Funding the Second Chance Act
A NY Times editorial urges Congress to appropriate full funding to the Second Chance Act. Especially noteworthy is the reminder that some state governments are already making a serious effort to reduce recidivism with programs that help offenders build a new life after their release from prison.
In Illinois — where the inmate population has doubled since the late 1980s — Gov. Rod Blagojevich has begun a promising re-entry program that could become a national model. The comprehensive plan includes drug treatment, job training and placement and a variety of community-based initiatives designed to help newly released inmates forge successful postprison lives.
Illinois is also revamping its parole system by hiring more parole officers and changing regulations so that parolees who commit lesser violations are dealt with in their community — with counseling, drug treatment or more vigilant monitoring — rather than being reflexively sent back to prison.
It was once a common belief that offenders who "paid their debt to society" were entitled to a second chance. Those feelings have been overtaken by a "lock 'em up forever" mentality, but the reality is that prisoners are released every day even as prison populations continue to grow. If we don't help them build new lives, we increase the risk that they will commit new crimes. Funding the Second Chance Act is a no-brainer.
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