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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

Journalism enters dangerous new era

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Capitol attack on Jan. 6 resulted in at least nine physical assaults against journalists and at least five arrests, per the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker's top editor.

Why it matters: President Trump's harsh rhetoric towards the press has empowered leaders abroad and locally in the U.S. to continue to attack press that they don't like.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The beginning of the beginning for Biden's climate push

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Joe Biden's inauguration and the days right after will bring a rat-tat-tat burst of climate policy moves, but keep this in mind amid the splashy pledges: pushing through most of his agenda will be a long, uncertain slog.

Why it matters: Biden's climate plan is far more expansive than anything contemplated under President Obama. But for all the immediate pledges, it will take years to see how far Biden gets.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Biden's inflation danger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal has economists and bullish market analysts revising their U.S. growth expectations higher, predicting a reflation of the economy in 2021 and possibly more booming returns for risk assets.

Yes, but: Others are warning that what's expected to be reflation could actually show up as inflation, a much less welcome phenomenon.

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