President Obama visits Rutgers University–Newark to promote improvements in criminal justice.
President Barack Obama paid a visit to Rutgers University–Newark on November 2 as part of his national tour to promote changing the criminal justice system to stop the revolving door of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that impairs lives and destroys communities. The president called for providing support services for released inmates, reducing sentences for nonviolent offenders, and eliminating the stigma of a prison record for job-seekers.
The president delivered his remarks at the Center for Law and Justice at Rutgers–Newark and then convened a roundtable discussion on the issue whose participants included U.S. Senator Cory Booker and Newark mayor Ras Baraka as well as alumni, faculty, and students. Rutgers–Newark is the administrator of the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium (NJ-STEP), a statewide program to provide higher education courses to eligible inmates in the state.
“I’ve spoken to men and women who are part of programs like NJ-STEP here at Rutgers–Newark,” President Obama said. “You’re giving prisoners a chance to start taking college courses before their release so that they can re-enter society with marketable skills.”
Rutgers Law School has been a leader in rethinking mass incarceration and how to improve conditions for the incarcerated. Laura Cohen RC’83 is a professor at the school, where the effort of faculty and students dovetails with the president’s emphasis on overhauling some of the nation’s harshest sentencing laws, particularly for nonviolent offenders.
“We are at the forefront of juvenile justice reform in the state,” says Cohen. “The law school has made a very real and lasting commitment to systematic reform.”