WASHINGTON (Monday, June 20, 2011) – Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Monday introduced legislation to help improve public safety and reduce prison costs for federal, state and local governments.  The Second Chance Reauthorization Act improves existing assistance programs to help state and local authorities more successfully reintegrate prisoners into their communities and reduce the rate of repeat offenses.

The Second Chance Act was first enacted in 2007, and provided resources and support to local corrections agencies, nonprofits, education institutions, service providers, and families to help offenders reintegrate into their communities.  The legislation proposed by Leahy and Portman reauthorizes, improves and consolidates existing state and local grant programs, while reducing costs for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars and improving prisoner reentry policy at the federal level.

“As a former prosecutor, I believe strongly in securing tough and appropriate prison sentences for people who break our laws,” said Leahy.  “But it is also important that we do everything we can to ensure that when these people get out of prison, they enter our communities as productive members of society, so we can start to reverse the dangerous cycle of recidivism and violence.  The Second Chance Reauthorization Act will help break this cycle.  I thank Senator Portman for joining me in sponsoring this legislation.”

“The Second Chance Reauthorization Act improves current law by making the programs under it more efficient and accountable, and by providing additional incentives to participate in recidivism programs,” said Portman, the bill’s lead Republican sponsor. “Given the current fiscal situation, the amount of authorized funding is reduced while maintaining Second Chance’s effectiveness by streamlining and improving programs. Ohio has been a leader in using the Second Chance Act and has seen a decrease in recidivism according to a recent Pew Center study. This bill will help inmates turn their lives around and become productive members of society, ensuring better stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”

Among some of the key provisions of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, the bill will:

Provide support for planning and implementation of key reentry projects to ensure that those projects use methods proven through testing and review to lead to meaningful reductions in recidivism rates; 

  • Consolidate the Reentry Courts Program and the Prosecution Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison Program into one grant program with multiple uses to ensure that federal dollars are effectively spent;
  • Create an incentive for inmates to participate in rigorous recidivism reduction programming by awarding a credit of up to 60 days per year toward completion of their sentence for participation in such programs;
  • Repeal several programs that have not been funded or have been completed;
  • Require periodic audits of grantees to ensure that federal dollars are responsibly spent; grantees with problematic audits will not be eligible for funding in future years.

The bill will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs.  Leahy was an original sponsor of the Second Chance Act in 2007, and worked to secure Senate passage of the law.  Portman was the lead Republican on the 2003 Second Chance Act when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the years he has been an advocate in the area of re-entry and has been a recipient of many awards.  Most recently, he was honored with the President’s Award by the International Community Corrections in March of 2011.   As Portman moves forward in his duties to represent Ohio, he remains committed to finding solutions to reduce recidivism.