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April 4, 2007

Will Congress (finally) pass a Second Chance Act?

In his 2004 State of the Union address, President George Bush spoke passionately about the importance of showing compassion (and providing job training and placement services) to convicted offenders because "America is the land of second chance."  Since then, various bill seeking to live up to this mantra have surfaced in the House and Senate, and now there seems to be some real momentum in Congress to pass a Second Chance Act.

FAMM has this helpful webpage (with links) discussing the progress and particulars of the Second Chance Act of 2007.  Here is a summary account of the bill:

Among other things, the Second Chance Act would provide reentry funding on the state and local level to support former prisoners' needs for housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment, education, employment and rebuilding family and community ties. Nearly 650,000 individuals are released from federal and state custody each year only to find limited support to aid in their reentry efforts.  The Second Chance Act of 2007 would help the formerly incarcerated successfully transition back into communities.

April 4, 2007 at 06:54 PM | Permalink


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There are many barriers to reentry such as a loss of drivers license and restrictions that make felons ineligible for certain types of employment. Felons are not eligible for certain types of professional schools and the schools do a criminal records search prior to admission to exclude them and now some colleges are excluding applicants for undergraduate school with criminal records. Our medical school will reject any applicant where there is any evidence (including misdemeanor arrests for possession of alcohol under the legal age, possession of a controlled substance, public intoxication and DUI) that they might have a problem with substance abuse so in some cases there is no "first chance".

If a subject is arrested and the charge is dismissed the arrest may still be in the public record and a person with no criminal record may be denied a job or an educational opportunity because the arrest was data mined and placed in a searchable record.

I support the "second chance act" but I think the various states have set up too many barriers to reentry for it to make much difference.

Posted by: John Neff | Apr 4, 2007 8:51:23 PM

Mr. Neff's conclusion is correct - the collateral consequences of conviction are a labyrinth. I've slowly been convinced (by my research, not by advocates) that escaping it requires a Herculean (Thesian?) effort, and even that may not be enough without a hefty chunk of pure luck thrown in.

I'm a big fan of improving and increasing reentry services, but I believe one of two things has to happen for them to work: the complex pile of barriers to true reintegration has to be pulled down, or reentry services have to include as much advocacy as education. In the latter case, reentry agencies and professionals will require *broad* expertise in the statutory and regulatory hurdles their clients face (e.g., "you're a registered sex offender, so Section 8 housing isn't an option") and will need to be (and recognize that they are) empowered to act for a reentering inmate's interests when appropriate (e.g., "no, you can't deny him housing because he contracted HIV in prison - do I need to help him find a lawyer familiar with the ADA?").

I've found Margaret Colgate Love's state-by-state resource guide on relief from collateral consequences (hosted at the Sentencing Project's site - link below) to be incredibly valuable in framing the scope and complexity of barriers to reentry. It's not a comprehensive work on all of the hurdles released offenders face by any means, but it should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand what the landscape is like and how varied it is from one jurisdiction to the next.


Posted by: | Apr 5, 2007 9:23:15 AM

Charles Rangel (D-NY) stated on the floor of Congress that the federal penal system is structured in such a way that it actually drives good people into prison.

We thus ask that you “Support HR 623” - Charles Rangel's Second Chance Act for Ex-Offenders because that is the way to solve this problem.

You may already be a supporter of HR 1593 entitled "The Second Chance Act of 2007" sponsored by Congressman Davis.

Well, there is a second "Second Chance Act" – Rangel’s HR 623 which is as vitally important.

Rangel's bill would provide that non-violent first-time offenders who have completed successfully all terms of their sentence, provided a year of community service and have proven themselves to be both drug and alcohol free are entitled to prove their rehabilitation by clear and convincing evidence before a federal judge in a "min-trial". Further, if there is ever a subsequent conviction for any state or federal crime, the expungement is completely negated and the facts of the prior crime can be used for any purpose. While Rangel's bill provides that if a federal judge orders expungement of the conviction the ex-offender can receive civil benefits as though there had been on conviction, law enforcement is at all times able to access the conviction information.

