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Public Statements

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Chairman, I rise to raise the awareness of a gradual but persistent scaling back of the Second Chance Act funding and urge my colleagues to support my amendment calling for a $10 million increase in 2013 funding.

As all of us know, States are facing historic fiscal challenges and are being forced to make difficult budget choices. These choices are only made more difficult when prisons are packed to capacity and communities lack effective resources for dealing with offenders who return.

The number of individuals in prisons and jails remain unacceptable. As a matter of fact, our country, the United States of America, is the most incarcerated nation on the face of the Earth, not only in actual numbers, but also in proportion of population. If current projections continue, State and Federal prisons will grow another 13 percent in the next year, which will add an additional 192,000 prisoners at a cost of $27.5 billion. In light of these challenges, the need for the Second Chance Act is greater now than ever before.

The Second Chance Act is a commonsense response to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for people released from prisons, jails, juvenile facilities and returning to their communities. Research confirms that comprehensive coordinated services can help formerly incarcerated individuals find stable employment and housing, thereby reducing recidivism.

Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued updated enforcement guidance on employers' use of arrest and conviction records when making employment decisions. In its guidance, the EEOC cited that hiring policies that include blanket exclusions of people with criminal records have a disparate ratio impact and therefore violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The new rules call for employers to assess applicants on an individual basis, rather than excluding everyone with a criminal record through a blanket policy. The new policy also encourages employers to give applicants a chance to explain their criminal record before they are rejected outright and marks a momentous advancement in the employment arena for individuals who have been incarcerated.

In addition, the Second Chance Act grants are working in improving public safety. The Moms and Babies program in Illinois' Decatur Correctional Center, a Second Chance grantee, has served 34 women. To date, no program participants have returned to prison. That's a 0 percent recidivism rate. In San Mateo, California, of the 224 participants in their Second Chance program, 61 have been returned to jail. That's a recidivism rate of 28 percent, well below the statewide average of 58 percent.

At the Federal level, reentry has become a high priority for many of the Cabinet agencies in President Obama's administration.

The Federal Interagency Reentry Council, established by Attorney General Holder in January of 2011, represents a significant executive branch commitment to coordinating reentry efforts and advancing reentry policies.

If we don't know anything else, we do know one thing: We know that when individuals return home from jail and prison, if they don't get any help, chances are that 67 percent, or two-thirds of them, will have done what we call ``re-offend'' within a 3-year period of time. Those who get help oftentimes do not re-offend. And the more help they get, the less they will re-offend, thereby proving that the funds work. I urge passage of this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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