Human Rights News

Summary of H.R. 4676, the Second Chance Act of 2004

The purpose of the Second Chance Act is to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and help states and communities to better address the growing population of ex-offenders returning to communities. The bill will focus on four areas: jobs, housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and strengthening families.

Stopping Recidivism -- The Case for Action

 
 
Reducing Crime:  
     
  • Nearly two-thirds of released prisoners are expected to be re-arrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of release.
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  • 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.
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  • In 2002, two million people were incarcerated in federal or state prisons.
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  • Nearly 650,000 people are released from prison to communities nationwide each year.
 
 
Treating Substance Abuse and Mental Health Problems:  
     
  • 70-80% of offenders re-entering the community have histories of drug or alcohol abuse.
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  • It is estimated that as many as 84% of criminals were under the influence of drugs/alcohol around the time of their offense.
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  • An increasing number of offenders have mental health problems.
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  • If treatment is not sought or available upon release, relapse is likely.
 
 
Saving Taxpayer Dollars:  
     
  • Significant portions of state budgets are now invested in the criminal justice system.
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  • The average cost of incarcerating a prisoner is $22,650 per inmate, per year, with some states spending as much as $44,000 per inmate, per year.
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  • According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, expenditures on corrections alone increased from $9 billion in 1982 to $44 billion in 1997.
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  • 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.
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  • Between 1991 and 1999, the number of children with a parent in a federal or state correctional facility increased by more than 100%, from approximately 900,000 to approximately 2,000,000.
 
 
Reducing Recidivism Through Common Sense Solutions  
     
  • National Offender Reentry Resource Center. Establishes a national resource center for states, local governments, service providers, faith-based organization, corrections and community organizations to collect and disseminate best practices and provide training and support around reentry.
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  • Federal Taskforce. Creates a federal interagency taskforce to identify programs and resources on reentry, identify ways to better collaborate, develops interagency initiatives and a national reentry research agenda. Review and report to Congress on the federal barriers that exist to successful reentry with recommendations.
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  • National Family Caregiver Support Program. Removes the age limitation of at least 60 years of age for grandparents to receive support and services while caring for their grandchildren due to parental incarceration.
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  • Technical Amendment to Drug-Free Student Loan Provision. Ensures that the Drug-Free Student Loans provision only applies to offenses committed while receiving federal aid and encourages treatment.
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  • Protection Against Dangerous Felons. Provides grants to states and local governments that may be used to develop or adopt procedures to ensure that dangerous felons are not released from prison prematurely.
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  • Assessment Tools. Provides grants to states and local governments that may be used to utilize established assessment tools to assess the risk factors of returning inmates and prioritizing services based on risk.
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  • Mentoring Grants. Provides grants to community-based organizations that may be used for mentoring of adult offenders or providing transitional services for re-integration into the community.
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  • Demonstration Grants. Provides grants to states and local governments that may be used to provide mental health services, substance abuse treatment and aftercare, and treatment for contagious diseases to offenders in custody and after reentry into the community.
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  • Collaboration with Community Colleges. Provides grants to states and local governments that may be used to facilitate collaboration among corrections and community corrections, technical schools, community colleges, and workforce development employment services.
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  • Post-release Housing. Provides grants to states and local governments that may be used to provide structured post-release housing and transitional housing, including group homes for recovering substance abusers, through which offenders are provided supervision and services immediately following reentry into the community;
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  • Family-Based Treatment. Provides grants to states and local governments that may be used to expand family-based treatment centers that offer family-based comprehensive treatment services for parents and their children as a complete family unit.
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