Virtually all states have some sort of relief afforded to their offenders either through passage of time or by an expungement proceeding such as that proposed by Congressman Rangel.

At this time, there is absolutely no provision for federal ex-offenders. The "Power of the Pardon" has died in the White House according to Margy Love, former Pardon Attorney under both Republican and Democratic administrations. In fact, so few pardons are granted that the current administration has ceased publishing the statistics. In the past 12 months only about 10 have been granted. Were the rates of pardon-granting from the 1920's still followed, there would have been more than 10,000 pardons each year since Bush took office. These statistics are shown on our site at www.rehabilitated.org/compassion.htm.

Thus, there is a crying need for reform. There also no wonder that America has the developed world's highest recidivism rate. While all other developed countries do there best to reintegrate ex-offenders, in America it is a bus ticket and twenty bucks.

Thus, your support for HR 623 is as important as your support for HR 1593. You can join our Coalition by visiting our site, www.rehabilitated.org and using our contact page. Or, you can call me at 877-587-9266.

Charles Benninghoff
Founder & Trustee
The Rehabilitated Project

Posted by: Charles Benninghoff | May 21, 2007 2:26:44 AM

Please Support H.R.623 Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2007

Posted by: Gary Owen | Jul 28, 2007 1:00:08 AM

We have to thank people like Congressman Charles Rangel for coming forward and help those who cannot help themselves because of cruel barriers created by the Congress.
The irony is that no other country in the western world punishes people as much as this Country does.
You shoplift a $200 item and it's called Felony. Bounce a check and maybe a Felony. Drive ten times with a suspended license in the State of New York and it's a Felony.
In North Carolina not returning a book to the local library it's
a Felony.
On the Federal level underpaying federal taxes is a Felony. Stealing $10 postage stamps is be a Felony and holding somebody else's mail it's a federal felony and Federal Felonies can be so many insignificant other non-violent offenses.
Needless to say that not all those charged of Felonies actually are convicted of Felonies. Many just plead guilty or no contest to misdemeanors if the right Judge and prosecutor and competent lawyer is there.
At the moment,however, while many concerned organizations and citizens are fighting to have HR 623 passed into law we find a willing Congress ready to pass a legislation granting basically Pardons (amnesty) to millions of lawbreakers who have committed numerous Felonies since the time they entered this country like: fake birth certificates, using illegally obtained or fake SS numbers, fake driver's licenses,fake " residency cards" and so on.
However, these people will not have a criminal record because many people in Congress have lost their sense of fairness.
The collateral consequences flowing out of a federal criminal conviction are too severe and cruel that this case require immediate attention and remedy. HR 623 must be approved.
Shall I say more?
Well, I would add that our founding fathers had more sense of justice than the present rulers.
They wrote a Constitution allowing anyone regardless of a criminal past to run and be elected President of the United States of America or to run and be elected Senator or Congressman/woman.
Yet under modern statutes despite the Constitutional prerogatives expressed above a person with a Federal Criminal conviction has no way to turn to for relief and will have problems feeding himself and his family. Yet he or she has the Constitutional right to be elected to the highest political position of the Presidency of the United States of America!

Posted by: Allisio Rex | Jul 28, 2007 4:30:36 PM


Posted by: CRAIG SOKLOW | Jul 31, 2007 7:01:15 PM

I am writing to you from Cleveland, Ohio regarding the work that you are doing to help people, like me, that continue to walk into road blocks when trying to find employment. I was convicted of two separate nonviolent felonies in 1994. I have had great jobs since then, and I have earned a degree since then. My last full time job was an office manager for a small law firm in 2001. I stayed at this firm for three years. The managing partner retired and the associate attorney went to another firm. But, after 9/11, it has been near impossible for me to find a full time job. I have been working temp jobs as an administrative assistant, legal secretary, executive assistant and as a data entry specialist. These are only temp jobs and as soon as a potential employer asks the temp agency to do a background on me, not only does the company not higher me, but then the temp agency won't send me on any more assignments. I'm running out of temp agencies here in Cleveland to work for, and it's getting harder to explain to the temp agencies and potential employers why I am chosing to work temp jobs for minimal and sporadic money with no benefits.

