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There are Two Second Chance Acts - Both Deserve Your Support!

By: Charles Benninghoff

Founder & Trustee of The Rehabilitated Project

     WASHINGTON, D.C.-  Many news sources, blogs and press releases published recently, such as a Maryland Gazette article, comment on how beneficial to society re-training and vocational programs can be for ex-offenders.  In the article, Congressman Davis' "Second Chance Act" (HR 1593) was mentioned and a position taken that this bill should become law.

     What HR 1593 does is start a nationwide effort to reduce America's appalling recidivism rate by providing institutional and post-release training.  The Budget Office has announced that the cost will be $192 Million each year for its two-year in-force status as it now stands.  That turns out to be approximately $50.00 per inmate.  As an example of how this cost to avoid an inmate's return to prison adds up, current California's budget and bond costs for new prison construction reveal that each new prisoner sets back that state approximately $217,000 each year because California's prison system has been commandeered by the federal judiciary and these judges will not allow any new prisoners to come into the system that is designed to house 100,000 prisoners but now holds 175,000 men, women and children in deplorable, third-world conditions.

     There are actually two Second Chance Acts! The one written about is by Congressman Davis and is HR 1593. The other is the "Second Chance Act for Ex-Offenders of 2007" by Congressman Charles Rangel and is HR 623. I write extensively about the second on our site The Rehabilitated Project (www.rehabilitated.org). A very important recent book by Professor Bruce Western entitled Punishment and Inequality in America (Russell Foundation 2006) at chapter 6 entitled "Incarceration, Marriage and Family Life" cites as the over-riding reason for the break-up of so many black families the decreased possibility of black ex-offenders to find employment.

     In fact, Western cites statistics showing that while more than 60% of white females aged 28-32 are married, less than 30% of their black counterparts are.  Both Davis' and Rangel's bills seek to overcome this problem for our entire nation, because all ex-offenders to some degree are greatly effected by the inability to obtain employment. Case studies, however, show that ex-offender employees are less likely to re-offend than their "clean" co-workers. For example, Mens' Wearhouse has a policy of hiring qualified ex-offenders and their company reports losses far less than industry averages.

     Rangel's bill would allow a federal ex-offender to apply for an expungement of his conviction after meeting certain, very strict, requirements. Many states have similar solutions for their own ex-offenders.  It is in America's own best interest to help ex-offenders find employment and thereby stop the recidivism rate which now exceed 70% of all released offenders being re-incarcerated within 3 years of release due, largely, to their inability to become productive members of our society.

     It is The Rehabilitated Project's position that all of the training, culturization, teaching of work skills and other educational efforts will not make a dent in our recidivist rate if the ex-offenders can't get work.  That is why Charlie Rangel's HR 623 is so vitally important because it allows expungement of criminal conviction records after completing all penal conditions, 1,000 hours of community service, and other very rigorous conditions!

Charles Benninghoff

[email protected]

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