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" WednesdayCongress 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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