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President Obama's Speech and CCE's Work

With the United States, and much of the world, turning its attention to problems in Syria, it’s worth not losing sight of President Obama’s recent speech marking the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The President’s speech was remarkable in that he addressed concepts of justice - moral, civil, and criminal – and raised some specific intersections with CCE’s current work.  

The President observed that we need to be vigilant that “the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails ….” This is an issue underlying CCE’s current DC School Discipline Project. CCE is examining whether school discipline policies and practices funnel youth toward the juvenile justice system and, if so, how to counteract the result.

The President also said that the “March” continues today and can be seen in the example of “[t]hat successful businessman who doesn’t have to but … offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con who is down on his luck ….” CCE’s DC Reentry Initiative is exactly addressing this issue. As a result of CCE’s 2011 report, Unlocking Employment Opportunity, the DC Council passed the Reentry Facilitation Amendment Act of 2012, to incent private employers to not pre-screen job applicants based on prior criminal convictions but rather evaluate them on more objective factors, such as the severity of the past offense(s), how long ago they occurred, and the like. Because employers are often concerned about possible liability issues with hiring people with any criminal record, the legislation permits a judge to remove the criminal history as a basis for a lawsuit. 


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