Second Chance Law: Now, It’s About the Funding

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By Erika Fitzpatrick

As expected, President Bush signed into law the Second Chance Act, which authorizes $360 million over the next several years for juvenile and adult offender re-entry programs, in April.

Now the bipartisan group of lawmakers who support the bill – from liberal Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to conservative Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) – acknowledge that the next challenge will be finding the appropriations to implement the substance abuse treatment, job assistance programs and other projects supporters say make a difference in prisoner re-offense rates. (New Funds to Help Offenders Start Over, Youth Today, April 2008.)

Brownback says he intends to work with Appropriations Committee colleagues “to make certain that the Second Chance Act has the funding to enable community and faith-based organizations to deliver needed services,” he said in a statement issued by the Council of State Governments.

Brownback joined fellow congressmen and ex-offenders who have benefited from re-entry services at the White House bill-signing ceremony, where President Bush emphasized the impact of faith-based organizations on prisoner rehabilitation. Bush also touted the law’s authorization of the administration’s existing Prison Re-entry Initiative, which funds job training and placement services, transitional housing and mentoring for newly released prisoners.

However, Bush’s 2009 budget would nearly halve the Department of Labor’s ex-offender program from $73 million this year to $40 million in 2009, and kill another $12 million in Department of Justice funds for similar programs.

Read some lawmakers’ official statements on the Second act here:

Sen. Sam Brownback
Sen. Joe Biden
Rep. Danny Davis