06.20.11

Leahy, Portman Introduce Bill To Help States Keep Ex-Offenders From Returning To Crime

WASHINGTON (Monday, June 20, 2011) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) Monday introduced legislation to help improve public safety and reduce prison costs for federal, state and local governments.  The Second Chance Reauthorization Act improves existing assistance programs to help state and local authorities more successfully reintegrate prisoners into their communities and reduce the rate of repeat offenses.

The Second Chance Act was first enacted in 2007, and provided resources and support to local corrections agencies, nonprofits, education institutions, service providers, and families to help offenders reintegrate into their communities.  The legislation proposed by Leahy and Portman reauthorizes, improves and consolidates existing state and local grant programs, while reducing costs for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars and improving prisoner reentry policy at the federal level.

“As a former prosecutor, I believe strongly in securing tough and appropriate prison sentences for people who break our laws,” said Leahy.  “But it is also important that we do everything we can to ensure that when these people get out of prison, they enter our communities as productive members of society, so we can start to reverse the dangerous cycle of recidivism and violence.  The Second Chance Reauthorization Act will help break this cycle.  I thank Senator Portman for joining me in sponsoring this legislation.”

“The Second Chance Reauthorization Act improves current law by making the programs under it more efficient and accountable, and by providing additional incentives to participate in recidivism programs,” said Portman, the bill’s lead Republican sponsor. “Given the current fiscal situation, the amount of authorized funding is reduced while maintaining Second Chance’s effectiveness by streamlining and improving programs. Ohio has been a leader in using the Second Chance Act and has seen a decrease in recidivism according to a recent Pew Center study. This bill will help inmates turn their lives around and become productive members of society, ensuring better stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”

Among some of the key provisions of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, the bill will:

  • Provide support for planning and implementation of key reentry projects to ensure that those projects use methods proven through testing and review to lead to meaningful reductions in recidivism rates; 
  • Consolidate the Reentry Courts Program and the Prosecution Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison Program into one grant program with multiple uses to ensure that federal dollars are effectively spent;
  • Create an incentive for inmates to participate in rigorous recidivism reduction programming by awarding a credit of up to 60 days per year toward completion of their sentence for participation in such programs;
  • Repeal several programs that have not been funded or have been completed;
  • Require periodic audits of grantees to ensure that federal dollars are responsibly spent; grantees with problematic audits will not be eligible for funding in future years.

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act also includes a Leahy-authored provision to implement an all-state minimum funding formula planning and implementation grants.  Leahy has long championed all-state minimum funding formulas to ensure that small, rural states like Vermont are supported by federal resources.

Leahy was an original sponsor of the Second Chance Act in 2007, and worked to secure Senate passage of the law.  Leahy is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which considers legislation relating to prisons, and has chief oversight responsibility over the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.  The Second Chance Reauthorization Act will be referred to the Committee, and Leahy has scheduled Committee consideration of the legislation for Thursday.

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Text Of Second Chance Reauthorization Act

 

Section-By-Section Summary of Second Chance Reauthorization Act (for background purposes)

 

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On Introduction of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act

June 20, 2011

I am pleased today to join with Senator Portman to introduce the bipartisan Second Chance Reauthorization Act.  This bill builds on recent successes and takes important new steps to ensure that people coming out of prison have the opportunity to turn their lives around, rather than returning to a life of crime.  That saves taxpayer money and makes us all safer.

This important legislation improves Federal reentry policy and authorizes assistance to collaborations between state and local corrections agencies, nonprofits, educational institutions, service providers, and families to ensure that offenders released into society have the resources and support they need to become contributing members of the community.  The reauthorization bill builds on the success of the Second Chance Act by continuing, improving, and consolidating its programs. 

Four years ago, I joined with then-Senators Biden, Specter, and Brownback as an original co-sponsor of the Second Chance Act, and I was pleased to help move that legislation through the Senate. The Senate recognized the value of the Second Chance Act when, after a great deal of work and compromise, the bill passed unanimously. I hope this reauthorization bill receives the same bipartisan support.

In the past few decades, Congress and the states have passed new criminal laws creating more and longer sentences for more crimes.  As a result, this country sends even more people to prison every year, costing millions and millions of dollars.  There are currently over two million people in jail or prison, and more than 13 million people spend some time in jail or prison each yearMost of these people will at some point return to our communities.   

Last July, I chaired a hearing on the Second Chance Act, and the Committee heard about the great strides many states are making with innovative prisoner reentry programs.  Commissioner Andrew Pallito from the Vermont Department of Corrections testified and shared with us his experience with reentry programs in Vermont.  The Vermont Department of Corrections and many others in Vermont have strongly supported the Second Chance Act, which gives me confidence that it represents an important step in making our country safer.  

The Second Chance Act authorized grants for key reentry programs and required that these programs demonstrate measurable positive results, including a reduction in recidivism. Preliminary studies show that these programs are already working well.

The reauthorization bill that we propose today improves, consolidates and reauthorizes the state and local government grant programs created by the Second Chance Act.  It is intended to ensure that funding is available for planning and implementation of key reentry projects so that evidence-based methodology is employed to ensure meaningful reductions in recidivism rates.  It is designed to ensure that all states have the opportunity to develop and benefit from these important programs.

The bill also consolidates several programs that were underutilized into one grant program with multiple purposes. This will ensure that Federal dollars are effectively spent on programs that link probation with swift and certain enforcement, like the very successful HOPE program in Hawaii.

