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Education

Strong government support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) was received under Obama's presidency during the period covering the Great Recession of 2007-2009. The Department of Education (2016) reports that over a period of seven years, the Obama administration contributed more than four billion dollars to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. President Obama believes these institutions of higher learning are important to the country’s economic growth and significant to the advancement of African Americans. The administration was committed to fully funding Pell Grants, which are designed to expand student aid for millions of low-income families. Pell Grant funding for HBCU students increased significantly between 2007 and 2014, growing from $523 million to $824 million. The White House initiative on HBCUs launched the HBCU All-Stars Program, which recognizes HBCU undergraduates, graduate, and professional students for their accomplishments in academic achievement, leadership, and civic engagement. Their commitment is true to the Department of Education’s mission of promoting student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access (US Department of Education, 2016).

Criminal justice

The Obama administration was committed to highlighting the problems surrounding all aspects of the criminal justice system, and especially reform in federal prisons. As reported in the White House Press Release (2020), the incarceration rates for African American men and women fell during each year of the Obama administration and are now at their lowest points in over two decades. After President Obama took office in 2008, his administration focused on enhancing fairness at all levels of the criminal justice system and taking action to reform it. This included a number of initiatives, including the signing of the Fair Sentencing Act, the Department of Justice’s launch of the Smart on Crime initiative, and the creation of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. President Obama followed through with his commitment to fairness in sentencing by commuting of sentences of more Americans than the previous six presidents combined. Other commitments were made in areas including solitary confinement, reentry, policing, and violent crime. The number of juveniles in secure detention has been reduced dramatically over the last decade. Under the Obama Administration, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a mandate making most individuals currently on probation or parole eligible for an SBA microloan - a loan of up to $50,000 - that helps small businesses start up. It is important, however, for the targeted populations to be aware of being able to benefit from this initiative.

The number of juveniles committed or detained, a disproportionate number of whom are African American, fell by more than 30 percent between 2007 and 2013. The President ordered the Justice Department to ban the use of solitary confinement for juveniles held in federal custody. At the present time no juveniles are being held in restrictive housing federally (White House Press Release, 2016). The Obama administration also created the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to develop a blueprint for building trust between law enforcement and communities (The White House, 2016). Reentry remains a serious issue. Obama continued to be concerned about advancing policies and programs to enable individuals to reorganize their lives in an effort to get back on track. The Obama administration worked to ensure that the formally incarcerated can successfully reintegrate into their communities (Obama, 2016).

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (Kaeble & Glaze, 2016) analysis of different types of correctional systems, the decline in the number of people committed or detained did not seem to be directly related to any particular Obama administration initiatives. By the end of 2015, some 6,741,400 individuals were under supervision in the adult correctional system. This was a decrease of approximately 115,600 individuals from the previous year. Approximately 1 in 37 adults was under a form of correctional supervision by the end of 2015, the lowest rate since 1994. Both community supervision and incarceration were down by 1.3 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. By the end of 2015, the community super-vision population was 4,650,900, the lowest since 2000, with a population of 4,564,900. The decrease in the supervision population was due primarily to a decrease in supervised probation by some 2 percent. The overall United States correctional population declined by 1.7 percent by the end of 2015. The incarcerated population in 2015 was 2,173,800, the lowest number since 2004 (2,136,600). The incarcerated population had decreased by 51,300 by the end of 2015. This represented the greatest annual decrease since 2009 (Kaeble & Glaze, 2016). Despite these promising trends and the potential benefits of these legislative efforts, African Americans remain disproportionately imprisoned.

 
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