WASHINGTON Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, was at the White House Wednesday as President Bush signed the Second Chance Act, a new law designed to help former prisoners and their families.
Cannon, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, initially sponsored the bill more than a year ago and the Senate ultimately passed a final version of the bill in March, sending it to the president.
"Successful prisoner re-entry requires the active involvement of nongovernmental entities, such as non-profit agencies, faith institutions, ex-offender support groups, and community organizations," Cannon said in a statement. "The Second Chance Act encourages public-private partnerships at the local level. The real solutions to the problems of recidivism are innovations at the community level."
Bush said that every year about 650,000 prisoners get out of jail but two-thirds are arrested again within three years. The law aims to help those released from prison have a better chance of transitioning back into society and not ending up back in a jail cell.
The new law authorizes part of Bush's Prison Re-entry Initiative, which expands job training and placement services, improves ways those released from prison can find transitional housing, and allows resources to go to mentoring programs, including those from faith-based groups, according to a summary of the law. It will also support family counseling and other services to help prisoners re-establish their place in the community, Bush said.
The law will cost about $400 million over the 2008 through 2012 period, but no tax increases or spending reductions are necessary to enact the bill, according to Cannon's office.
"A modest expenditure to help transition offenders back into the community can save taxpayers thousands of dollars in the long run and make those communities safer from repeat offenders," Cannon said.
At the bill signing, President Bush said that in 12,800 offenders have enrolled in the Labor Department's pilot prisoner re-entry programs organized by community-based and faith-based groups. More than 7,900 have been placed in jobs, and less than 20 percent are arrested again within a year."We like to measure results, and the results of these pilot programs are very encouraging," Bush said.