The Obama administration plans in its final weeks to ease the legal obligations on prisoners to pay for child support while they are locked up, targeting practices that critics say can saddle ex-convicts with crippling debts, Reuters reports. The regulatory changes, if put in place, would give President Obama something more to show for his efforts to reform the U.S. criminal justice system. As the first black president of a nation that incarcerates a disproportionately large number of black and Latino men, Obama has made it a priority to address problems that make it difficult for released inmates to reenter society.
The rules would require that prisoners be allowed to lower the amount of child support they pay in prison, with the goal of preventing large debts that inmates struggle to repay after release and that can lead to reincarceration. Some Republican critics have said such a change would let parents flout their financial responsibilities. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) last year introduced a bill to block the administration from making such a change. A Republican House aide said the administration’s initiative would amount to a “backdoor effort” to avoid the legislative process. “We are always happy to sit down and talk with Congress, but at some point we have to move forward with what we know we are legally permitted to do and what is right,” a White House official said.