Portman And Leahy Introduce Second Chance Reauthorization Act To Reduce Recidivism And Help Ex-Offenders, As Congress Considers Criminal Justice Reform

As Sentencing Reform Moves To Congress’s Front Burner In The Post-Election Lame Duck Session

Portman And Leahy Introduce Second Chance Reauthorization Act
To Reduce Recidivism And Help Ex-Offenders, As Congress Considers Criminal Justice Reform

… Program Has Helped Vermont Achieve A Steady And Dramatic Reduction In Incarceration Numbers

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, Nov. 16, 2018) — U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday introduced their Second Chance Reauthorization Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and amend 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, and it was 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 and Portman introduced their bill at the same time that Congress is poised to consider criminal justice reform legislation, which has quickly emerged this week as a front-burner issue for congressional action in this post-election lame duck session. Leahy is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan sentencing reform bill, the First Step Act, which was also introduced Thursday in the Senate. President Trump this week lent his support to that effort.

Leahy said: “I began my career as a prosecutor on the front lines of our justice system. I saw the challenges inmates face, many of them seemingly insurmountable, when they are released from custody. That’s not good for them, for their families, for their communities, for any of us. The Second Chance Act supports state and local efforts to reduce recidivism by helping ex-offenders reenter society and build stable and productive lives. We are seeing it work in Vermont. America is a nation of fairness, opportunity, and second chances. I’m proud to again partner with Senator Portman on this legislation to reauthorize these critical programs.”

Leahy noted that with the help of Second Chance Act funding, Vermont has seen a steady and dramatic decrease in the state’s incarceration numbers, dropping from an annual average population of 2,103 a day in 2012, down to 1,796 this year. The Vermont Department of Corrections has reported: “The Second Chance Act has provided support for a variety of important projects in Vermont. The Adult Demonstration Grant, run by Derek Miodownik and the Restorative Justice Unit, provided the funds to develop and grow the Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) program which has received national attention. It also helped support the creation of programming in the state that supports restorative justice and reentry. The State Recidivism Reduction Grant (SRR) has been instrumental in supporting a shift to use validated risk assessments, develop policies that reflect evidence based practices, and train and support staff to use those tools and practice in their interactions with our clients. Although the grants come from the SCA and have a goal to reduce recidivism, they are different in their approach.”

Portman said: “The Second Chance Act helps break the cycle of incarceration through drug treatment and job training programs and makes our community safer, saves taxpayer dollars, and most importantly, helps former inmates live up to their God-given potential. This law has changed thousands of lives in Ohio and across the country showing that the mistakes of our past should not define the potential for our future. I am proud to continue my bipartisan efforts to renew and strengthen this law. As the House and Senate work to pass criminal justice reform, which I support, we should reauthorize the Second Chance Act as part of that process so we can help more ex-offenders become productive members of our society.”

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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Press Contact

David Carle (Leahy): 202-224-3693
Kevin Smith/Emily Benavides (Portman): 202-224-5190