Please e-mail your response to [email protected]

Thank you

Posted by: Johnnie Walton | Oct 18, 2007 9:42:22 PM

I am looking 4 a job and I have a felony on my record. I was wrongfully convicted and released after serving 1 year in an Ohio Prison. I won my appeal. Now I'm searching for employmeny as for now my record can't be expunged because I'm suing the city that wrongfully arrested and convicted me. If any knows where I can obtain employment (Temporary or Permanent) please let me know. Send me an e-mail at [email protected]

Thank you alot I really appreciate it.

Posted by: otis | Oct 31, 2007 10:09:51 AM

I'm in t5he cleveland Ohio area

Posted by: otis | Oct 31, 2007 10:11:02 AM

I'm A convicted Felon of 15 yrs.Everytime I Go To Put An Application in I Either Get The Runaround or I get the door Slammed in my Face.
I Just Wanna Go Back to Work And Be a Productive Member Of Society....

Posted by: Kevin Gernant | Nov 24, 2007 7:00:21 AM

Well, HR 623 doesn't look like it will pass. We might as well tell the USA to kiss off as it time-after-time tells YOU.

My advice - move to Mexico. Get another life there. Help the people out there. Pay taxes there. Help Mexico out. Don't give one more sweat once to the USA. And then pray that your tormentors (because that's who they are) get the karma they deserve.

Or, wait out the eventual class struggle revolution that will take place in due time. The poor will enlist your aid in overthrowing the rich and taking back this country and making it fair for *everyone* again.

Posted by: screwed_in_the_USA | Jan 13, 2008 5:24:06 PM


Posted by: DANIELLE | Mar 23, 2008 9:33:20 PM

My younger brother has been unable to find a good job because of a non-violent conviction almost 15 years ago. He has never been in any type of trouble since, not even a traffic ticket. But whenever he applies for a job, he has to check that "yes" box about previous convictions. I work in law enforcement, but can't help him. We need this Second Chance Law or something like it so good people can go back to work and support their families.

Posted by: Charles Jackson | Mar 26, 2008 9:50:02 AM

It passed toady***4/10/08.CAN YOU OR ANYONE TELL ME WHERE TO GET HELP FOR MY SON?He got out 6 months ago and has all the problums no work to his ex will no longer let him see his son.No job no money to fight her.PLEASE if anyone knows of anything in the Everett, Seattle,Washington area contact me.Who am i? Just a very heart broken mother and grandmother who thinks for once there may be hope.Wouldnt it be wonderful for so many of us and our love ones.I hope someone gets this its my first ever e mail.thants and good luck to all***

Posted by: Lynn Erickson | Apr 11, 2008 12:47:56 AM

Hi i have written before but did not get a response I really need a response to get a better understanding of this new law and then i dont understand why the judge in many cases cant lower sentences i really wish the government wouldnt give such a harsh sentence for conspiracy especially to non-violent offenders or offender with no record or just a few small offenses on their record. please contact me (336)617-6767
thanks and God bless

Posted by: neka wilson | Apr 29, 2008 10:56:07 AM

I have a few questions about this second chance law. Has it passed yet or will it? My husband is currently serving time and is a convicted felon. I need more information about this. Please e-mail me at [email protected] if you have news on the law! I really appreciate it!

Posted by: Sheng | Apr 30, 2008 2:42:45 PM

I have heard that this second chance law allows some prisoners to have 6 months at a half way house and six months under house arrest. Is this true?

