- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2020

President Trump on Thursday told former prison inmates graduating in a program to reenter society that they are “made by God for a great and noble purpose.”

At a ceremony at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in Nevada, the president handed out diplomas to each of the 29 former offenders, who were wearing caps and gowns to signify their passage through the non-profit program called Hope for Prisoners.

“We are here to reaffirm that America is a nation that believes in redemption,” the president told them. “We believe in second chances. You have paid your debt to society and showed your commitment to change. Your future does not have to be defined by the mistakes of the past.”

The ceremony also was attended by 25 law-enforcement officials in uniform, and family members of the graduates. In its 11th year, Hope for Prisoners has graduated more than 3,100 former prisoners to prepare them to reenter society.

Mr. Trump, who has made criminal-justice reform a pillar of his agenda, said he campaigned on a pledge “to fight for those who have been forgotten, neglected, overlooked, and ignored by politicians in our nation’s capital.”

The program was founded by Jon Ponder, a former offender himself, who met with the president in 2018 as Mr. Trump signed the First Step Act, an initiative to offer more services and training for former inmates reentering the workplace.

“I have not seen another sitting president move with this much compassion when it comes to the people in the reentry community,” Mr. Ponder said.

The president surprised Mr. Ponder by revealing that he is giving “absolute consideration” to granting him a full pardon, based on his work.

“He’s saved so many lives,” the president said. “I have a feeling he’s going to get that full pardon.”

Pointing to the strong economy, Mr. Trump said his administration has begun a nationwide campaign “to encourage businesses to expand ‘second chance’ hiring.”

“Together, we are building the most prosperous economy. — and the most inclusive society — ever to exist,” the president said. “We want every citizen to join in America’s unparalleled success and every community to take part in America’s extraordinary rise. In fact, the Trump economy might be the best criminal justice reform of all. Our jobs market is so strong that businesses are recruiting former prisoners off the sidelines in great numbers.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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