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Letter to House Judiciary Urging Support for the Second Chance Act

 

Printable Version

January 11, 2016

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John Conyers Jr.
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:

On behalf of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities USA, we write to urge you to support the Second Chance Act (H.R. 3406). This legislation is an important step in addressing some of the many issues facing the more than 650,000 men, women and juveniles who reenter society each year from federal and state prisons, and local jails and detention centers every day.

Our Catholic tradition supports the community's right to establish and enforce laws that protect people and advance the common good. But our faith also teaches us that both victims and offenders have a God-given dignity that calls for justice, not vengeance. The bishops of the United States in their 2000 pastoral statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, stated, "Just as God never abandons us, so too we must be in covenant with one another. We are all sinners, and our response to sin and failure should not be abandonment and despair, but rather justice, contrition, reparation, and return or re-integration of all into the community."

Those who return to our communities from incarceration face significant challenges. These include finding housing and stable employment, high rates of substance abuse, physical and mental health challenges and social isolation. Without necessary critical support services these persons have an increased chance of re-offending causing harm to society and increasing our nation's prison costs.

The Second Chance Act supports much needed programs in government agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victim support and other services to individuals returning to the community from prison or jail.

These programs have proven effective and help reduce recidivism rates by using common sense solutions, such as:

  • Providing grants to nonprofit organizations for mentoring adult offenders and providing transitional services for re-integration into the community;

  • Providing separate planning and implementation grants to ensure that projects are well developed and informed by research and best practices;

  • Supporting a federal interagency taskforce to identify programs and resources on reentry, and ways to better collaborate; develop interagency initiatives and a national reentry research agenda; review and report to Congress on the federal barriers that exist to successful reentry with recommendations;

  • Supporting a national resource center for states, local governments, service providers, faith-based organizations, and corrections and community organizations to collect and disseminate best practices and provide training and support around reentry.

  • Providing grants to states and local governments that may be used to expand family-based treatment centers that offer family based comprehensive treatment services for parents and their children as a complete family unit.

Pope Francis recently said, "God is in everyone's life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person's life." We join the pope by advocating for those who are leaving incarceration and urge Congress to pass this important legislation. It will not only enhance public safety by providing the necessary resources to address prisoner reentry and recidivism, but promote human dignity by improving the quality of life in communities across the country.

Faithfully Yours,

Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski
Archbishop of Miami
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development

Sister Donna Markham, OP, Ph.D.
President & CEO
Catholic Charities USA



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