Past Releases: Legislation to Give Formerly Incarcerated Persons a Second Chance
Contact Communications@thenationalcouncil.org or 301.984.6200, ext. 228 for more information and interviews with national and state mental health and criminal justice experts.
Washington, DC (November 19, 2007) — The Second Chance Act of 2007 (HR 1593), passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last week, provides new hope for ending recidivism and allows for persons with mental health and addiction disorders being discharged from our nation’s prisons to receive help and rebuild their lives in the community.
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, which has long lobbied for passage of this significant legislation, commends the House for its bipartisan support and urges the Senate to follow suit before the end of the year. The National Council is the nation’s association of community behavioral healthcare organizations and works to ensure that all those who have a mental illness or addiction disorder can get effective and comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation in their communities.
"The Second Chance Act resurrects hope for strong, healthy, and safe communities," said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council. "If we have the resources to treat those with mental illness and addictions coming out of prison, we can keep them from going back, give them a chance to integrate into the community, save taxpayer dollars, and increase public safety."
Each year, nearly 650,000 people are released from prison to communities nationwide. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, half of these people will return to prison and nearly two-thirds will be re-arrested within three years. These high rates of recidivism are expected to cost taxpayers as much as $27.5 billion on prisons alone over the next five years on top of current corrections spending.
"The revolving door response to crime cannot be sustained or justified," says Tammy Seltzer, criminal justice expert and the National Council’s Director of State Policy. "With the right treatment and resources, those leaving prison can have meaningful, productive lives."
The Second Chance allocates $360 million for a variety of essential reentry programs, providing ex-offenders with a coordinated continuum of services that will keep them out of prison. The act reauthorizes the Adult and Juvenile Offender State and Local Reentry Demonstration Program, under which states craft programs focusing on housing, jobs, addictions and mental health treatment, and services for families and children of incarcerated parents to help individuals transition into their communities upon their release.
"We know how to prevent recidivism of people with mental illness and addiction disorders, but not enough resources are now directed to what works," asserted Tammy Seltzer. She explained that community behavioral health organizations across the country have already used limited resources to craft innovative and effective programs to divert individuals with mental and substance use disorders who come in contact with the justice system into more appropriate community-based treatment and support services. These community interventions have produced impressive and cost-effective results.
"With adequate resources, these successes can be replicated across the country to ensure that people don’t go back to prison simply because they have nowhere else to turn," said Seltzer. "The Second Chance Act provides hope for those leaving prison and for our communities."
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) association representing 1,300 mental health and addictions treatment and rehabilitation organizations that serve nearly six million adults, children, and families in communities across America.