*By praising Michael Vick’s “second chance” after the NFL quarterback served 19 months in prison on a dogfighting conviction, the president is creating an opening for a national discussion on opportunities for former prisoners.
President Barack Obama is causing quite a stir in the national prisoner reentry movement with his comments on Michael Vick. “So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance,” Obama reportedly told the owner of Vick’s football team, the Philadelphia Eagles. “…It’s never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out.”
The Eagles signed Vick after he served 19 months in prison for running a dogfighting operation, and by praising the team’s owner for giving the quarterback a second chance, the president is broaching a subject that’s sure to be polarizing. As states across the U.S. struggle with looming budget deficits, Obama perhaps realizes the timing may be right to address what he has called the country’s “incarceration and post-incarceration crisis” and remove barriers that inhibit successful prisoner reentry by offering former offenders an opportunity to reclaim their lives and a modicum of dignity.
While Obama’s conversation with the Eagles’ owner, Jeffrey Lurie, about second chances for formerly incarcerated persons might be among his most publicized pronouncements on the subject, they certainly were not his first. As a presidential candidate in September 2008, he sent a letter to the Third Annual Prisoner Reentry Summit commending San Francisco city leaders for their “innovate work to reduce recidivism” and pledging to create opportunities for former prisoners if elected.
Read MORE of this article by Mansfield Frazier at The Daily Beast.