BIDEN's Second Chance Act Signed Into Law
New Law Will Help Prevent Ex-Offenders from Becoming Repeat Offenders
This morning, the President signed into law U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.'s (D-DE) Reducing Recidivism and Second Chance Act of 2007 (H.R. 1593), legislation designed to reduce the number of convicted felons who become repeat offenders. The Second Chance Act 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 ex-offenders to get job training, literacy training, substance-abuse treatment, counseling, education, housing and mentoring services upon release.
"Our current system is broken," said Sen. Biden, Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee on Crime and Drugs. "Unfortunately, many ex-offenders return to prison over and over again - the door is often a revolving one. The only way to close it, is to open another one. That's what this legislation does."
Specifically, the Reducing Recidivism and Second Chance Act of 2007 authorizes a total of $330 million to:
* Improve existing State and local government offender reentry programs by authorizing $55 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 and funds for research and best practices. The bill authorizes $115 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, mentoring for offenders who are approaching release or those who have been recently released, and research relating to innovative drug treatment methods, causes of recidivism, and methods to improve education and vocational training during incarceration. The bill requires grantees to establish performance goals and benchmarks and report performance outcomes to Congress; and
* Strengthen the Bureau of Prisons' ability to provide reentry services to federal prisoners and establish an elderly non-violent offender pilot program.
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."
In the Senate, Sen. Biden's legislation passed unanimously on March 11 and had 34 cosponsors, including Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT). The Second Chance Act also 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 Council of State Governments, 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.