Washington, DC - Today, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rob Portman (R-OH) will be introduced to address issues surrounding prisoners reentering society.
The bill, called the Second Chance Act of 2004, will be introduced at a press conference scheduled for 2:00 today in the Capitol.
This legislation begins to address the reentry of more than 600,000 men and women who return to society each year from federal and state prisons, and the millions more who reenter from local jails.
As President Bush said in this year's State of the Union Address, "[w]e know from long experience that if they cant find work, or a home or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison."
Few of those who return to our communities every day are prepared for their release or receive supportive services. One-third of all corrections departments provide no funds to prisoners upon release. Many of those leaving jail and prison have chronic health issues, no housing, little education or job training, and generally lack resources to allow them to reintegrate.
While research shows that these supportive services are critical to an individuals safe and successful reentry, existing barriers make it difficult, if not impossible, for people with criminal records to access them. Fifteen to 27 percent of prisoners expect to go to homeless shelters upon release from prison. One study found that at least 11 percent of the people released from New York state prisons to New York City from 1995 go 1998 entered a homeless shelter within two years - more than half of these in the first month after release.
As a result of these and other barriers to successful reentry, according to a 2002 study by the Justice Department, sixty-seven percent of persons released from state prisons were arrested for a new crime within the first three years after release.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has participated in legislative efforts to recognize the problems formerly-incarcerated individuals face in reentering society, and their basic human right to shelter and sustenance. This bill is an important first step in the process of ensuring better coordination and planning for release, providing for improved housing opportunities, job training and education for those who desperately need it.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to serve as the legal arm of the national movement to prevent and end homelessness.