Policy Action Alert: Second Chance Act Reauthorization Advances in Senate
Legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act (SCA), S.1231, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 21, 2011 and your action is needed to help advance the bill towards enactment. Please review the organizational sign-on letter in support of the bill on the next page and contact the Council of State Governments Justice Center by October 3rd to sign on.
What is the Second Chance Act?
Enacted in 2008, SCA is designed to improve outcomes for people returning to communities following incarceration. The legislation authorizes federal grants to nonprofits and to local governments to reduce recidivism through a variety of supports including housing, mentoring, employment assistance and others.
Why is the Reauthorization of SCA Important?
When the Second Chance Act was enacted in 2008, its funding was only authorized for two years. Although Congress can and has opted to appropriate funds without continued authorization it is helpful to have a clear authorization when making funding decisions. In addition, policymakers are interested in making small improvements to this grant program. The bipartisan leadership of Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rob Portman (R-OH) have been crucial in advancing the reauthorization process.
How can the Second Chance Act help end homelessness through supportive housing?
As stated above, SCA grants can be used to fund both for housing or the critical supportive services that are the linchpin of permanent supportive housing for the homeless.
Supportive housing — affordable housing closely linked to coordinated supportive services — works well for people exiting incarceration with complex needs, people with mental illness, substance use, and/or chronic health conditions. By providing housing and services that are often difficult for formerly incarcerated people to access upon release, supportive housing can provide a meaningful opportunity for stability for people whose untreated chronic health, mental health, and addiction problems would otherwise likely lead to a quick return to homelessness, relapse, and/or recidivism. A growing body of evidence suggests placing people in supportive housing, as opposed to jail or prison, provides more efficient use of scarce public resources; improves human condition and outcomes; and enhances public safety.
CSH is especially pleased that S. 1231 includes language giving priority consideration for SCA applications that “target offenders with histories of homelessness, substance abuse, or mental illness… with mental health, substance abuse, or homelessness services systems to achieve stable and permanent housing outcomes with appropriate support service.”
Questions? Please contact CSH’s Federal Policy Director, Jordan Press.
Organizations that are interested in signing the letter should email Jay Nelson at email@example.com. And please circulate to your colleagues and others who might be interested.