Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Full Committee Markup of H.R. 3406, “the Second Chance Reauthorization Act”
“As a longtime champion of reentry and criminal justice reform, I am encouraged by the Committee’s continued bipartisan progress in moving reform legislation and today’s markup of H.R., 3406, the ‘Second Chance Reauthorization Act.’
With its enactment under President George W. Bush in 2008, the Second Chance Act was Congress’ first major bipartisan step toward addressing the Nation’s exploding prison population. I applaud Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner and Danny Davis of Illinois for their longtime efforts in supporting Second Chance legislation.
“The United States unfortunately remains the world's leader in incarceration, with 2.2 million people currently serving time in our nation's prisons or jails.
“At current levels of incarceration, more than 630,000 individuals can be expected to return to their communities each year.
“But, sadly, too few who return are adequately prepared for their release or receive the proper support services. Moreover, the vast majority of these individuals are returning to neighborhoods that feature concentrated poverty and lack the necessary resources to support their successful re-entry.
“The decision to rely on incarceration as a key element of public safety policy has transformed American society by removing a disproportionate number of nonviolent minority offenders from their communities and diverting public resources from critical social programs.
“Federal, state and local governments have also been forced to cope with prison overcrowding and are being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, to the tune of more than $70 billion every year.
“The Second Chance Act was passed with the intent of encouraging the development of evidence-based re-entry programming to improve outcomes for offenders returning to their families and communities.
“Since 2009, more than 600 Second Chance Act grant awards have been made to government agencies and nonprofit organizations from 49 states for reentry programs serving adults and juveniles.
“As of June 2015, more than 137,000 people returning to their community after incarceration have participated in these programs.
“In my state of Michigan, I have met with grantees and have witnessed the positive impact Second Chance funded programs can have. This fall, I also visited two prisons neighboring my district, where corrections officials all stressed the need for continuing federal support of re-entry programming like the Second Chance Act.
“Based upon the weight of reviews, the Second Chance program must be considered a success story and deserves our support. The data compiled from program grantees has shown that an investment in our returning population lowers recidivism, saves money and reduces crime.
“For this reason, Second Chance reauthorization legislation enjoys broad bipartisan support and is considered a key part of ongoing criminal justice reform. It is also supported by the American Bar Association and more than 650 organizations across the national and political spectrum.
“We are at a moment when we have the opportunity to make real progress on criminal justice reform.
“By de-politicizing the debate on crime and presenting holistic options for community development and crime reduction, we can break the cycle of incarceration that has decimated our communities.
“I thank the Chairman for bringing this important legislation before the Committee today and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.”