In April 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Second Chance Act into law. The act authorized the distribution of federal grant money to government agencies and nonprofit organizations that specialize in providing various services to individuals leaving prison or jail. In 2010, 187 organizations across the country received grant awards totaling more than $82 million. Second Chance Act grants are not awarded directly to individuals, but ex-offenders may take advantage of grant funds through a variety of programs.
The primary function of the Second Chance Act is to reduce the recidivism rate among ex-offenders. By providing ex-offenders with the necessary life skills to succeed, it is believed that they will be less likely to reoffend. Grants disbursed through the Second Chance program are intended to be used primarily for programs that emphasize offender education, career development and job skills training, family counseling and re-programming and drug and alcohol abuse treatment. Grants may also be used to establish mentoring programs or help ex-offenders find housing in their chosen community.
Second Chance and Federal Prisoners
While the Second Chance program is intended to primarily help ex-offenders upon their release from jail or prison, it does also offer some potential benefits for inmates who are currently incarcerated in the federal prison system. Under the provisions of the act, the time an inmate may be considered for placement in a halfway house is extended from six to 12 months. The program also increases the likelihood that federal inmates may be able to serve part or all of their sentence in a home confinement situation. The Second Chance Act also includes a provision allowing for the early release of nonviolent offenders aged 65 or older.
Nature of the Programs
Second Chance grant funding may be used in a number of different ways and provides assistance for male, female and juvenile offenders. For example, the Houston Chapter of Volunteers of America used Second Chance funding to create a mentoring and treatment program for women incarcerated for drug-related offenses in Harris County, Texas. The Young Adult Guidance Center in Atlanta, Georgia also received Second Chance funds in 2010 to create a mentoring program for underage offenders returning from juvenile correctional facilities. SOAR Career Solutions uses Second Chance funding to provide a wide range of services for offenders in the Duluth, Minnesota, area.
Finding a Program
Ex-offenders may or may not be required to participate in a re-entry program depending on the terms of their release. If you're an offender who is seeking assistance through a re-entry program, you may contact your parole officer or the state corrections department for helping in finding an appropriate program. Be aware that once if you are accepted into an program, you may have to meet certain requirements to remain eligible for assistance.