It's time to do more to let ex-offenders back into the workforce

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On July 19, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at creating more opportunities for job training amid a shifting demand for skills and education in the U.S. labor market. This initiative was supported by more than 15 major companies, including Walmart, Microsoft, and General Motors, who have pledged to expand apprenticeships and provide more skills-based job training. These companies collectively pledged to train or hire 3.8 million people over the next five years.

This executive order should be applauded, but the administration's pro-growth agenda could go a step further. In a strong labor market, policymakers should focus on helping those with criminal records find work.

According to Trump's executive order, 6.7 million jobs are currently unfilled—a historic high. This labor shortage is incentivizing employers to consider previously-overlooked populations to find talent.

Of the many hurdles ex-offenders face during reentry into society, finding work is arguably the toughest. A 2003 Harvard study found that job applicants with a record of a felony conviction are 50 percent less likely to receive a call back. One-third of adults in the U.S. have past convictions, while 90 percent of companies use background checks in their hiring decisions. This discourages applications from potentially qualified candidates who may have prior convictions while also putting many jobs further out of reach. As a result, one year after release, over 60 percent of former inmates remain unemployed.

It's clear that helping ex-offenders would have significant positive economic effects. The Center for Economic Policy Research finds that lost output from people with criminal records accounts for a loss of $78 to $87 billion in GDP annually. According to an analysis by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, if we could better incorporate ex-offenders into the workplace, $2,600 would be returned to taxpayers.

Furthermore, helping those with criminal history find employment brings many benefits for public safety, specifically by reducing recidivism. A 2016 Arizona State University study showed that the inability to obtain a job is the best indicator of how likely someone is to re-offend or end up re-incarcerated. Additionally, research from the University of Chicago found that decreases in the overall unemployment rate causes a corresponding drop in the crime rates associated with larceny, auto theft, and burglary, reflecting how much less likely felons are to commit future crimes if they're able to find employment after prison.

The Trump administration has consistently stated its support of improving the reentry process and reducing recidivism. So, what steps should it take? The biggest challenge is identifying how to help individuals released from incarceration adapt to a changing labor market after missing opportunities to gain skills, networks, and a sufficient education while incarcerated.

Employers must play crucial role in advancing fresh start initiatives. Open-minded hiring requires that employers focus on applicants' qualifications and skills, not their history. Fortunately, large corporations such as Starbucks, Target, and Koch Industries are setting a precedent for reform by adopting their own "ban-the-box" policies, where they don't ask job-seekers about prior convictions. This encourages more individuals to apply and helps employers find the best talent.

Another way to help ex-offenders find employment is by reducing regulatory barriers, specifically when it comes to occupational licensing, the practice of government requiring individuals to obtain a license or certification to pursue a particular profession. States such as Kansas, Tennessee, and Indiana passed occupational licensing reforms this year that ease government restrictions on ex-offenders finding work. Specifically, these states ended the use of vague, discretionary standards that enabled licensing authorities to consider past crimes and minor legal violations that are unrelated to the profession being pursued by an applicant. Many of these laws also prohibit licensing authorities from using criminal history as a disqualification for licensure if a set period of time has passed since the applicant's conviction. Now, licensing boards in these states must give specific, relevant reasons for denying a license to someone based on a criminal conviction. As a result, their decisions are more transparent and ex-offenders are presented with fewer barriers when trying to obtain an occupational license. The Trump administration should push more states in this direction.

Simply put, corrections policy needs to promote work. Congress should continue working on legislation such as the First Step Act that passed the House this summer. Legislation like this offers inmates coming out of prison a second chance by implementing programs that prepare individuals for jobs. This is done by providing educational assistance, rehabilitation programs, and vocational skills development.

President Trump can improve his recent executive order by calling for hiring and apprenticeship initiatives that focus specifically on ex-offenders and utilizing the administration's close cooperation with business leaders. This will provide more momentum for state-level reforms that reduce licensing restrictions and other government barriers to work.

