Second Chance Act Reforms Prison Law

April 14, 2008 05:12 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Billed as a ‘quiet revolution,’ the widely supported new law aims to reduce America’s massive prison population by increasing rehab and re-entry programs for inmates.

30-Second Summary

The new ‘Second Chance Act’ authorizes $165 million in funding to help prisoners re-enter society and stay out of prison, through “more schooling and drug treatment inside prison, and aid with housing, employment and the building of family and community ties after release,” reports The New York Times.

Passed by Congress with broad bipartisan support, the measure is an attempt to chip away at the immense inmate population in the United States.

While administrations in the 1960s embraced prisoner rehabilitation, those of the next two decades reversed that policy with “get tough” measures focused on longer sentences and mandatory minimum sentencing.

The result was an escalation in incarceration rates, ultimately giving the United States the largest prison population in the world. A February 2008 study by the Pew Center on the States reported that more than 1 in every 100 American adults were in prison.

Minorities have even higher incarceration rates, with 1 in 9 black men in the United States between the ages of 20 and 34 in prison. Reformers argue that high incarceration levels create a vicious cycle of splintered families which only leads to more poverty, crime and incarceration.

Recidivism rates are also high. About two-thirds of the 650,000 prisoners released annually from jail “are rearrested within three years,” said President Bush.

The Second Chance law was “the product of a quiet revolution that has brought together evangelical Christians, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats,” reports The Hartford Courant.

Headline Links: Second Chance Act promotes rehabilitation

Background: ‘U.S. Prison Population Soars to Record High’

Opinion & Analysis: Second Chance could reduce recidivism

Reference: Justice Department data on prisons and inmates’ need for services


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