Second Chance Act Will Shift Focus to Rehabilitating Convicts

Last week, President Bush signed a bill into law that could change the face of criminal corrections in the United States. The Second Chance Act will provide federal funding for criminal rehabilitation programs across the country to address the problems of prison crowding and recidivism (repeat conviction) currently plaguing the United States.

According to the New York Times, many current problems in the criminal justice system can be traced to “get tough” crime policies widely adopted during the 1970s and 1980s. Such laws reportedly emphasized punishment rather than rehabilitation, and meant more prisons for America and longer sentences for American criminals.

Today, thanks to “tough on crime” laws, 700,000 people are released from prisons into communities every year, sources report. Most of those ex-convicts apparently have little (if any) job training and often face great prejudice when trying to reintegrate themselves into society.

All American Patriots reports that, among those released from prison, two-thirds are rearrested and one-half are convicted again within three years. A recent report from the Pew Center on the States showed that more than 1% of Americans are currently in prison.

In light of statistics like this, it’s hardly surprising that Congress has decided to enact the Second Chance Law. In fact, sources indicate that the law has drawn support from groups with vastly different ideologies, including evangelical Christians and liberal democrats.

And, indeed, the Second Chance Law makes sense no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

States allegedly spent two billion dollars in 2006 alone for costs related to prison building. And, according to sources, the total annual cost of maintaining correctional and law enforcement obligations is $200 billion. The Second Chance Act is expected to save money and ease crowding in many prisons.

Specifically, the Second Chance Act will provide $165 million in annual funding to state governments, local governments and non-government organizations for the purpose of providing education, drug treatment and rehabilitation, housing help and job training. The money will also be used to develop programs to help convicts readjust to living and interacting with members of a family and community.

The Act also reportedly calls for the Justice Department to create a national Reentry Resource Center to conduct research on reentry issues and provide promotion of and training for those reentry efforts that prove most successful.

Lately, local governments and non-government organizations have initiated reentry programs intended to address the same issues tackled by the Act. Hopefully, the new legislation will allow other parts of the country to adopt similar programs and increase neighborhood safety while reducing the costs of maintaining the criminal justice system.