A bill to provide services for formerly incarcerated individuals is advancing steadily in Congress, as a bipartisan group of Senate and House lawmakers joined forces to push it forward Thursday. The One Stop Shop Community Reentry Program Act would create new resource centers to help ex-prisoners get a new start by offering new access to housing, medical care, job searches and legal services, reports NPR. It was introduced in the lower chamber last September, passed by a House voice vote in December, and now its sponsors are hoping new momentum will get the measure over the finish line as policing and criminal justice reform draw closer scrutiny this year.
Lawmakers say the plan would reduce offenses among newly released prisoners who struggle without access to critical tools. The national average rate of crime after leaving incarceration, also known as the recidivism rate, is 49.3 percent during an eight-year period, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Justice Department grants to set up the reentry centers would also help former inmates get back on their feet while centers would help individuals land jobs, gain job-skill training, obtain driver’s licenses, fill out college and student loan applications and receive financial counseling. Even as the vast share of incarcerated individuals — 85 percent— are eventually released, they still face a long list of obstacles to reintegrate into society including challenges finding work, places to live and landing quality education. Those shortfalls make them more likely to offend again, the lawmakers said.