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July 01, 2011

Washington News Briefs

SECOND CHANCE ACT: The ABA urged Congress June 28 to provide full funding of $165 million in fiscal year 2012 for the Second Chance Act, bipartisan legislation enacted in April 2008 to help prisoners successfully reenter communities after completing their incarceration. Current-year funding for Second Chance programs is $83 million, down from the previous year’s amount of $100 million. “With an understanding and sensitivity to the fiscal year constraints facing the federal government, the ABA nonetheless believes that funds spent to reduce recidivism are investments that will more than pay for themselves in long-term savings to society and the criminal justice system,” ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman wrote in letters to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. He emphasized that the act will provide crucial resources at a time when they are desperately needed. He pointed out that the more than 9 million individuals released from jail each year face numerous challenges when returning to the community and that research shows that over half of the released prisoners are re-incarcerated within three years. More than 250 Second Chance grants have been awarded to community and faith-based organizations as well as state, local and tribal governments spanning almost every state in the country, Susman wrote, explaining that the act has fueled public/private partnerships required to tackle the complex task of reducing recidivism. Programs supported by the act include demonstration grants, reentry courts, family-centered programs, substance abuse treatment, employment counseling and mentoring, and other services to improve the transition from prison to community. The House Appropriations Committee included $70 million for Second Chance Act programs in a draft fiscal year 2012 bill approved July 13. In addition, the act is up for reauthorization this year, and the Senate Judiciary Committee was expected this month to mark up S 1231, a bill to extend the act for another five years.

STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS: The ABA commended the Department of Education and offered suggestions last month for developing a form to enable borrowers to verify that their employment qualifies them to obtain student loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLFP). The program, established in 2007, discharges any remaining debt under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program after 10 years of full-time employment in public service and after the borrower has made 120 payments. In a June 13 comment letter to James Hyler, the acting director of the department’s Information Collection Clearance Division, the ABA recommended several ways to improve the form to avoid confusion and errors. The recommendations included clearly stating to whom the form should be sent and making sure that the borrowers are notified in writing of any problems with their forms. In addition, the ABA suggested that a line be added to include the name under which the borrower obtained the loan and to permit employers to indicate on the forms that the borrower is currently employed and whether the borrower is a full-time or part-time employee. The ABA strongly supports public service loan forgiveness and repayment assistance for law students and maintains that programs such as the PSLFP provide tools for attracting and retaining talented lawyers who can develop a professionalism, competence and efficiency that comes with longer terms of service than many could normally afford.

USE OF MILITARY FORCE: Experts convened on Capitol Hill July 11 for a panel discussion entitled “From Yemen to Libya: The Role of Congress in Authorizing the Use of Force.” The program, sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security and cosponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Governmental Affairs and the Reserve Officers Association, considered two questions on the use of force being weighed in Congress: whether to authorize force in Libya and whether to amend the Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted in 2001. Moderated by Harvey Rishikof, chair of the Standing Committee on Law and National Security, the panel featured the following individuals: Deborah Pearlstein, associate research scholar, Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs, Princeton University; Daniel Silverberg, senior deputy chief counsel, minority staff, House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Suzanne Spaulding, principal, Bingham Consulting Group, and of counsel, Bingham McCutchen; Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow and research director in public law, The Brooking Institution; and Roger Zakheim, deputy staff director and general counsel, majority staff, House Committee on Armed Services.

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