(Chicago) — April 2019 marks the 11th anniversary of the signing of the Second Chance Act (SCA), landmark legislation authorizing federal grants for programs and system reforms aimed at reducing recidivism and improving outcomes for people returning to communities after incarceration.
Administered by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, SCA grants are open to state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations. Since 2009 and through June 2018, more than 900 SCA grants have been made to grantees across the country, with more than 164,000 people participating in SCA-supported programs. Among the many SCA grantee highlights and successes, the Illinois Department of Corrections reports about a 10% increase in sustainable employment among those impacted by the grant.
TASC Vice President George Williams (left) and Congressman Danny Davis in 2008, the year the Second Chance Act was signed into law.
In addition to funding vital reentry programs across the country, TASC Vice President George Williams said that the Second Chance Act sparked a national conversation that continues to this day.
“The Second Chance Act is not just a bill—it’s part of a movement toward criminal justice reform,” said Williams. “It was the first bill of its type that was not only passed and signed into law, but also funded and later reauthorized. When people look back at the process of this bill’s passage and the impact of the bill, I believe it will be seen as one of the most important pieces of criminal justice legislation in the past hundred years.”
Second Chance Month
Emanating from the SCA, April is Second Chance Month, during which policymakers, social service organizations, community leaders, and others are highlighting efforts to support people transitioning from jails and prisons back into the community, as well as drawing attention to the barriers still faced by individuals leaving state and federal prisons, local jails, and juvenile facilities.
On April 7, Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL) held a press conference commemorating the 11th anniversary of the Second Chance Act. “People are changing their attitude towards people who have criminal records or have been convicted,” Davis said, adding, “there is still much more to do.”
Davis was an originating champion of the SCA.
In the early 2000s, Davis, whose district extends from Lake Michigan on the east side of Chicago to the western border of Cook County, held a series of town hall meetings in which his constituents expressed concern about the need to support individuals returning home after release from jails and prisons.
At that time, incarceration rates were rising significantly in Illinois and across the country. From 1985 to 2005, the country’s incarceration rate grew by over 135 percent: In 1985, U.S. jails and prisons held 313 people per 100,000 U.S. residents; by 2005, that number had surged to 737 per 100,000.
This spike in incarceration rates, along with the large numbers of people returning from incarceration—more than 650,000 were released from state prisons in 2005 alone—demonstrated a real need for both justice reforms and reentry services to help people successfully transition back to the community.
At least 95 percent of people who are incarcerated will regain their freedom at some point. There had been attempts to address reentry issues through federal legislation, but earlier versions of the Second Chance Act had failed to advance in both 2004 and 2005. Recognizing the great need, Davis continued to propel the legislation forward, highlighting its priority with President George W. Bush. In 2007, Davis reintroduced the Second Chance Act. The bill passed the House and Senate with broad, bipartisan support, and was signed into law by President Bush on April 9, 2008.
The Second Chance Act was reauthorized by President Donald Trump when he signed the First Step Act into law on December 21, 2018.
April 30: Second Chance Resource Fair
A Second Chance Resource Fair, featuring resources on housing, health, jobs, and more, will take place at the the Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center, 4133 W. Madison St. in Chicago on Tuesday, April 30 from 10 AM to 2 PM. This event is being held in collaboration with Congressman Davis’s Reentry Task Force, co-chaired by Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer and TASC VP George Williams, with key staff support from Tumia Romero, senior advisor to Congressman Davis and a longtime member of his leadership team.