CHN: Second Chance Act
Reentry Bill Awaits President’s Signature
On March 11, after months of delay, the Senate passed the Second Chance Act of 2007, S. 1060, by unanimous consent. The Second Chance Act is designed to help ex-offenders reenter their communities successfully. The House passed its bill, H.R. 1593, which is identical to the Senate bill, last November with overwhelming bipartisan support, 347 to 62. The bill has been sent to the President’s desk and is expected to be signed into law. The lead sponsors of the bill are Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) and Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE).
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 2.25 million Americans were incarcerated at the end of 2006. Of those incarcerated, 95 percent will at some point be released and will reenter their communities. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of the 650,000 prisoners released annually are re-arrested within three years of their release. The Second Chance Act aims to stem these alarming trends by providing people leaving corrections with more adequate support. The bill authorizes $362 million over fiscal years 2008 and 2009 for Justice Department inmate treatment and reentry programs, plus an additional $20 million over the same time period for initiatives at the Bureau of Prisons to better prepare prisoners for reentry into the community.
The Second Chance Act takes a comprehensive approach to reduce recidivism by providing states and localities with grants to implement successful strategies to ensure safe and successful reentry. States can use the funding to offer various support services, including job training, education, and substance abuse and mental health services. Housing activities are also considered eligible uses of program funds. Advocates consider this an essential provision given the high rate of homelessness among people released from jails. The bill also establishes a national resource center for research on reentry; commissions reentry-related research; and authorizes grants to nonprofit organizations for mentoring and transitional programs.