Leahy And Portman Praise Senate Passage Of Their Second Chance Reauthorization Act, As Part Of Criminal Justice Reform Package

U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced that their bipartisan Second Chance Reauthorization Act passed the Senate as part of the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation to reform America’s criminal justice system.  The reform package passed the Senate late Tuesday night in a strong bipartisan vote of 87 to 12.  The House is expected to pass it by the end of this week, and President Trump is expected to sign it.

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act reauthorizes and amends the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs to reduce recidivism.  Then-Congressman Portman originally authored the Second Chance Act with the late-Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones in 2005, and it was later signed into law in 2008.  Since 2009, more than 850 Second Chance Act grant awards have been made to government agencies and nonprofit organizations from 49 states for reentry programs serving adults and juveniles.  As of June 2018, more than 164,000 individuals have participated in these programs. 

Leahy said:  “This strong bipartisan vote on the First Step Act brings us one step closer to achieving the most significant reforms to our criminal justice system in a decade.  Including our Second Chance Reauthorization Act is an acknowledgement that criminal justice reform is not complete without a commitment to strengthening reentry services for ex-offenders.  Almost every single offender in our justice system will one day be released.  We owe it to them, their families, and the communities where they will live to help ensure that they can lead productive lives.”

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act will strengthen state and local grant programs to promote successful prisoner reentry and improve public safety while reducing Bureau of Prison costs and saving taxpayer dollars. Specifically, the legislation will:

  • Continue targeted funding through 2021 for reentry programs at the state and local level that have been proven to reduce recidivism, lead to better outcomes for those released from prison, and save prison costs.
  • Provide separate planning and implementation grants to ensure that projects are well developed at each stage and informed by research and best practices.
  • Add nonprofit organizations as allowable grantees for grants for programs promoting family-based substance abuse treatment and career training.
  • Repeal several provisions calling for studies that have been completed and removes support for programs for which other funding sources have been identified. It also consolidates the reentry court program into the Adult and Juvenile Offender State and Local Demonstration projects.
  • Require new rigorous evaluation and audits of grantees to ensure that federal dollars are spent wisely.

This legislation has been endorsed by the National Criminal Justice Association, the International Community Corrections Association, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, FreedomWorks, the American Bar Association, the American Correctional Association, The Prison Fellowship, the American Probation and Parole Association, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, and The Sentencing Project.

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