Bipartisan Legislators Introduce Second Chance Reauthorization Act
November 21, 2013 - Posted by Hannah Cornfield
With more than two million people behind bars in the United States, Blacks incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of Whites, and 95 percent of the formerly incarcerated reentering their communities, civil rights advocates say our nation’s criminal justice system is in serious need of reform.
Members of Congress as well as advocates who support the 2008 Second Chance Act (SCA) gathered last Wednesday for a Hill briefing to celebrate the accomplishments of the SCA and to announce the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2013. The bill is designed to improve the outcomes for people returning to their communities after incarceration, thereby reducing rates of recidivism and achieving successful re-entry into society upon release.
With two-thirds of those incarcerated back in prison within two or three years, panel moderator and Director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center Michael Thompson stressed the need to reauthorize this critical legislation. “[We] incapacitate them and wait for the inevitable of them returning to prison,” he said. He also noted the effect that the Second Chance Act has had over the last five years in reducing recidivism and providing pathways for formerly incarcerated individuals to reenter society. In its new report, “Reentry Matters,” the Council of State Governments Justice Center highlights the successes of Second Chance Act grantees and the positive impact they are having in communities across the country in order to buttress the effort to reauthorize the Second Chance Act.
“Our criminal justice system is in crisis,” said panelist Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The War on Drugs that we started nearly 30 years ago has resulted in a system that is racially and ethnically discriminatory – and, ultimately, unsustainable. The human costs of these policies have been devastating. We incarcerate more people than any other industrialized nation in the world. Far too many of those people are Black, Brown, poor and undereducated.”
“We must remove any and all barriers to successful re-entry, including obstacles to educational opportunities, employment, and voting,” Henderson said. In speaking about recommendations for reform, he highlighted a new report by The Leadership Conference Education Fund entitled “A Second Chance: Charting a New Course for Re-Entry and Criminal Justice Reform,” which examines the deep-rooted problem of mass incarceration and the subsequent barriers to achieving successful reentry and makes a series of policy recommendations regarding their reform.
Each panelist recognized the reauthorization of SCA as a moral decision and encouraged change in existing practices on crime policy. Further, they expressed the dire need for rehabilitative programs included in the SCA, which have been empirically proven to reduce rates of recidivism and achieve successful re-entry, thereby allowing for better public safety and cost-effectiveness.
The bicameral introduction of the SCA reauthorization enjoys bipartisan co-sponsorship from Sens. Rob Portman, R. Ohio, and Patrick Leahy, D. Vt., and Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R. Wis., Danny Davis, D. Ill., Spencer Bachus, R. Ala., Bobby Scott, D. Va., Howard Coble, R. N.C., Marcia Fudge, D. Ohio, Steve Chabot, R. Ohio, and John Conyers, D. Mich.