10 November 2005

The Second Chances Act.

The Second Chances Act now being considered in Congress, provides money to assist prisoners newly released and to conduct studies of the issue of transitions to society and reoffending.

It is a very modest bill, but, the justification for the act suggests that more bold measures should be taken eventually:

Crime Reduction – Nearly two-thirds of released prisoners are expected to be rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of release. Such high recidivism rates translate into thousands of new crimes each year, at least half of which can be averted through improved prisoner reentry efforts. In 2002, 2 million people were incarcerated in Federal or State prisons. Nearly 650,000 people are released from prison to communities nationwide each year.

Substance Abuse/Mental Health Problems – Seventy to eighty percent of offenders re-entering the community have histories of substance abuse. An increasing number of offenders have mental health problems. If the treatment is not sought or available upon release, relapse is likely. Fifty-seven percent of federal and 70 percent of state inmates used drugs regularly before prison, with some estimates of involvement with drugs/alcohol around the time of the offense as high as 84 percent (BJS Trends in State Parole, 1990 – 2000).

Saving Taxpayer Dollars – Significant portions of state budgets are now invested in the criminal justice system. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, expenditures on corrections alone increased from $9 billion in 1982 to $44 billion in 1997. These figures do not include the cost of arrest and prosecution, nor do they take into account the cost to victims.

Strengthening Families and Communities – One of the most significant costs of prisoner reentry is the impact on children and communities. Between 1991 and 1999, the number of children with a parent in a Federal or State correctional facility increased by more than 100 percent, from approximately 900,000 to approximately 2,000,000.

Hat Tip to the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog.

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