Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Second Chance Act Passes Senate

The Second Chance Act passed the Senate yesterday. From the Reentry Policy Council of State Governments:

The U.S. Senate passed today the Second Chance Act of 2007. This landmark bill, introduced by Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Arlen Specter (R-PA), provides critical resources designed to reduce recidivism and increase public safety. The legislation passed the Senate by unanimous consent and now proceeds to the President’s desk for signature.

The passage of the Second Chance Act reflects the strong consensus that improving prisoner reentry is not a partisan issue, but a matter of public safety, improving lives, and making effective use of taxpayer dollars," said Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, Justice Center board member and chair of the New York State Assembly Correction Committee.

The Second Chance Act includes key elements of President Bush’s Prisoner Reentry Initiative, announced in the 2004 State of the Union address, which provides for community and faith-based organizations to deliver mentoring and transitional services. The bill will also help connect people released from prison and jail to mental health and substance abuse treatment, expand job training and placement services, and facilitate transitional housing and case management services.

ECS has qualms, on basic principle, of funding any "faith-based" programs and initiatives, but I am willing to suspend same for now.

This bill is a veritable sea-change from highly-punitive YOYO policies and attitudes regarding "freed" ex-offenders that is long overdue.

Here's the deal people. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world--1 in 100 citizens are currently in prison or jail. In addition, there's one hell of a lot of people who have a "criminal history" who aren't incarcerated.

If you allow a situation to occur where ex-offenders can't get jobs or housing, regardless of the seriousness of the offense or the length of time passed since the offense, and you also allow a situation to occur where you don't offer help for the mentally ill or addicts, well then that 1 in 100 number (and the exorbinant cost of housing prisoners) just may contine to rise with no end in sight.

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