Last night, in his final State of the Union address, President Obama spoke directly to the value and promise behind Second Chance employment in America. In a speech that was equal parts reflective and aspirational, the President said that he was hopeful for the nation’s future as he completes his final term, thanks to the many voices of those “busy doing the work this country needs doing.”
We at the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation were particularly excited to hear the President use the words “second chance” in his speech. Because although it is simple language that can be applied to a variety of scenarios, we know that this language matters. We know that a second chance is precisely what is needed for any person who has, as the President stated, “served his [their] time and dreams of starting over.” It was extra gratifying to notice that Obama addressed both the opportunity for the individual and for the business owner willing to give him [them] a second chance. With all of the well-deserved attention focused on the need for improved housing, addiction, and other reentry support services for those individuals rejoining society after prison, we must not lose sight of the equally important role of the employer who will help build their paths to stability and success through earned employment.
In reviewing all of the post-address commentary from the media this morning, we were reminded of the enormous uphill battle that most of the current federal criminal justice reform legislation faces in both the House and Senate. Although the bipartisan voices of our reform champions like Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Representative Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are gathering momentum, there are still great obstacles ahead of their bills as this Congress winds down (there are fewer than 100 days left in the session). We have confidence that the Smarter Sentencing Act, the Fair Chance Act, and related legislation will find its way in some form or another in the coming years, but we recognize that the fight will be long and challenging.
For that reason, we applaud President Obama for bringing attention to the simple power and promise of second chances in America. We have seen this President’s compassion and his informed advocacy on the issue of criminal justice reform visibly growing in the past year, and we hope that his successor will continue to raise the voices in their administration as well.
See the full text of Obama’s SOTU here.