Washington, D.C.—In an extraordinary display of bipartisan cooperation, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Congressmen Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Howard Coble (R-NC), and Bobby Scott (D-VA) came together today to mark the five-year anniversary of the Second Chance Act and to announce that they, along with other Senate and House leaders, will be introducing legislation reauthorizing the landmark act today.
Since being signed into law with bipartisan support in 2008, the Second Chance Act has made nearly 600 grants totaling approximately $300 million to increase public safety and reduce recidivism through the development and coordination of pre- and post-release reentry services such as employment training, substance abuse treatment, mentoring, and improved community supervision. The evidence-based, innovative approaches authorized under this legislation reduce recidivism, and, as a result, help increase public safety and save taxpayer dollars.
The new bill—the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2013, introduced in the Senate by Senators Portman and Leahy and in the House by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Congressmen Davis, Coble, Scott, Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Steve Chabot (R-OH)—expands the number of grant programs available and promotes increased accountability and outcomes from grantees. Applicants that partner with local evaluators in order to develop data-collection systems and outcome evaluations will be prioritized for funding, meaning programs will be better prepared to measure and track recidivism consistently over time. The bill also authorizes separate planning grants that are designed to ensure that programs utilize evidence-based practices that are most likely to result in reduced recidivism and other improved outcomes.
“More than 650,000 ex-offenders are released from prison each year. The experience inmates have in prison, how we prepare them to rejoin society, and how we integrate them into the broader community when they are released are issues that affect the very communities in which we live,” Senator Leahy said. “The Second Chance Reauthorization Act helps break this cycle by supporting innovative reentry programs at the state and local levels that have brought down costs and reduced recidivism, and the federal system should replicate these efforts.”
Senator Portman also pointed to the success of Second Chance Act programs in his state. “Second Chance works, and that’s why we have joined together to craft a reauthorization bill for the legislation that has strong bipartisan support,” he said. “We all want to reduce the crime and violence that plagues our communities, that we read about in the paper and see on the news every night. Rather than incarcerating repeat offenders in the same families generation after generation, we can put our taxpayer dollars to better use to break this vicious cycle and turn lives around. The ultimate goal of our criminal justice system is to make our families and our communities safer. The work done under the Second Chance Act helps us to accomplish that goal, one life at a time.”
Representative Davis praised the outcomes stemming from such legislation. “The Second Chance Act seriously helps to reduce recidivism and provides hope for large numbers of individuals to turn their lives around and become productive citizens who can contribute to the well-being of society,” he said.
Sponsored by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Justice Fellowship, the event featured several reentry experts who spoke about the ongoing need for support of effective, evidence-based reentry initiatives.
A new publication titled “Reentry Matters: Strategies and Successes of Second Chance Act Grantees Across the United States” that highlights the promise of funding such programs was also released at the event. “It’s because of the Second Chance Act that programs around the country are able to provide employment, education, substance abuse, mental health, and mentoring services as well as interventions for women, youth and their families, and tribal populations. Effective programs in these areas are essential if we want to impact public safety and reintegration outcomes,” said Denise O’Donnell, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.