Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Second Chance Act passes Senate, headed to Bush's desk

Here's some terrific news out of D.C.: At long last Congress has passed the Second Chance Act. Since the Senate passed the same version as did the House last fall, there's no need for a conference committee and the bill now heads straight to President Bush, who is widely expected to sign it.

Thanks to Nkechi Taifa for the heads up, and congrats to all involved in passage of this important legislation. For more on details of the bill, see this page from the Re-Entry Policy Council at the National Council of State Governments.

MORE: From the Wall Street Journal, and also see a press release from Sen. Sam Brownback. Doc Berman rounds up more links.

15 comments:

shg said...

Are you good with the "faith based reenty program" aspect of this law?

Ron in Houston said...

Well, I thought common sense was finally coming back in our laws until I read shg's comment.

I guess it's a start.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I am personally, SHG. For the most part nobody but the faith based community gives a crap about ex-prisoners, so I don't know how you could realistically craft a re-entry program without them.

I think that part will work itself out. One thing you can say for the ACLU, their advocacy on church-state stuff has left some pretty strong bright lines in the law regarding using public funds for proselytizing. For those who cross the line, that case law is there. But I don't think you exclude religious NGOs from the process because they MIGHT proselytize. And in the meantime, I think it's good the law recognizes the positive role the religious community plays in this regard and supports instead of restricts it.

shg said...

Faith based programs raises another whole issue (for another day). I'm not an inherent fan, but I do understand that they may be the only game in town to help.

rage said...

Faith based programs are widely accepted as constitutional. And like Grits said, they're the only ones that care so we'd be shooting ourselves in the foot not to let them help.

I will say that the list of main sponsors makes for a strange set of bedfellows. (If I may use that term with Republicans in the mix. Perhaps "strange set of bathroom stall-mates?"

shg said...

Just to be clear, there is still a significant policy and legal issue relating to the propriety of faith based programs receiving federal aid, except when they are acting in a purely secular capacity. If not, they would be quite unconstitutional.

As to faith based programs being the only ones who care, we have a substantial number of secular charitable programs in my area. Rather than assume that your world applies to everyone, you should be careful of overbroad generalities.

They are not the only ones who care, but to the extent they do care,they are the only programs available and they do not use it as an opportunity to proselytize, I applaud their efforts.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

SHG, lots of church ministries and faith based groups already participate in prison programming, so the lines are pretty well established. I'm not sure I accept that it's as big a policy conundrum as you think.

As for secular groups also focused on these issues, I can only speak for Texas, where in addition to the faith based groups there are straight up inmate family support groups, a couple of local government programs, and virtually nothing else available for the 70,000 who leave Texas prisons each year. From a practical, boots on the ground perspective, I'm willing to bet that's largely the case where you are in NY, too in terms of volume of direct assistance volunteers.

Anonymous said...

It is encouraging to see - at least at the Federal level - some recognition of the problems associated with re-entry to soceity after a lengthy prison sentence. Texans should pay attention to this trend.

Unfortunately, Texas has a large number of prison beds. Legislators and vendors want to be sure these beds are filled. Revocation of probation or parole are the most efficient path to prison. No trial or plea deal, just a hearing and boom; another bed is full. With so many Texans under supervision of the justice system, there are plenty of folks to round up and put away as needed.

Law makers and enforcers proclaim they're doing a good job and point to the full prison as proof.

Success in criminal justice matters is best measured by reduction in crimes, not full prisons! Has anyone noticed that crime rates are higher in Texas?

Anonymous said...

Finally, a good start though, a modest sum to play with. Strengthening the family is very important.

TJDO

JT Barrie said...

Addicts are EXCELLENT recruits for churches who promote a weak and shallow faith based on external orthodoxy and peer pressure. They have already demonstrated extreme commitment to keeping an external reward system in place. All you have to do is substitute dogma for drugs and parishioners as the fellowship of addiction. Can you think of an easier transition into the world of "good honest churchgoers". Yes, and they get to blame drugs for their past sins! They don't necessarily make very principled, honest people - but they follow church ideology and righteously condemn others on narrow grounds.

wolf said...

While it is encouraging to see some positive legislation come out of Washington, the focus, imo is off. If prisons were designed to provide the services inmates need and also taught self support, respect for self and others, effective communication and cooperation, those released from prison would need much less help. Parolees would be ready for release instead of leaving prison as a crippled

Anonymous said...

Rehab in Texas prisons? An oxymoron.

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