Remarks by President Trump on Second Chance Hiring | Eastern North Carolina Now

Press Release:

White House East Room  •  Washington D.C.  •  June 13  •  4:21 P.M. EDT

    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. (Applause.)

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

    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 healthcare and childcare. So it's been really important. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.) That's terrific. Great. Great. 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.) It's true. And I think they were being pushed a little bit also by Kim Kardashian. She's right here. (Applause.) 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, and 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. (Applause.)

    So when we say "hire American," we mean all Americans. And that's what's happening. (Applause.) First time, probably, ever. (Applause.)


    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 five 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 re-entry 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? (Applause.)

    MR. KOUFOS: 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. (Applause.)

    You know, we're in June 12th, I think, 2019 - today - and in June 12th, 2013, I was in prison. I had hurt someone - my alcoholism; I caused a car accident in my alcoholism, driving drunk. And thank the Lord I didn't kill that person, Mr. President.

    And when I was in prison - and here I was, this trial lawyer from New Jersey - nobody asked me for money, which was really a surprise in prison. But nearly everybody asked me for a job. Everyone wanted a job to avoid crime, to reunify with their families, to pay child support. And I never forgot that.


    And as my journey towards sobriety took shape, I was blessed with people like the folks in this room who gave me that second chance to contribute. And I would go on to build a very large reentry program in New Jersey. From there, I would go on to be recruited to work down here in Washington, D.C. to help do this nationally. I've worked with Governor Bryant. So many good people in the room.

    And without a second chance, I don't know where I would've been. I'm not sure if I could've stayed sober. I certainly know I wouldn't have contributed the level I did.

    Next month, I have my first child - a baby daughter - on the way. I have - (applause.) Thank you. I'm married, and I have the ability to be standing here with you, Mr. President. Thank you for taking on criminal justice reform.

    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. (Applause.)

    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, John. That's incredible. That's an incredible story. 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. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.)
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