Action Needed

Urge your members of Congress – especially those serving on the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees – to support increased funding for Second Chance Act programs in the annual appropriations process. The bipartisan Second Chance Act provides resources to states, local governments and nonprofit organizations to improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons, jails and juvenile facilities.

Background

Enacted in 2008, the Second Chance Act (P.L. 110-199) authorizes federal grants that assist states, counties and nonprofit organizations in developing and implementing programs to help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reintegrate into the community after their release from correctional facilities. Administered through the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Second Chance Act programs have helped numerous counties provide reentry services – like employment assistance, substance abuse and mental health treatment, housing, family-center programming and mentoring – to adults and juveniles returning to the community from prisons or jails.

Since its establishment, the Second Chance Act has funded more than 600 grants to state and local governments and nonprofit organizations, and more than a third of these grants have been awarded to counties. These investments in reentry programs have proven effective in helping individuals successfully reintegrate into their communities. Successful reintegration results in lower rates of recidivism, which improves public safety and provides significant savings to counties, who collectively spend $107 billion each year on criminal justice. 

As Congress considers funding for a variety of federal programs and thousands of formerly incarcerated individuals return to their communities, the Second Chance Act should be prioritized in the annual appropriations process. In FY 2024, the program was funded at $17 million – a decrease of $8 million from FY 2023 levels. Congress should maintain at least this level of funding in FY 2025. 

Key Talking Points

  • Counties spend more than $107 billion each year on criminal justice and more than $163 billion on health and human services.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are more than 7 million individuals admitted to jails each year. Of that number, only about six percent of jail admissions result in prison sentences – in other words, 94 percent of jail detainees and inmates return directly to the community from jail.
  • The Second Chance Act improves the coordination of reentry services and policies at the state, local and tribal levels, and provides financial assistance for local programs that provide employment training, mentoring, substance abuse and mental health treatment and other family-centered services to formerly incarcerated individuals.
  • Since 2009, more than one out of three Second Chance Act awards has gone to county governments.  From the onset, over $600 million has been awarded to state, local, tribal and nonprofit reentry programs under the Second Chance Act. Since 2015, $47 million has gone directly to county governments.

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