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Susan Walsh
President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 Prison Reform Summit and First Step Act Celebration in the East Room of the White House in Washington, April 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday he wants to follow up on criminal justice reform with efforts that help federal inmates find jobs after they leave prison.

Congress passed legislation last year called the First Step Act that gives judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders and boosts prisoner rehabilitation efforts. The effort drew strong support from Republicans and Democrats worried that mandatory minimum laws had generated unfair sentences in many drug-related cases.

Trump said Americans with criminal backgrounds are unemployed at rates up to five times the national average, which stood at 3.8 percent in February.

He said a "Second Step Act" will focus on "successful re-entry and reduced unemployment for Americans with past criminal records." His goal is to cut that unemployment rate for ex-prisoners to single digits within five years.

The president was short on details about what future legislation would include, but the White House said Trump's budget for the next fiscal year proposes more than $500 million to help prisoners succeed after their release.

"When we say 'hire American,' we mean all Americans, including former inmates who have paid their debt to society," Trump said.

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Trump was joined on stage by a handful of former prisoners who have been helped through the First Step Act. He asked each of them to speak, sparking a unique level of spontaneity, sadness and cheer in the White House East Room as they recounted their experience. Gregory Allen noted that two months ago he was in a prison cell, and now he was telling his story at the White House, calling it an example of what would "make America great again," Allen said, borrowing from the president's trademark phrase as the audience laughed and applauded.