here. And there are other people around the country that have the same experience if they're given the right chance. Thank you.

The President. Thank you.

And I thought maybe I'd just a take moment. So, at the White House—and been with me now 3½ years, before I won, before the election—is a person, a friend, a woman—a great, great magnificent person, actually—named Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And she's very popular. She's very popular.

And she's done an incredible job. We've been through a lot together, and she's tough, but she's good. You know, you also have tough and bad, right? [Laughter] She's tough, and she's good. She's great.

And she's going to be leaving the service of her country, and she is going to be going—I guess you could say private sector, but I hope she's going to—she comes from a great State, Arkansas. That was a State I won by a lot, so I like it, right? [Laughter]

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Yes, sir.

The President. But we love Arkansas, and she's going to be going back to Arkansas with her great family—her husband, who's a fantastic guy, and her family.

And I don't know, Phil, and folks, if we can get her to run for the Governor of Arkansas, I think she'll do very well. And I'm trying to get her to do that.

But I just saw her in the room, and I really wanted to call her up. She's a special person, a very, very fine woman. She has been so great. She has such heart. She's strong, but with great, great heart. And I want to thank you for an outstanding job.

Press Secretary. Sanders. Thank you, sir.

The President. And—thank you. Come. Thank you, honey. Say a couple words.

Press Secretary Sanders. Thank you. Thank you so much. I'll try not to get emotional because I know that crying can make us look weak sometimes, right? [Laughter] This has been the honor of a lifetime, the opportunity of a lifetime. I couldn't be prouder to have had the opportunity to serve my country and particularly to work for this President. He has accomplished so much in these 2½ years, and it's truly been something I will treasure forever. It's one of the greatest jobs I could ever have. I've loved every minute. Even the hard minutes, I have loved it.

[Press Secretary Sanders continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

And I don't want to take away from that. So I certainly want to get back to the tremendous thing that the people behind me have done. And thank you so much, Mr. President. It's truly an honor.

The President. Thank you, Sarah. Thank you very much. Great. Great person. Great person. Thank you, Sarah. Great. She's a warrior. You guys know what warriors are, right? Yes? You're warriors. Huh? We're all warriors. We have no choice. [Laughter] We have to be warriors in this world. But she is a warrior. Thank you, Sarah, very much.

We're also glad to have with us the president of the Society for Human Resource Management, Johnny Taylor. And where's Johnny? Where's Johnny? Come here, Johnny. [Laughter] Johnny. This guy is some guy and some athlete, that I can tell you.

So maybe you could just talk a little bit about what we're doing and how well you're doing with it, right? Thank you, Johnny.

Society for Human Resource Management President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny Taylor. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you.

Mr. Taylor. So I vividly remember December 2018, waking up one morning and reading in the newspaper that Congress had signed—had passed, and the President had signed, the First Step Act. I literally did not believe that would ever happen. [Laughter] And I mean, so much so that I got up and said: "I can't believe it. Like, he said he'd do it. But I didn't think it would happen." And here we were.

[Mr. Taylor continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And so now, all of a sudden, Mr. President, your goal—your goal of getting that five times the number down to single digits—we're going to do it. And the Society for Human Resource Management. SHRM and our 300,000 members are committed. We're going to play our role. We're going to be warriors to get these warriors back to work. Thank you. God bless you.

The President. Thank you, Johnny. You'll do it too.

This afternoon we also have an exciting announcement to ensure former inmates can overcome some of the greatest barriers to employment, including limited access to transportation, which is needed for interviews and for jobs.

To make this announcement, I'd like to invite up a very special guest and a powerful advocate for not only justice reform, but just a good person. And I hear she's starting to study law. She's also one of the most successful people in the entertainment business. Soon, she'll be one of the most successful lawyers—I hate to tell all my lawyers back there. [Laughter] But I knew her father, and I'll tell you, she's got good genes—that I can tell you. Good genes for everything. And she's been a real friend, and her husband has been a real friend of mine. Kim Kardashian West.

Social media personality Kim Kardashian West. Hi. It really is such an honor to be here today, so thank you. My whole journey with criminal justice reform started about a year ago when I came to see the President, after speaking to Ivanka and Jared—who really fought for me to get here—and I pled the case of Alice Johnson, who the President granted clemency to.

[Ms. Kardashian West continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

And I think the ultimate goal is everyone wants the community to be safe. And the more opportunity that we have and that they have and the support that we help give them, the safer everyone will be. And the recidivism rate will be—continue to just get lower. And so I'm just thankful to everyone here that's in support and so proud of this partnership with the rideshare organization. So thank you.

The President. Beautiful. Thank you. Thank you, Kim. Thank you. Great. I think she's pretty popular, huh? What do you think? [Laughter] I can tell you this: If she is your assistant—she's your assistant. Two lawyers? [Laughter]. She's your assistant? She's the highest paid assistant in history. [Laughter] There's never been anything like it. Anyway, thank you, Kim. That was beautiful.

I want to also just, while I'm here—a couple of friends, and they've been rally incredible to me: Pastor Darrell Scott. Just stand up. He is something. He's a religious man, but I watched him on CNN so often and, you know, I wouldn't say that's the friendliest. [Laughter] And I watched you take apart people like they were nothing. So thank you, Pastor. He's a pastor.

New Spirit Revival Center Pastor Darrell C. Scott. In 2020, we'll do it again.

The President. Twenty-twenty, we'll do it again. We're going to do it again.

And Pastor Paula White. Thank you, Paula. That support has been incredible. Thank you, Paula. Thank you very much. Great job. Right from the beginning, both of them.

In every action we take, we are revitalizing our cities, restoring hope to our communities, and uniting citizens all across our country. We're helping families grow their incomes and attend the schools of their choice, earn a great living, and have a truly rewarding career. We want to ensure that every American is prepared for the jobs of today and for the industries of tomorrow.

And together, we are expanding the blessings of America for every citizen, from every background, from every community, and every walk of life. We are breaking down old barriers, tearing down yesterday's obstacles, and replacing the failures of the past with the bright and limitless future. That's what we have going. It's a limitless future.

So many people in this room and so many people outside of this room—they're given a second and, in some cases, a third chance, in all fairness. And I will say, they are really, really producing. It's a great thing to watch. If you—you know. You know all about it. And you know about it very well. And thank you.

Mr. Koufos. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. We really appreciate your being here. And we'll not stop until everyone in our national family can achieve their own beautiful American Dream.

I want to thank everybody for being here. God bless you. God bless America. I very much appreciate it. Thank you all very much. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:21 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. D. Philip Bryant of Mississippi; Sens. Michael S. Lee and Charles E. Grassley; White Senior Adviser Jared C. Kushner; Adviser to the President Ivanka M. Trump; musician Kanye O. West; Bryan Sanders, husband of Press Secretary Sanders; Erin Haney, national policy director, and Jessica Jackson, national director and cofounder, #cut50; and Paula White-Cain, senior pastor, New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, FL. Ms. Kardashian West referred to Memphis, TN, resident Alice Marie Johnson, whose lifetime prison sentence was commuted by the President on June 6, 2018.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks on Employment Opportunities for Former Inmates Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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