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Photo Credit: iStock
Criminal Justice

As Second Chance Month Draws to a Close, Prison Reentry Initiatives Continue to Gain Traction

On March 30th, President Trump proclaimed April to be Second Chance month for those with a criminal history. This week the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up the Prison Reform and Redemption Act (H.R. 3356). The bill is based on successful prison reforms in various states, including Georgia and Texas. This measure would expand and improve reentry programs in prisons, which would allow ex-offenders to be better prepared for life after prison. These would include programs concerning job training, drug treatment, and mental health. Before participating in any programs, the Department of Justice would conduct an evaluation to determine the best programming for the prisoner. Furthermore, the bill would utilize faith-based organizations to help in the efforts. In fact, Christian ministries such as Prison Fellowship have successfully worked with prisoners in areas such as job training and mentoring.

Reentry programs would reduce recidivism rates and would make communities safer. Lower recidivism rates mean fewer crimes committed and fewer victims of crime. Currently, recidivism rates are high. According to Prison Fellowship, roughly 40,000 federal prisoners will be released this year and nearly 20,000 will return within the next three years. When the state prison population is taken into consideration, about 650,000 ex-offenders are released every year and statistics demonstrate that approximately two-thirds of them will be arrested for another crime. These high recidivism rates demonstrate that taxpayer dollars are not being used effectively or efficiently. The Prison Reform and Redemption Act seeks to reduce these high recidivism rates and make better use of taxpayer funds. The act enjoys bipartisan support, with Representative Doug Collins (R-GA) sponsoring the bill and an additional ten Democrats and eight Republicans co-sponsoring it. The bill is supported by various groups and individuals along the ideological spectrum, including Right on Crime, FreedomWorks, Van Jones, Jim DeMint, and Jared Kushner. Ideally, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle will work together to pass the Prison Reform and Redemption Act during this time of remarkably divisive partisanship.

The ALEC model Resolution in Support of Reentry Programs outlines several reasons for the importance of reentry initiatives. Namely, that the development and implementation of sound reentry policies promote public safety, reduce recidivism rates, and offer offenders second chances. The resolution calls on states to designate the month of April to be Second Chance Month in order to raise awareness for reentry programs and the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.

Ultimately, roughly 96% of all incarcerated individuals will be released from prison. Criminals deserve to be punished for their actions; however, they should also be afforded the opportunity to rejoin society after they have served their entire sentence. Our elected officials at all levels of government should place a high premium on public safety and allow offenders the opportunity to participate in reentry programs that help ensure that they do not commit new crimes after they have been released from prison.

In Depth: Criminal Justice

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