Work is the main key to reducing recidivism, thereby strengthening communities and bolstering public safety. With today's booming economy, now is the time to promote reentry reform by attacking burdensome occupational licensing regulations, advancing hiring reform, and creating an environment that encourages ex-offenders to find work. While President Trump is notorious for wanting to build walls, this portion of his agenda must aim to break down barriers.

Mitchell Siegel is an intern at the Foundation for Government Accountability. He is rising junior studying economics at Duke University.

Countless leaders on the left are now arguing that removing President Donald Trump from office won't be enough — they're now calling for the president's "cult-like" supporters to be "deprogrammed." And it's not just fringe politicians.

During an appearance on "Real Time with Bill Maher" last week, former NBC anchor Katie Couric said, "The question is, how are we going to really almost deprogram these people who have signed up for the cult of Trump."

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi questioned whether the nation needs "a 9/11-type commission" to determine whether President Trump was colluding with Russian President Vladimir Putin "the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol." Clinton also made sure to include her favorite "deplorables" in her unsubstantiated conspiracy theory:

"But we now know that not just [Trump] but his enablers, his accomplices, his cult members, have the same disregard for democracy," Clinton said to Pelosi.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and New York Times Magazine's Nikole Hannah-Jones agreed that there is a need for "millions of Americans, almost all white, almost all Republicans" to be deprogrammed and punished, during an MSNBC interview last week.

Now, a story from the Washington Post is also preaching that narrative and even added that we need more restrictions for conservatives on social media and in the broadcast industry.

"So now we have to be deprogrammed? We've heard this over and over and over and over again, for months," said Glenn Beck on the radio program Tuesday. He read through the shocking details of the Washington Post op-ed and discussed the extraordinary dangers of the latest anti-conservative movement in America.

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As calls for censorship and restrictions against conservative voices get louder, Glenn Beck said he feels an "awesome responsibility" to speak, not the words he'd personally like to say, but those he believes the Lord would want him to share.

"It's an awesome responsibility, and one that I am not worthy of," Glenn said. "I want to say ... what He wants me to say. And I have to listen very carefully, because I feel the same way you do. But that will get us nowhere."

Glenn said it's time for Americans who are awake — not woke — to come together, no matter which side of the political aisle you're on, and stand with the truth.

"We are the Alamo, we will stand. But we desperately, desperately need you," Glenn said. "We need the people who are awake — not woke — awake. You may disagree with us. We are your allies, not your enemies. And if you will not stand with us in our hour of need, there will be no one left to stand with you in your hour of need. We must all come together, anyone who is awake."

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The incoming Biden administration plans to waste no time in overturning much of the progress achieved by President Donald Trump.

On his radio program Monday, Glenn Beck ran through 10 executive orders President Joe Biden plans to announce on "day one" of his time in office — including rejoining the Paris climate accord, canceling the Keystone pipeline, mask mandates on federal land and during interstate travel, and a proposed federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.

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Eric Weinstein, managing director of investment firm Thiel Capital and host of "The Portal" podcast, is not a conservative, but he says conservative and center-right-affiliated media are the only ones who will still allow oppositional voices.

On "The Glenn Beck Podcast" this week, Eric told Glenn that the center-left media, which "controls the official version of events for the country," once welcomed him, but that all changed about eight years ago when they started avoiding any kind of criticism by branding those who disagree with them as "alt-right, far-right, neo-Nazi, etc.," even if they are coming from the left side of the aisle. But their efforts to discredit critical opinions don't stop there. According to Eric, there is a strategy being employed to destroy our national culture and make sure Americans with opposing views do not come together.

"We're trifling with the disillusionment of our national culture. And our national culture is what animates the country. If we lose the culture, the documents will not save us," Eric said. "I have a very strongly strategic perspective, which is that you save things up for an emergency. Well, we're there now."

In the clip below, Eric explains why, after many requests over the last few years, he finally agreed to this podcast.

Don't miss the full interview with Eric Weinstein here.

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