Bush Signs Second Chance Act Into Law

Bump and Update: President Bush signed the Second Chance Act into law today. Here are his remarks.

The country was built on the belief that each human being has limitless potential and worth. Everybody matters. We believe that even those who have struggled with a dark past can find brighter days ahead. One way we act on that belief is by helping former prisoners who've paid for their crimes -- we help them build new lives as productive members of our society.

Our government has a responsibility to help prisoners to return as contributing members of their community. But this does not mean that the government has all the answers. Some of the most important work to help ex-convicts is done outside of Washington, D.C., in faith-based communities and community-based groups. It's done on streets and small town community centers. It's done in churches and synagogues and temples and mosques.

...The bill I'm signing today, the Second Chance Act of 2007, will build on work to help prisoners reclaim their lives. In other words, it basically says: We're standing with you, not against you.


First, the act will authorize important parts of the administration's Prison Re-entry Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to help America's prisoners by expanding job training and placement services, improving their ability to find transitional housing, and helping newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups.

...This bill will help state and local governments, and Indian tribes, and non-profit groups implement programs that will improve the prisoner re-entry process. These programs will provide further -- former prisoners with essential services, like housing and medical care. It will help develop prisoner drug treatment programs; support prisoner mentoring initiatives. It will support family counseling and other services to help prisoners re-establish their place in the community. In both these ways, the Second Chance Act will live up to its name; will help ensure that where the prisoner's spirit is willing, the community's resources are available. It will help our armies of compassion use their healing touch so lost souls can rediscover their dignity and sense of purpose.


Original Post: 4/7/06

Bush to Sign "Second Chance Act" Wednesday

Congress passed the Second Chance Act providing support services for prisoners re-entering society a few weeks ago. It's been floating around Congress since 2005. President Bush will sign the bill into law on Wednesday at a Rose Garden ceremony.

The "get tough on crime" policies of the 1970's and 80's have come home to roost.

Today, as a legacy of those policies, not only are record numbers incarcerated, but also about 700,000 state and federal prisoners are released annually, many of them with little education or employment prospects and destined to be imprisoned again within a few years.

In a sharp change in attitudes about incarceration, many states and private groups have recently experimented with “re-entry” programs to help released prisoners fit back into their communities and avoid new crime.

The bill passed easily with support from members of both parties.

The act authorizes $165 million in spending per year, including matching grants to state and local governments and nongovernmental groups to experiment with efforts like more schooling and drug treatment inside prison and aid with housing, employment and the building of family and community ties after release.

It also directs the Justice Department to step up research on re-entry issues and establishes a national Reentry Resource Center to promote successful approaches and provide training.

It's about time we recognized that it's better to be smart about crime rather than just tough on crime. What turned the tide?

The new push to help prisoners reintegrate into society has been driven in part by financial concerns: states cannot afford to keep building more prisons. It also reflects concern for the victims of repeat offenders and for the wasted lives of the offenders themselves, who are disproportionately black and from neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.

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  • Display: Sort:
    No veto for coddling criminals? Amazing. (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by LHinSeattle on Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 11:53:34 PM EST
    Bush actually signs something I agree with.

    Yeah, if we only had more of our tax dollars going into these sorts of programs instead of to Blackwater. Our next prez has a lot of rebuilding to do. She'll be great at it.

    Uh oh (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 12:05:08 AM EST
    The act authorizes $165 million in spending per year,

    Look to see whether this makes it into the appropriations bills, and we'll see if they're really serious.

    $165 million (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by shoephone on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 08:08:45 PM EST
    Wow. That is a "drop in the bucket". I'm not saying the bill isn't a step in the right direction, but considering that Bush severely cut money for community block grants... $165 really is just a pittance.

    "$165" - Freudian slip? (none / 0) (#15)
    by shoephone on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 08:10:02 PM EST
    I meant "$165 million" of course.

    What was in this for the Rs? n/t (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by rilkefan on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 12:15:31 AM EST

    I imagine (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Kathy on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 08:26:39 PM EST
    the convicts will have mandatory counseling at Christian counseling centers built by Bechtel...?

    $$ to faith-based groups (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Joan in VA on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 08:31:33 PM EST
    And the same rationale... (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Alec82 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 12:34:23 AM EST
    ...will be what finally ends the destructive and futile drug war.

    We have to do something eventually. (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by myiq2xu on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 12:34:32 AM EST
    Let them go, execute them, or build more prisons.

    Increasing the length of sentences and "3-strikes" laws are like buying on credit - someday you'll have to pay, and with interest.

    I don't believe in the death penalty, not because no one deserves it but because mistakes are inevitably made and the innocent get killed.  But there are some people who need to be locked up for the safety of society.  Pedophiles, sociopaths, and violent criminals.

    All criminals are not created equal.  Some need treatment and rehabilitation, others just need to be fed and cared for in a safe place where they can't hurt others.

    If we let people out without job skills or drug treatment, they'll most often end up right back inside.

    maybe they'll decide on sentences of (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 12:45:01 AM EST
    life plus cancer to cut the cost of incarceration. [/sarcasm.]

    It's about time (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by chopper on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 03:45:39 AM EST
    The sentencing laws of this country are archaic, barbaric, and just plain stupid.

