Some artists have a farewell tours when they announce their retirements or when the band calls it quits. President Obama has been on his own version of a presidential farewell tour for more than a year, taking bold stands on issues he has been, ahem, very political about in his tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In recent weeks, he has all but become uncensored about the need for comprehensive criminal justice reform, starting at the federal level and reaching as far down as local jails.
His latest tour stop was Newark, New Jersey this week, where he announced that he will take executive action to “ban the box for the most competitive jobs at federal agencies,” signaling a gradual phasing out of the standard job application question about a person’s criminal record. “The federal government, I believe, should not use criminal history to screen out applicants before we even look at their qualifications. We can’t dismiss people out of hand simply because of a mistake that they made in the past,” Obama said.
At Rutgers University, accompanied by Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Senator Cory Booker, and Congressman Donald Payne, Jr., Obama made emotional and economic appeals for taking this step in eliminating some of the barriers that “returning citizens” must overcome after they are released from prison.