December 06, 2018

Second Chance Act reauthorization bill introduced in Senate

ABA President Robert M. Carlson sent a letter Nov. 16 thanking Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for introducing S. 3635, legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, which helps individuals transition from correctional confinement to productive lives.

The Senate bill is similar to H.R. 2899, Second Chance Act reauthorization legislation sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). In September, the House Judiciary Committee scheduled H.R. 2899 for markup but did not complete action on the bill.

Grants awarded under the Second Chance Act, which was enacted in 2008, have helped more than 160,000 people in 49 states and the District of Columbia re-enter their communities by providing employment training, education, housing, and other support. The Second Chance Act programs have resulted in a reduction in re-arrest rates and increases in employment and educational opportunities in numerous states, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Tennessee.

In his letter, Carlson noted that the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the total number of Americans in prisons and jails has declined over the past nine years in part because of “smart on crime” policies such as the Second Chance Act.

Looking ahead, however, he said the majority of the more than 1.5 million individuals being held in prisons will be released in the future, and support for Second Chance Act programs must be continued.

“This law has changed thousands of lives in Ohio and across the country showing that the mistakes of our past should not define the potential for our future,” Portman said in announcing the bill. “As the House and Senate work to pass criminal justice reform, which I support, we should reauthorize the Second Chance Act as part of that process so we can help more ex-offenders become productive members of our society,” he added.