BIDEN's Second Chance Act Passes Senate
Bipartisan Legislation Will Reduce Recidivism Rates and Give Ex-Offenders a Second Chance at Life
The Senate passed legislation today, introduced by U.S. Senators Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), designed to reduce the number of convicted felons who become repeat offenders. The Reducing Recidivism and Second Chance Act of 2007 (H.R. 1593) will help make communities safer and ensure that former offenders successfully transition back into society by providing states and nonprofit prisoner-reentry organizations funding for job training, substance abuse treatment, mental health assistance and other support services to help ex-offenders reintegrate into the community.
"We shouldn't be surprised that the prison door is, more often than not, a revolving door," said Sen. Biden, former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "More than two million people are serving time in our federal and state prisons, and sooner or later, the vast majority - 95 percent - will be released. Many of these offenders will reenter our communities with insufficient monitoring, little or no job training, insufficient housing, and deficient basic life skills. Additionally, two-thirds of those released from state prisons are rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years."
"The Second Chance Act will go a long way to help these ex-offenders reintegrate into the community and become productive, contributing members of our community. Congress has passed this critical legislation, and I hope the President quickly signs it into law," said Sen. Biden. "The only way to close the revolving prison door is to open another one."
Specifically, the Reducing Recidivism and Second Chance Act of 2007 authorizes a total of $324 million to:
* Improve existing State and local government offender reentry programs by authorizing $50 million annually for the Department of Justice's State and local grant program, incorporating best practices from the reentry field, and requiring the measuring and reporting of performance outcomes;
* Create new competitive grants for innovative programs to reduce recidivism. The bill authorizes $110 million each year in new grants for State and local governments and private entities to develop and implement comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs, academic and vocational education programs, housing and job counseling programs, and mentoring for offenders who are approaching release or those who have been recently released. The bill requires grantees to establish performance goals and benchmarks and report performance outcomes to Congress;
* Strengthen the Bureau of Prisons' ability to provide reentry services to federal prisoners and establish an elderly non-violent offender pilot program; and
* Authorize $2 million for grants for research and best practices relating to innovative drug treatment methods, causes of recidivism, and methods to improve education and vocational training during incarceration.
According to Sen. Biden, the Second Chance Act of 2007 could eventually save American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, given that, on average, the annual cost of incarcerating a prisoner exceeds $20,000 - a number that increased six-fold between 1982 and 2002.
"A relatively modest investment in offender reentry efforts compares very well with the alternative - building more prisons for these ex-offenders to return to if they are unable to successfully reenter their communities," added Sen. Biden. "An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure."
The Second Chance Act has tremendous support from over 200 local and national organizations, including a wide cross-section of civil rights, justice, faith-based and community organizations. The American Bar Association, the Justice Fellowship, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the NAACP, among others, have been instrumental partners in ensuring that this legislation offers ex-offenders hope for the future.