Second Chance Act


To the Editor:
The Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA has requested that leadership in Congress support the Second Chance Act (S. 1690/HR 3465). This legislation was originally signed into law in 2008 during the Bush Administration and is now up for reauthorization. The Second Chance Act helps address many of the issues facing the more than 650,000 men, women and juveniles who reenter society every year from federal and state prisons and local jails and detention centers.
We have particular interest in supporting reauthorization of the Second Chance Act in the Diocese of Davenport. For many years, dedicated clergy and lay people have provided ministry at county and state facilities across the diocese’s 22 counties.  And within the past two years, our Catholic Charities has added trained mentors to the efforts of drug courts in both Fort Madison and Davenport. This ministry appreciates our society’s responsibility to welcome back and support returning citizens and also provide alternatives to incarceration through restorative justice efforts.
In political terms, the Second Chance Act should not be characterized as a blue or red issue. If any color, it might be a green issue, as the annual cost for a drug court participant is $4,000 versus $31,500 for prison.  But the benefits gained go beyond just these savings. As an example, children of family drug court participants spend significantly less time in out-of-home placements such as foster care,  and family reunification rates are 50 percent higher for family drug court participants.
The Second Chance Act is presently in committee in both chambers.  Reauthorization is proposed at a cost of $100 million, a significant decrease from $165 million previously.  Please contact your members of Congress and ask them to support the Second Chance Act.
Kent Ferris
Director of Social Action and Catholic Charities
Diocese of Davenport

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