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

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Ex-FDA chief: Pence campaigning after COVID exposure puts others at risk — Mark Meadows: "We are not going to control the pandemic"— COVID-19 looms over White House Halloween celebrations.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week — Fauci says maybe we should mandate masks if people don't wear themU.S. reports over 80,000 new cases for second consecutive day.
  3. World: Italy tightens restrictions Spain declares new state of emergency.

Amy Coney Barrett's immediate impact

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

In her first week on the job, Amy Coney Barrett may be deciding which votes to count in the presidential election. By her third week, she’ll be deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Where it stands: The Senate votes on Barrett’s nomination tomorrow. If she’s confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to swear her in at the Supreme Court within hours, an administration official tells Axios.

Texas Democrats beg Biden to spend now

Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Biden campaign is rebuffing persistent pleas from Texas Democrats to spend at least $10 million in the Lone Star state, several people familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: If Texas — which has 38 electoral votes and is steadily getting more blue, but hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976 — flipped to the Biden column, it would be game over. But the RealClearPolitics polling average stubbornly hovers at +2.6 for Trump — and Team Biden appears more focused on closer targets.

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