A dispute over the federal prison industries program is holding up the long-pending Second Chance Act, says Pat Nolan of the Virginia-based Prison Fellowship. The law, pending in Congress for several years, would authorize federal spending on program that help ex-convicts return successfully to society. It has been approved by the House but Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has placed a “hold” on it, precluding any agreement by unanimous consent as many Senate bills are passed.
Nolan says the bill, which has broad bipartisan support, “is critically important because most inmates fail after they are released – over 50 percent are reincarcerated within three years.” Nolan says Sessions wants to add a study of potential reforms in the inmate work program in federal prisons. Nolan says the Prison Fellowship agrees that Federal Prison Industries should be reformed, but because the issue is so controversial, adding the study would “tear apart” the coalition lobbying for the Second Chance Act. Nolan says Sessions should consider prison industries in a separate bill and not “let the perfect get in the way of the good.”