President Trump spoke at an unusual graduation ceremony on Thursday and inspired the class of graduates, all former prisoners. HOPE for Prisoners assists formerly incarcerated people with reentry into society by providing long-term support and services. Founder Jon Ponder experienced significant challenges on his release from prison and noted the lack of resources for others in his situation. He started HOPE for Prisoners to help others.
Trump has often expressed his support for criminal justice reform, signing into law several acts that reduced sentencing, shortened jail terms, and stopped the chaining of women in prison as they give birth. His appearance at the HOPE for Prisoners graduation affirms his commitment to second chances and investing in people who have been incarcerated as worthwhile members of our community.
“To the 29 graduates who are returning to your families, you have paid your debt to society and shown a commitment to change,” he said. “You’ve overcome many challenges, broken free of addiction, learned new skills, and replaced old habits with fresh resolve.”
The president went on to encourage the graduates with stirring sentiments about redemption. “Your future does not have to be defined by the mistakes of the past,” he said. “Today we declare that you are made by God for a great and noble purpose and you are valued members of our American family. We are determined to help you succeed and we are going to work with you.”
Redemption is supposed to be the result of criminal punishment, but all too often, criminals in America are seen as disposable people who are locked away and forgotten. When they are released, there is little help, and very few job options for felons exist. If America truly believes in rehabilitation, then organizations like HOPE for Prisoners, which actually do the work of helping formerly incarcerated Americans become contributing members of society, should be supported and praised. President Trump’s dedication to and interest in solving these issues that face the forgotten men and women who have served time in prison are a constant presence in his presidency.