Senate Panel Approves Leahy-Authored Second Chance Reauthorization Act

WASHINGTON (Thursday, July 21, 2011) – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today approved legislation authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and cosponsored by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) 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.  Leahy is the chairman of the panel.

The Second Chance Act was first enacted in 2008, and provided 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 will continue key programs authorized by the law, and will improve and consolidate existing state and local grant programs, while reducing costs for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.  This will ultimately save taxpayer dollars and improve prisoner reentry policy at the federal level.

“There are currently more than two million people in jail or prison in the United States, and more than 13 million people spend some time in jail or prison each yearThe Second Chance Act recognizes that most of these people will at some point return to our communities,” said Leahy.  “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 reenter our communities as productive members of society.”

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;
  • Repeal several programs that have not been funded or have been completed and require a study of duplicative programs to ensure that federal dollars are spent in a cost effective manner;
  • Enhance accountability measures for grantees by requiring periodic audits of grantees to ensure that federal dollars are responsibly spent; make sure nonprofit grantees do not hide money in offshore accounts and that they are in compliance with their tax exempt status obligations.

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 when it was first introduced in 2007, and worked to secure Senate passage of the law. 

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