    Mandatory sentences don't fit every circumstance.  There are boys, 18 to 21, who made a mistake.  Their brains are not fully developed at that age, they don't comprehend consequences, they are pressured by peers, they commit a crime, even a seious crime like armed robbery and they are scared stiff, unsophisticated, they get caught and they are truly remorseful.  Sure, they're sorry they got caught, but they are also sorry that they allowed themselves to get in that situation.  They know that is something they will never do again.  But, because they had a gun, which are so plentiful in this society, they get an automatic 10 years.

    So, now you have a kid who could have turned out to be a productive citizen with education and guidance, who will likely turn out to be a resentful, hard-core criminal because of the abuse, physical and mental, that he receives in prison, and because that is what he is taught from living and fighting with hard-core criminals.

    So, when this boy who made a mistake is finally released after years in prison he is now a real danger to society.  He has had a prison education on how to survive, how to fight, lie, cheat, and steal.  He has had years of his young life wasted.  He hasn't learned anything positive, no education, no vocational training, no living among normal people, he has been caged like an animal, living with animals who fight to survive, and who likely learned from the same sick system.

    And, there's the overcrowding which turns people mad and violent.  So, it gets even worse.

    The stupid politicians are afraid to face the facts.  They would rather stick to their mantra, be tough on crime.  So more and more money is poured into the prison system, and education for our children is cut, health services and services for the elderly are cut, and infrastructure is crumbling. States are close to bankrupcy. Republicans who think they are fiscally responsible are wrong, sometimes dead wrong.

    I remember when Poppy Bush (5.00 / 5) (#9)
    by myiq2xu on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 06:36:01 AM EST
    declared war on crack cocaine.  During a speech he used as a prop some crack purchased by undercover officers.

    The kid who sold it was asked by the narcs to meet them at a school one night to make the delivery.  When he showed up he was busted.

    Because of the amount and the fact that the sale was at a school (even though that was the cops idea, not the defendant's) he got a mandatory 20 year sentence.

    Those 20 years should be up soon.  The kid who was 18 at the time he was arrested will soon be a 38 year old free man who spent over half his entire life (and virtually all his adult life) in prison.

    What are the chances that he will ever be a "productive member of society?"

    Protecting people from the dangers of drugs by introducing them to the dangers of prison is stupid.  It's also cruel and unusual punishment.


    politicians may be a lot of things, (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by cpinva on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 04:04:02 AM EST
    but stupid they aren't. they know that the "tough on crime" schtick works every time. if it didn't, they wouldn't use it.

    i don't know alec, the "drug war" has been a loser since nixon started it (well before your time), it's cost hundreds of billions of direct dollars, plus god only knows how much in lost opportunity costs. there is little to nothing to show for all this, aside from a very profitable law enforcement/penal industry. they won't lose their money without a fight, and no politician who wants to be re-elected is going to put "stop the war against drugs now!" on their platform.

    so no, i don't expect it to stop anytime soon.

    this would be a nice start (let's face it, 165m is kind of peanuts), if we weren't running 300 billion deficits. where is the money to come from?

    Thanks Jeralyn (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by bjorn on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 09:09:06 PM EST
    I did not hear or see this reported anywhere but here today!  

    Cool I guess.... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 09:41:48 AM EST
    but just another band aid on a gaping wound.

    If we don't lock up non-violent criminals who perpetrated victimless crimes from jumpstreet, we save all the money it costs to incarcerate them and any monies needed to help them re-integrate into society.

    But I guess there is no pork in that for crooked congressmen to dole out in their districts.

    Anyway, this is interesting:
    many of them with little education or employment prospects and destined to be imprisoned again within a few years.
    Here's my question, did these guys and gals have a good education or good employment prospects before they became criminals and prison took it away from them?

    iow, if they lacked education or employment prospects before they became criminals and got convicted, is the prison time they did the cause of their lack of education or employment prospects after they get out?

    (I know, I know, potential employees with wrap sheets are generally at a disadvantage in the marketplace to those w/o prison records.)

    Also, do they really have little employment prospects? Are there not plenty of jobs available in America for people who have little education? Or do we feel those jobs swinging hammers, processing our food supply and mowing our lawns should only be done by Spanish-speaking foreigners?

    Etc., etc.

    There is a whole lot more to this situation than just "Our prison system is the problem."

    3-Strikes Law is not fine... (none / 0) (#13)
    by chopper on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 06:39:57 PM EST
    The 3-Strikes Law should be for violent crimes ONLY.  It is not.  Say a guy commits a violent crime, where someone is injured, like an armed robbery and he shoots somebody.  Maybe he was on drugs, maybe he was desparate for some reason, or maybe he just did it for no good reason at all.  

    He goes to prison, does his time, gets out, is trying to do everything right. He's trying to find work, which is very dificult for an ex-con, he's going to school, meetings, or whatever he has to do.  

    He's trying to feed his family, who has done poorly because the breadwinner was locked up for so long.  His child is hungry, there's no food in the house, he goes to the store and steals bread, milk, whatever to feed his hungry child.  He get caught, and now what, you think he should spend the next 25 to life in prison for that???  I don't.  

    That was not a violent crime and he should not be punished as if it was.  3-Strikes is a bad law, a very bad law that ruins lives for no good reason.

    This bill lacks something very important (none / 0) (#16)
    by shoephone on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 08:16:08 PM EST
    and that is: giving back voting rights to those who have served their time. It's especially egregious to deny voting rights if it's due to the ex-convict having difficulty paying punitive damages.

    Many felons have voting rights.