12.21.18

Portman, Leahy Hail President's Signing Of Their Second Chance Act Into Law As Part Of Historic Criminal Justice Reform Package

U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced that their bipartisan Second Chance Reauthorization Act was signed into law Friday by President Trump as part of the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation to reform America’s criminal justice system The legislation passed the Senate earlier this week by a margin of 87 to 12.

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act reauthorizes and strengthens the Second Chance Act, a bipartisan 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. In total, Ohio has received more than $39 million in Second Chance Act grants since 2009, which includes funds to assist Ohioans re-entering the community with services such as job training, drug rehabilitation, case management and mental health treatment.

Portman said:  “Renewing and strengthening the Second Chance Act is critical to our efforts to stop the revolving door of incarceration and help former inmates live up to their God-given potential, and I’m pleased the president signed it into law today. The Second Chance Act helps people be able to create their own future — rather than be held back by the mistakes of their past. It has already changed thousands of lives in Ohio and across the country by helping ex-offenders turn their life around and become a productive members of society. The president’s action today will make our communities safer while also saving taxpayer dollars.”

Leahy said:  “This is a welcome glimmer of bipartisanship to advance long overdue reforms that are important to thousands of individuals, their families, and their communities.  It is especially timely, coming amid the other contentious issues that are churning the Congress and the nation right now.  The First Step Act, while it does not go as far as I would like, will achieve 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.”

NOTE: 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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