Leahy, Portman Join With State Corrections Officials To Urge Support For Effective Prisoner Reentry Programs

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, July 13, 2011) – At a press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) joined with the chief corrections officers of 10 states to urge federal and state legislators to support programs that help state and local authorities successfully reintegrate prisoners into their communities and reduce the rate of repeat offenders.

Leahy and Portman have proposed the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, which improves on existing prisoner reentry programs.  The Second Chance Act was first enacted in 2008, and provides resources and support to local corrections agencies, nonprofits, education institutions, service providers, and families to help offenders reintegrate into their communities.  The Second Chance Reauthorization Act 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.

“When Congress passed the Second Chance Act four years ago, we gave needed resources to the states to help improve reentry program that have proven, positive results,” said Leahy.  “I am grateful for the support of those officials on the front lines in the states, developing these important reentry programs, working to promote public safety while helping offenders return to their communities as productive members of society.  I know that later this year, these officers and others from around the country will come together to discuss ways that states can help reduce recidivism to improve public safety.  This should be a priority on the federal level as well.”

“By improving prisoner reentry, we can prevent crime, strengthen communities and save taxpayers’ dollars,” said Portman. “The Second Chance Act is making an important contribution to public safety and reducing costs to taxpayers and it should continue. I hope the Committee will move this important legislation to the floor, and I look forward to working with Senator Leahy and others to pass it in the Senate.”

“In Vermont and around the country, we are relying on key leaders here in D.C. to promote and fund programs that help state corrections address the overwhelming challenge of improving prisoner reentry and reducing recidivism,” said Andy Pallito, the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections.  “Senators Leahy and Portman are working to keep this vital program alive and we are thankful for that.”

“Ohio, like many states, has seen prison spending grow by 21 percent in less than a decade. That’s faster than most other areas in the state budget and puts enormous pressure on taxpayers to foot the bill,” said Gary Mohr, the Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.  “The Second Chance Act is one of our best hopes for addressing one significant element of prison growth—the cycle of offenders who recidivate and return to prison.”

Also attending the press conference on Wednesday were Edwin Buss, Secretary, Department of Corrections, State of Florida; Harold Clarke, Director, Department of Corrections, State of Virginia; Representative Pat Colloton, Chair, Corrections & Juvenile Justice Committee, State of Kansas; Justin Jones, Director, Department of Corrections, State of Oklahoma; Michael Lawlor, Undersecretary, Criminal Justice & Policy Planning Division, State Office of Policy Management, State of Connecticut;  LeDonna Thompson, Commissioner, Department of Corrections, State of Kentucky; Ashbel T. Wall, Director, Dept. of Corrections, State of Rhode Island; and Max Williams, Director, Department of Corrections, State of Oregon.

Leahy was an original sponsor of the Second Chance Act in 2007, and worked to secure Senate passage of the law.  Portman was the author of the 2004 Second Chance Act when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, is scheduled to vote on the Second Chance Reauthorization Act at a business meeting Thursday.

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