Senate Committee Approves Second Chance Reauthorization Act

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R–TX) speaks at the committee hearing on September 18, 2014.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R–TX) speaks at the committee hearing on September 18, 2014.

Congress took a significant first step toward continuing the work of the Second Chance Act today as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize the bipartisan bill.

Authored by U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rob Portman (R-OH), the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S. 1690) extends the Second Chance Act for an additional four years, allowing the federal government to continue providing resources to state and local governments and community-based organizations in an effort to improve the success rates for people released from prison and jail.

“Investing in reentry programs improves public safety and saves taxpayer dollars. It is also the right thing to do,” Leahy said in a prepared statement Thursday. “Many of the states represented on this Committee have benefitted from these programs and seen reductions in their recidivism rates. That is why it enjoys the support of law enforcement, the faith community, and members of both parties in the House and Senate.”

The bill reauthorizes a variety of programs under the Second Chance Act, including mentoring, substance use and family-based programming. It also expands current correctional education and employment initiatives, increases the number of grant programs available for nonprofits, and promotes increased accountability.

Enacted in 2008, experts have labeled the Second Chance Act a key contributor to states’ recent progress toward reducing recidivism, and multiple newspapers have recently rallied behind the bill and urged Congress to support it.

“The ultimate goal of our criminal justice system is to make our families stronger and our communities safer,” Portman said following the vote. “The work done under the Second Chance Act helps us to accomplish that goal, one life at a time, and I am pleased we are one step closer to its reauthorization.”

A recent report from the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC), a project of the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, highlighted eight select states that achieved reductions in three-year recidivism rates for adults released in 2007 and 2010. Since 2009, nearly 600 grants have been awarded to government and community groups to reduce high recidivism rates and support communities.

Today’s committee approval is only the first step in the legislative process. The Second Chance Reauthorization Act now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

“It’s encouraging to see this bipartisan agreement on funding that has truly made a difference in public safety,” said Harold Clarke, director of Virginia’s Department of Corrections. “I’ve seen the impact first-hand, and reauthorization will give us the opportunity to continue to improve public safety here and across the U.S.”