With about 700,000 state and federal prisoners being released each year, many states and private groups have experimented with re-entry programs to help ex-inmates fit back into their communities and avoid new crime. The strategy gets a boost tomorrow, when President Bush signs the Second Chance Act, making rehabilitation a central goal of the justice system, says the New York Times. The measure passed Congress with nearly unanimous bipartisan support.
Although there are no appropriations yet to fund the law, it should provide more leadership in a field where progress is likely to be difficult at best. “From our perspective, this is a huge development,” said Michael Thompson of the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments. “Governors, legislatures, corrections, and law enforcement agencies around the country were all very supportive of the act.” The law authorizes $165 million per year, including matching grants to state and local governments and nongovernmental groups to experiment with efforts like more schooling and drug treatment inside prison and aid with housing, employment and the building of family and community ties after release. “This act represents a major change in crime policy,” said Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who as a Justice Department official in the Clinton administration and the author of “But They All Come Back: Facing the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry” helped promote the shift.