In a feature story on the proposed federal Second Chance Act, which failed to pass in the last Congress, the New York Times magazine cites “the new conservative interest in rehabilitation” as a reason that the measure may be enacted in the new Congress “as a symbolic political gesture.” The law would authorize less than $100 million over two years to help address the re-entry into society of about 700,000 ex-offenders next year. It would require states to measure how well their programs achieve the bill's main goal: reducing the rate of recidivism among recently released prisoners.
One problem is a “shocking paucity” of evidence to inform the policy debate. Christy Visher of the Urban Institute said in the May 2006 issue of Criminology and Public Policy, “There is no consensus answer to the question Do prisoner-re-entry programs work?” Still, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Ut), a prime sponsor of the Second Chance Act, says, “I think society has a huge obligation to prisoners. I think that obligation transcends our current view, which is: Lock them up, hide them away, keep my daughter safe, keep my house safe, if he or she burgles, I want that person gone. Out of sight, out of mind.”