Bill Now Heads to President's Desk for Signature
The Senate last night unanimously passed bipartisan legislation to give Federal, state and local governments additional tools to help inmates more successfully reintegrate into their communities upon release. The Recidivism Reduction and Second Chance Act was introduced in the Senate by Judiciary Committee members Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), and co-sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). It passed the Judiciary Committee last August but consideration in the Senate was stymied. The Senate yesterday passed the companion House bill, and it will now be sent to the President for signature.
The Second Chance Act of 2007 will give grants to local governments and organizations to help provide literacy classes, job training, education programs and substance abuse and rehabilitation programs for inmates. The legislation also establishes a task force to determine ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Federal programs related to prisoner reentry. The bill takes another step toward the goal of reducing the nationwide recidivism rate of 66 percent and decreasing the annual nationwide $8.2 billion dollar cost of incarceration.
"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 Biden. "The only way to close the revolving prison door is to open another one."
"I am very pleased that my Senate colleagues were able to pass legislation that will help combat the high rates of prisoner recidivism in America," said Brownback. "Everybody - the ex-offender, the ex-offender's family, and society at large - benefits from programs that equip prisoners with the proper tools to successfully reintegrate into life outside of the prison walls. I am hopeful that with this legislation we will begin to see tangible results as governments and non-profit organizations work together to help ex-offenders."
"While I believe strongly in securing tough and appropriate prison sentences for people who break our laws, we must also do everything we can to ensure that when these people get out of prison, they enter our communities as productive members of society," said Leahy. "We must reverse the dangerous cycles of recidivism and violence. After many years of hard work to find the right compromise on this bill, we can begin that important work."
"I commend my colleagues for passing this important legislation," said Specter. "The Second Chance Act takes direct aim at reducing recidivism rates by improving the transition of ex-offenders from prison back into our communities. Through common sense and cost-effective measures, it offers a second chance for ex-offenders and the children and families who depend on them."
The legislation has the support of more than 200 civil rights, justice, faith-based and community organizations, including the American Bar Association (ABA), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Prison Fellowship.