Dec 21, 2018

First Step Act offers second chance to ex-con job seekers

Cosmetology class at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

The U.S. is moving to ease decades of get-tough prisons policy by, among other things, beefing up training programs so that ex-convicts can get jobs.

The big picture: The First Step Act, sent to Trump on Thursday, will also reduce some sentences and give judges more sentencing flexibility. But one of the most pernicious aspects of the criminal justice system is how it has fallen short in allowing ex-convicts to make a fresh start.

Why it matters: By one estimate, barriers to employment for former prisoners caused a loss of at least $78 billion in annual GDP in 2014. Yet ex-convicts usually either cannot find work or are paid low wages, according to a Brookings report.

Daniel Yanisse, CEO of Checkr, a company that runs background checks for hiring, tells Axios that the legislation only begins to address the problem but that "it's a really good first step."

  • "We see a lot of [ex-convicts] failing in their first job because they haven't had any job training — how to present yourself, how to write a resume, how to work with a lot of people," Yanisse said.
  • Future reforms, he said, should take steps to move ex-convicts into higher-skill work, such as easing licensing rules in jobs that bar people with criminal records.

Go deeper: The First Step Act will impact thousands of federal inmates

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World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes carrying protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 930,000 and the global death toll exceeded 46,000 on Wednesday night, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 13,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. 1 future thing: Shifts to telemedicine, at-home diagnostics, and drone delivery are all likely lasting consequences from this pandemic.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases surpass 200,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Positive cases of the novel coronavirus passed 213,000 on Wednesday — nearly twice as many as Italy, per Johns Hopkins — as more state governors issued stay-at-home orders for Americans to curb infection.

The state of play: Trump administration officials are anonymously sounding the alarm that America's emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment is running dangerously low, the Washington Post reports.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 13 mins ago - Health