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March 12, 2008

Senate Passes Second Chance Bill

The Senate passed the Second Chance Act of 2007 late Tuesday, which will ease the re-entry process for individuals leaving prison by providing funding for prisoner mentoring programs, job training and rehabilitative treatment. The legislation, introduced in the Senate by Sens. Joseph Biden (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), now awaits approval by President Bush - who in his 2004 State of the Union address advocated for a $300 million Prisoner Re-entry Initiative.

"The best formula for reducing crime includes aid for the men and women who have spent time in prison," said Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project. "The Second Chance Act will fund much needed education, employment and treatment services that ease reintegration after a person's incarceration. I look forward to it receiving the President's signature."  

The legislation was passed by a voice vote after the Senate adopted a concurrent resolution, H Con Res 270, which included minor changes to the measure. The U.S. House of Representatives voted 347 to 62 to pass the Second Chance Act of 2007 in November.

The Second Chance Act will help provide necessary services to the nearly 700,000 people leaving prison each year by increasing funding designed to protect public safety and reduce recidivism rates. The bill's provisions authorize $362 million to expand assistance for people currently incarcerated, those returning to their communities after incarceration, and children with parents in prison. The services to be funded under the bill include:

  • mentoring programs for adults and juveniles leaving prison;
  • drug treatment during and after incarceration, including family-based treatment for incarcerated parents;
  • education and job training in prison;
  • alternatives to incarceration for parents convicted of non-violent drug offenses;
  • supportive programming for children of incarcerated parents; and early release for certain elderly prisoners convicted of non-violent offenses.

The reform bill was widely supported by civil rights, criminal justice, law enforcement and religious organizations and had broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and House of Representatives.



Issue Area(s): Collateral Consequences