A bipartisan group in Congress started a new campaign today for legislation to improve the chances that released prisoners will avoid committing new crimes. The drive was launched at the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute, which has sponsored extensive research on prisoner re-entry into society. Noting that 97 percent of inmates eventually are released, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) said that “not a lot of political points can be scored” with the issue, but “it is good public policy. It is the right thing to do.” Brownback said nearly two thirds of ex-prisoners are rearrested within three years. He said reforms could cut that recidivism rate by one half within five years. A coalition organized by the Council of State Governments recently issued a detailed report on the problem, which is available at www.reentrypolicy.org.
Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Danny Davis (D-Ill). are leading sponsors of a Second Chance Act introduced in the House today. The measure would authorize up to $100 million federal dollars to help states and localities improve services for ex-inmates, including jobs, housing, substance abuse/mental health treatment, and family aid. Portman said that considering the more than $44 billion now spent nationwide each year on corrections programs, the bill would save taxpayer money in the long run. Davis, who represents a Chicago-area district where many ex-offenders live, agreed, saying, “A little bit of investment will reap dividends.”