With correctional facilities teeming with repeat offenders, state and local officials hope the federal Second Chance Act will be a priority under the Obama administration, reports Stateline.org. The law authorizes $165 million in annual grants to states, localities, nonprofits, and religious groups to build programs that help current and ex-offenders find jobs and housing, overcome drug and alcohol addictions, receive mentoring, and return to society as law-abiding residents. When he signed the bill, President Bush called it a sign of support for the 700,000 released from prison each year. More than two thirds of ex-inmates are rearrested for serious crimes within three years.
Congress has not funded the law. State and local lawmakers, corrections officials, advocacy groups and others are pushing Congress and Obama to provide funding. “States are very anxious for the Second Chance dollars because of how high a priority reentry and recidivism is,” said Jessica Nickel of the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments. She said the nation's economic slide – which has battered state budgets and threatens funding for anti-recidivism initiatives – “makes the need for these dollars a little more pressing.” Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden backed the Second Chance Act as senators. Not everyone favors it. “This bill would provide more benefits to felons than are available to those risking their lives in the service of the United States military,” U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said in debate on the measure.