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House Approves Bill to Improve Offender Reentry Programs

On November 13, the House passed, 347-62, the Second Chance Act (H.R. 1593), a bill to reauthorize the grant program for the reentry of offenders into their communities in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (P.L. 90-351). The House Judiciary Committee approved, by voice vote, H.R. 1593 on March 28.

Sponsored by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), the measure would authorize $181 million per year for FY2008 and 2009 for the Department of Justice to make grants to state and local governments, territories, Indian tribes, and nonprofit organizations that provide programs to improve the treatment of inmates and help offender reentry into their communities. Within that amount, H.R. 1593 would authorize “such sums as necessary” for grants to state and local prosecutors for the development of drug treatment programs that would be alternatives to prison; and $65 million for adult and juvenile offender state and local reentry demonstration programs, including $10 million for grants to state, local, and tribal governments “to develop and implement comprehensive family-based substance abuse treatment programs as alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent parent offenders”; and grants for prison-based treatment programs for incarcerated parents of minor children.

The bill would authorize $10 million to establish State and Local Reentry Courts for nonviolent offenders that would monitor them and provide them with access to comprehensive reentry services, including employment training; education; housing assistance; children and family support, to include responsible parenting and healthy relationship skill training designed specifically to address the needs of incarcerated and transitioning fathers and mothers; conflict resolution skills training; family violence intervention programs; and other appropriate services.

H.R. 1593 also would require the “attorney general, in consultation with the secretary of Health and Human Services, to study and develop best practices for communication [with], and coordination between, state criminal justice agencies and child welfare agencies to improve the safety and support of children of incarcerated parents, and to maintain the parent-child relationship when the parent is incarcerated.”

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