Criminal Justice

ABA president asks House committee to reauthorize Second Chance Act

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A bill that funds anti-recidivism work has the support of the American Bar Association, writes ABA President Bob Carlson.

Carlson sent a letter on Wednesday to the House Judiciary Committee expressing the association’s support for the Second Chance Reauthorization Act. The bill would renew funding for programs aimed at easing former prisoners’ re-entry into society. The Second Chance Act was passed in 2007 and signed into law in 2008.

“These programs increase public safety and reduce recidivism by helping men, women, and juveniles transition from correctional confinement to productive lives,” Carlson wrote to committee chair Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and ranking minority member Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. “The total number of Americans in prisons and jails has declined over nine straight years, in part due to ‘smart on crime’ policies like the Second Chance Act.”

The ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office provided more details in a February column in the ABA Journal. The Second Chance Act has funded more than 700 grants to government agencies and nonprofits in 49 states and the District of Columbia doing prisoner re-entry work, including job training, support to find housing, support for those pursuing higher education and more.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the bill Thursday. The bill has 43 co-sponsors from both parties, including Goodlatte. The ABA Journal reported in 2013 that prior reauthorizations of act were passed without controversy.

Research shows that access to employment, stable housing and social support are important predictors of whether a prisoner will reoffend. Leah Kane of the Council of State Governments Justice Center told the ABA Journal in 2013 that the bill was the first action from Congress on prisoner re-entry.

“It was not the be-all and end-all,” says Kane, deputy project director for the council’s re-entry project, “but the passage of the act was a galvanizing experience.”

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