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September 01, 2014

Second Chance Act clears Senate committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee agreed Sept. 18 to approve S. 1690, legislation strongly supported by the ABA to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, which was enacted in 2008 to provides grants to for state and local reentry programs for ex-prisoners.

“The Second Chance Reauthorization Act is a bipartisan, bicameral effort to ensure that offenders coming out of prison have the opportunity to turn their lives around, rather than returning to a life of crime,” committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), a cosponsor of the bill with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), said during markup. “Investing in reentry programs improves public safety and save taxpayer dollars,” he emphasized, adding that it also is “the right thing to do.”

As approved by the committee, S. 1690 would authorize $100 million through 2018 for resources to state and local governments as well as community-based organizations to help the more than 650,000 ex-offenders who are released from prison each year. Grants also would be available to non-profit organizations that promote family-based substance abuse treatment and training in technology careers. The legislation would direct the attorney general to review research into education methods used in prisons and jails, identify best practices and implement them. The bill also includes provisions to ensure accountability by requiring periodical audits of grantees.  

In correspondence earlier this year to the judiciary committees in the House and Senate, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman emphasized that research confirms that comprehensive, coordinated services reduce recidivism by helping formerly incarcerated individuals find stable employment and housing. By providing the resources needed to coordinate reentry services and policies at the state and local levels, Second Chance Act reauthorization “will ensure that the tax dollars spent on correction do not simply fuel a revolving door in and out of prison,” he said.

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