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The Second Chance Act of 2005.

On April 20, Reps. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Danny Davis, D-Ill., joined with 27 of their colleagues to introduce the House version of the Second Chance Act of 2005, HR 1704. The purpose of the Second Chance Act is to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and help states and communities to better address the growing population of inmates returning to communities. The bill will focus on four areas: jobs, housing, substance abuse/mental health treatment and families. The following is a summary of the legislation provided by Portman's office.

Inmate Reentry: The Case for Action

Crime Reduction. Nearly two-thirds of released inmates are expected to be rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of release. Such high recidivism rates translate into thousands of new crimes each year, at least half of which can be averted through improved inmate reentry efforts. In 2002, 2 million people were incarcerated in federal or state prisons, and nearly 650,000 people are released from prison to communities nationwide each year.

Substance Abuse/Mental Health Problems. Seventy percent to 80 percent of offenders reentering the community have histories of substance abuse. And an increasing number of offenders have mental health problems. If treatment is not sought or available upon release, relapse is likely. Fifty-seven percent of federal and 70 percent of state inmates used drugs regularly before prison, with some estimates of involvement with drugs/alcohol around the time of the offense as high as 84 percent, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Saving Taxpayer Dollars. Significant portions of state budgets are now invested in the criminal justice system. According to BJS, expenditures on corrections alone increased from $9 billion in 1982 to $44 billion in 1997. These figures do not include the cost of arrest and prosecution, nor do they take into account the cost to victims.

Strengthening Families and Communities. One of the most significant costs of inmate reentry is the impact on children and communities. Between 1991 and 1999, the number of children with a parent in a federal or state correctional facility increased by more than 100 percent, from approximately 900,000 to approximately 2 million.

Reducing Recidivism Through Common Sense

The Second Chance Act reauthorizes the Re-Entry Demonstration project with an enhanced focus on jobs, housing, substance abuse treatment/mental health, and children and families. The bill increases the amount of money to fund demonstration programs and create performance outcomes, standards and deliverables. Also, the act establishes a grant program to provide funding for nonprofit organizations to provide mentoring and transitional services to adult and juvenile offenders.

The act also establishes the National Offender Re-Entry Resource Center for states, local government, service providers, faith-based organizations, correctional and community organizations to collect and disseminate best practices and provide training and support for reentry. Also, the National Institute of Justice and BJS will be authorized to conduct research on reentry.

In addition, the act creates a federal interagency task force to identify programs and resources on reentry, identify ways to better collaborate, and develop interagency initiatives and a national reentry research agenda. The task force would review and report to Congress on the federal barriers that exist to successful reentry with recommendations.

Finally, in response to Carlie Brucia's abduction and murder in 2004, the provision requires the automatic revocation of probation or supervised release when a federal felon commits a felony crime of violence against a minor child under the age of 16.

The American Correctional Association believes that this legislation is a good first step toward reducing recidivism. ACA encourages corrections professionals to contact their representatives in Congress and urge them to support and pass the Second Chance Act of 2005.

RELATED ARTICLE: Rob Portman Nominated To Be U.S. Trade Representative

On March 17, 2005. President Bush nominated Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to be the next U.S. trade representative. Portman, who entered Congress in 1993, served as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and was formerly an international trade lawyer at the Washington firm of Patton Boggs.

During the past two Congresses, Portman has led efforts in the House to adopt the Second Chance Act, legislation designed to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and help states and communities to better address the growing population of inmates returning to communities.

ACA wants to extend its thanks to Portman for his efforts on behalf of offender populations. His leadership and vision will be missed.

Joey R. Weedon is director of Government Affairs for the American Correctional Association. He can be reached at (301) 918-1885 or
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Title Annotation:Legislative Issues
Author:Weedon, Joey R.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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