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U.S. Attorney pushes job training for former inmates

Sometimes, there's a better tool than the hammer.

It may seem odd to hear a federal prosecutor talk that way, but Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. says that's the goal behind his new Smart on Crime Initiative.

Kennedy, who took over as U.S. Attorney two weeks ago, said the strategy will help his office enforce federal laws more fairly and, in the wake of budget cuts, more efficiently.

“To the man who only has a hammer in the tool kit, every problem looks like a nail," Kennedy said. "Yet, increasingly, many are coming to the realization that some of the recurring problems we see may be better addressed with tools other than—or in addition to—our hammer.”

In Buffalo, that means federal funding to help ease a convict's re-entry into the community.

The money finances a job readiness program that Kennedy believes will overcome one of the largest obstacles confronting former inmates - jobs.

The workers are trained in asbestos removal and remediation, and as forklift operators.

“These previously convicted felons are literally and figuratively being given the opportunity to clean-up and raise-up their lives and our community," Kennedy said Thursday, in a statement.

The federal initiative is also funding Recycle-A-Bicycle, an at-risk youth program at the Matt Urban Hope Center in Buffalo. Under the program, students receive a bicycle and are taught how to strip down and reassemble the bike. They also get to keep it.

“This after-school program promotes the development of hands-on problem-solving skills and teaches kids the fundamental notion that they have the ability to fix things that are broken,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy's strategy grew out of a 2013 Justice Department review of the criminal justice system and its recommendations for reform.

The goal, he said, is to ensure that his office's limited resources are devoted to the most important law enforcement priorities, and to eliminate disparities in the criminal justice system.



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