NAACP Urges President to Sign Second Chance Act into Law

Measure would reduce prison recidivism by assisting local communities with ex-offender re-entry process

The NAACP joins a broad coalition of elected officials and organizations calling for President George W. Bush to sign the Second Chance Act of 2007 into law. The act provides essential resources to decrease prisoner recidivism and ease ex-offender re-entry into the general population. The U.S. Senate passed the measure by a unanimous vote on March 11, after the U.S. House of Representatives passed it last November by an overwhelming 347-62 bipartisan vote. 

“The Second Chance Act will give more than 650,000 men and women who have paid their debt to society a fresh start,” said NAACP Interim President & CEO Dennis Courtland Hayes. “The money authorized in the Second Chance Act is a prudent investment in our communities, as well as in the men and women who have served their time, by easing recidivism rates and helping curtail corrections expenditures that increased from $9 billion in 1982 to $60 billion in 2002 and that continue to skyrocket.”   

 The Second Chance Act, which was introduced and championed tirelessly by Congressman Danny Davis (IL) and Senators Joe Biden (DE), Sam Brownback (KS) and Patrick Leahy (VT) would provide state and local communities with federal assistance to establish ex-offender reentry projects, with enhanced focus on job training, housing, substance abuse and mental health treatment, as well as programs to work with the children and families of ex-offenders. 

For most ex-offenders, the transition back into their communities is difficult. Studies have shown that many of those released from prison come back into society with a substance abuse addiction or mental health problem. Employment and housing are often difficult. One study found that applicants with criminal records experienced a 50 percent reduction in job offers for entry level jobs; African American former inmates experienced a 64 percent reduction in offers. As many as a quarter of all ex-offenders go to homeless shelters upon release. Furthermore, many communities where prisoners go upon release already struggle with high poverty, unemployment, fragile families and a dearth of jobs. 

“It should be no surprise, then, that over two-thirds of released prisoners are re-arrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years and one-half of those re-arrested are convicted and re-incarcerated,” said NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary O. Shelton. “The Second Chance Act would encourage new community partnerships to help educate, train and employ those recently released who might otherwise return to a life of crime.”

Founded in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its more than half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities and monitors of equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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