The Second Chance Act authorized research into educational methods used in prisons and jails.  This reauthorization bill asks the Attorney General to review that research and establish best practices for prison education.  It then reallocates the authorized funds previously used for research into a grant program to implement these best practices in prisons and jails.  The bill also adds nonprofit organizations as eligible grant recipients for programs promoting family-based substance abuse treatment.

This legislation makes modest improvements to Federal reentry policy that have the added benefit of reducing Bureau of Prison costs. It continues the successful Elderly and Family Reunification for Certain Non Violent Offenders Pilot Program and modestly expands the pool of inmates eligible to apply for the program.  More than 60 inmates have now participated in this program, and not a single one has reoffended.

The bill also creates an incentive for inmates to participate in rigorous recidivism reduction programming by awarding a credit of up 60 days per year toward completion of their sentence for participation in such programs.  The incentive is modeled on that currently awarded for successful participation in residential drug abuse treatment programs.

Finally, the Second Chance Reauthorization Act promotes accountability by requiring periodic audits of grantees to ensure that Federal dollars are responsibly spent.  Grantees with problematic audits will not be eligible for funding in future years.

As a former prosecutor, I believe strongly in securing tough and appropriate prison sentences for people who break our laws.  But it is also important that we do everything we can to ensure that when these people get out of prison, they enter our communities as productive members of society, so we can start to reverse the dangerous cycle of recidivism and violence.  The Second Chance Reauthorization Act will help break this cycle.

I ask unanimous consent that that a copy of the bill be printed in the Record.

 

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Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2011

Section by Section Analysis

 

For Background Purposes

 

Section 1:  Short Title

This section designates the title of the bill as the Second Chance Reauthorization Act.

Section 2: Improvements to Existing Programs

This section consolidates and improves the grant programs authorized by the Second Chance Act, and reauthorizes them at reduced levels to better reflect current appropriations.

  1. Reauthorization of the Adult and Juvenile Offender State and Local Demonstration Projects.

This subsection reauthorizes the Adult and Juvenile Offender State and Local Reentry Demonstration Projects Grant Program and breaks it into a two parts so that grant money can be awarded separately for planning and implementation of the reentry projects. Currently, grantees receive one grant for both planning and implementation, irrespective of whether the planning process is successful. This subsection also makes several improvements to the program structure by requiring planning grantees to work with a local evaluator to set meaningful recidivism goals and bolstering support for implementation grantees with programs that target offenders with histories of homelessness, substance abuse, or mental illness.  It also includes a state minimum allocation provision to ensure that all states will benefit from this grant program.  Finally, it increases the percentage of the state’s match that can be through in-kind donations from 50 to 75 percent.

  1. Cost Effective Alternatives to Incarceration Program

 

This subsection consolidates the Reentry Courts Grants Program and the Prosecution Drug Treatment Alternative Programs into one grant program with permitted uses to include Problem Solving Courts, Law Enforcement and Prosecution Drug Treatment Alternative Programs, and programs authorizing swift and certain punishment for offenders who violate the terms of probation or parole.

  1. Grants for Family-Based Substance Abuse Treatment

This subsection reauthorizes the grants for Family-Based Substance Abuse Treatment through 2016 at slightly reduced levels. It also expands the eligible grantees to include nonprofit organizations.

  1. Grant Program to Evaluate and Improve Educational Methods at Prisons, Jails and Juvenile Facilities

This subsection shifts funding in the existing grant program from research to the implementation of best practices in prison education. It directs the Attorney General to develop best practices for prison and jail educational methods after taking into consideration the research authorized by the Second Chance Act.

  1. Technology Careers Training Demonstration Grants

This subsection reauthorizes the Technology Careers Training Demonstration Program at reduced levels, and expands the eligible applicant pool to include nonprofit organizations.

  1. Offender Reentry Substance Abuse and Criminal Justice Collaboration Program

This subsection reauthorizes the Offender Reentry Substance Abuse and Criminal Justice Collaboration Program at existing levels.

  1. Mentoring Grants to Nonprofit Organizations.

This subsection reauthorizes the current mentoring grants and increases the authorization for the program by $5 million over 5 years.

Section 3:  Audit and Accountability of Grantees

 

This section promotes accountability by requiring periodic audits of Second Chance Act grantees.  It ensures that applicants with problematic audits cannot receive Second Chance Act funding in the five years immediately following the audit.

Section 4: Federal Reentry Improvements

 

This section improves existing federal reentry policy, consolidates federal reentry programs, and reauthorizes the funding devoted to federal reentry at existing levels.

The Responsible Reintegration of Offenders Program, a Study on Effectiveness of Depot Naltroexone for Heroin Addiction, and the Federal Satellite Tracking and Reentry Training Program are repealed.  

The current Elderly and Family Reunification for Certain Nonviolent Offenders Pilot Program is extended and improved by lowering the age of eligibility to 60 years.  This will result in cost savings to the BOP.

The existing reporting requirements on the Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) use of community corrections facilities are enhanced.

Finally, this section contains a provision designed to reduce the BOP’s costs.  It creates an incentive for inmates to participate in rigorous recidivism reduction programming by awarding a credit of up 60 days per year toward completion of an offender’s sentence for participating in recidivism reduction programming.  This is modeled on the existing credit that is awarded for participation in residential drug abuse treatment programs.

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