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Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Sens. Leahy, Portman reintroduce bipartisan bill to support state and local reentry programs

June 11, 2015 | Justice | Comments
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Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rob Portman (R-OH) have reintroduced their bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs to reduce relapse and provide people leaving prison with post-release supportive services, including substance use and mental health treatment.

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S. 1513) reauthorizes the Adult and Juvenile Offender State and Local Reentry Demonstration Project Grant Program, which promotes successful reintegration into the community of individuals who have been incarcerated. It also strengthens support for grantees with programs that target offenders with histories of homelessness, substance abuse, or mental illness.

Furthermore, the legislation reauthorizes Family-Based Substance Abuse Treatment grants through 2020 at existing levels ($10 Million) per year. This program establishes or enhances residential substance abuse treatment programs in correctional facilities that include recovery and family supportive services. The bill expands those eligible to receive grants to include nonprofit organizations, as well as state and local governments, and gives priority consideration to nonprofit organizations with demonstrated relationships to State and local agencies.

Additionally, the reauthorization of the Second Chance Act will continue the Offender Reentry Substance Abuse and Criminal Justice Collaboration Program at existing levels ($15 million per year) through 2020. This program funds grants to improve drug treatment, develop programs for supervised long-term substances abusers, strengthen rehabilitation efforts, and establish pharmacological drug treatment services as part of programs offered to incarcerated offenders.

The legislation also improves, consolidates, and reauthorizes funding for federal reentry programs. It requires that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) establish a comprehensive prisoner reentry program, assist offenders in obtaining identification prior to their release, and work with the Department of Labor to incentivize employers to hire former prisoners. Additionally, the legislation adds a new program known as the Partnerships to Expand Access to Reentry Programs Proven to Reduce Recidivism, which will allow certain faith-based nonprofit organizations to partner with local and federal prisons to provide mentoring or other programming demonstrated to decrease recidivism. Finally, the Second Chance Reauthorization Act codifies existing efforts to coordinate reentry at the federal level (the Second Chance Act of 2007 called for a reentry task force but did not codify it).

The National Council supports this legislation. Stay tuned to Capitol Connector and National Council action alerts for the latest news and opportunities to build congressional support for the Second Chance Reauthorization Act.