After many delays, the proposed federal Second Chance Act was approved yesterday by the House of Representatives. The vote was 347 to 62. The bill would authorize federal aid for prisoner re-entry programs. It owes its name to President Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address, which proposed a four-year, $300 million prisoner re-entry initiative “to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups.” Said Bush: “America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.”
Odds for the bill in the Senate, where one member may block passage of legislation, are less certain. The measure was halted last year by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). Coburn may drop his opposition this time because of a compromise that would require grant recipients to match grants dollar for dollar. Even if Congress passes the Second Chance Act, a separate appropriations provision would be necessary to fund it.