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Washington, D.C. – Bread for the World applauds President Obama’s decision to prohibit federal agencies from asking prospective government employees at the start of the hiring process about their criminal histories on job applications. Often called “ban the box,” the process refers to the checkbox on employment applications asking if the individual has ever been convicted of a crime.
“We thank President Obama for taking action to reduce the barriers to employment people face when returning from prison,” said Eric Mitchell, director of government relations at Bread for the World. “When people can’t work, they can’t eat. Right now, too many people aren’t hired because of a past criminal record. The president’s action is a major step that will improve people’s ability to access employment and put food on the table.”
Bread for the World believes that reforming our country’s mass incarceration policies and practices is crucial to ending hunger and poverty. Individuals leaving prison or with a criminal record are much more likely to experience poverty and food insecurity, partly because of the huge obstacles they encounter in finding work.
“This is one of many steps our elected leaders can take in reforming our criminal justice policies that will help alleviate hunger for people across this country,” Mitchell said. “But there is much more work to do.”
For example, Congress is currently considering the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123). The bipartisan bill reduces mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses, includes prison reforms, promotes programming for individuals currently incarcerated, and gives judges more flexibility when handing down sentences.
“While this bill won't solve all the problems with our current criminal justice system, it represents a critical first step,” Mitchell added. “Reforming our criminal justice system is essential to alleviating hunger and poverty in our country.”
Hunger and food insecurity add at least $160 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.
Mass incarceration has far-reaching effects in the United States. It poses a significant barrier to ending U.S. hunger and poverty by 2030—a goal the United States adopted in 2015. But the connection is not always obvious.
The United States has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies. Food assistance that includes nutritious food for pregnant women and young children is both a life-and-death matter for individuals and an economic imperative for countries.
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Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.
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