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(At the Request of Mr. Reid, the Following Statement Was Ordered to be Printed in the Record.)

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

(At the Request of Mr. Reid, the Following Statement Was Ordered to be Printed in the Record.) -- (Senate - April 01, 2008)


Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I wish to speak in favor of the Second Chance Act of 2007, a bill to strengthen community safety by improving the reintegration of people returning from prison. The Senate recently passed this measure, and I am proud to have worked over the past few years with Senators BIDEN, BROWNBACK, and SPECTER to see this important bill reach this point. Having passed in the House as well, the Second Chance Act is now ready for President Bush's signature, and I urge him to sign this bill into law as soon as possible.

We have a broken criminal justice system and too many people are caught in its web, especially African-American men, nearly a third of whom will enter State or Federal prison during their lives. What is equally tragic is that nearly two-thirds of the 1,800 people released from prison every day return to jail within 3 years.

The stark reality is that most communities where prisoners go upon release already struggle with highly concentrated poverty, unemployment,
fragile families, and a dearth of jobs. And even if released prisoners do find a promising job opportunity, they often face employer resistance to hiring people with criminal backgrounds. In many cases, they will fail to become fully rehabilitated and go on to commit more crimes.

We must end this revolving door of failure. We must create a pathway for people coming out of jail to get the jobs, skills, and education they need to reject a life of crime in favor of honest contributions to their communities.

There is no question that breaking the law should have consequences. And it is true that we have to do more as parents to teach our children that violence is always wrong. But if convicted offenders are not given the tools they need to become constructive members of our communities after they serve their time, we all suffer the consequences.

That is why the passage of the Second Chance Act is so important. This measure will support faith- and community-based organizations working with State and local authorities to give former prisoners a second chance at a meaningful life. It makes funding available for transitional jobs programs and housing, for support health services, and educational needs. Moreover, priority is given to projects that serve communities with large ex-prisoner populations and to those that do a good job of reintegrating their participants.

Again, I commend my colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans, who supported the Second Chance Act. I urge the President of the United States to act quickly to enact this bill into law.

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