Posted by: | Apr 30, 2008 10:17:30 PM

When I first heard about the "second chance" law I totally thought that it would benefit me; however what happens to a person like me, who is a productive member of society making over 60k yearly and does not need any training rather simply needs to keep her job instead of being pulled out of society anywhere from 30-33 months. When taken to Federal Camp, I will lose my job, and then I will have to be re-introduced to the workforce making minimum wage? What happens in a case like this? who hires felons?
I am very worried. If someone can e-mail me back with some ideas. I would truly appreciate it.
Thank you
[email protected]

Posted by: Marietta Suarez | Jun 9, 2008 11:33:42 AM

My neighbor's former brother-in-law committed suicide after eight years of being unable to find a job that paid much more than minimum wage. His ex-wife found him in his deceased parents' garage; he had hanged himself. He was sentenced to probation for a white-collar, non-violent crime (federal conspiracy). Shortly after he was charged, he lost his job. Fortunately his parents took him in, but over the course of those 8 years, they both died, and ultimately he was going to have no place to live, since he couldn't even pay the property taxes on the house he'd inherited. Quite sad. I am told he was a kind person, a loving son and brother who felt he had tried really hard but had run out of hope.

I suspect that H.R. 623 - The Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2007 has died in committee, especially since H.R. 1593 - The Second Chance Act of 2007 (confusingly named)was signed into law. I don't know what good all that government funding (our tax dollars) for re-entry is going to do if the recipients of that help cannot get a job because they have a felony arrest or conviction on their records. So like Congress to throw money at a problem but not do something that might introduce justice back into our justice system. Please write, and encourage everyone you know to write not only to your representatives but also to Congressman Charles Rangel and the 17 congressmen/women who co-sponsored H.R. 623. Let them know that H.R. 623 must be resurrected. People who commit non-violent crimes and have paid their debt to society should not have to pay for their crimes for the rest of their lives!

Posted by: Antonia Myss | Aug 13, 2008 11:05:41 PM

I'm a convicted felon living in the State of Ga. I'm Happy that this bill is being introduced, because no one ever wants to hire a felon.My life has changed for the worst. YES I made a mistake in life but I never knew it would effect my children aswell. I can't even get a job that would enable me to support my daughter. Some people that committ crime have no ideal that what they are doing is a crime.Some time I feel that no matter what I have done to better myself in life that by me being a covicted felon thats how the world will forever see me.



Posted by: DAT | Sep 22, 2008 5:43:57 PM

I pled guilty by information. Three years probation and $97,000.00 restitution. I will be paying for at least 20 years! Can you picture a felon trying to find a good job to pay back that much money. I will be over 70 years old with no retirement and flat broke. Please pass H.R. 623.

Posted by: S.W. | Nov 29, 2008 11:46:17 PM

I agree with Antonia Myss post that the H.R. 1593 is really a sham, does not provide real rehabilitation unless the government wants to give every convicted felon a check each month to live on. The real road to rehabilitation is to include people back into society by providing meaningful employement (making more than minimum wage). It is obvious that a lot of people who are ex-offenders commit crimes again due to no options (jobs.) Please urge the people to revive H.R. 623. Typical, when our President does something always results in the most money spent with the lowest result. Don't give some just food but teach them how to fish. Conviction records = no jobs!!!!

Posted by: Jo | Dec 25, 2008 2:00:21 PM

I am a convicted felon had a job in local #333 as longshoremen for years, after 911 things changed. Homeland security under the TSA branch has not approve the twix card needed to enter the port. Since then the card been under review over two years with no-reponds. The twix card is a security clerance needed to work mind you I been working many years at the port. I took a property and causaulty class pass it, but was denied a licence because of convictions. I had no trouble with the law in over 20 years. I have a business degree from AIU but will not be hired by companies because of recorded record . After a certain amount of time a second chance act would help people like myself, become a productive man or woman. Most convicted felons want to work and stay out of jail, but as the law stands felons do there time, but continue to pay a never ending debt, which can never be paid in many eyes. We need a second chance act passed; when after a required amount of time passes the man, or womaan has not been convicted of any crime they should be able to request their record cleaned for hiring requirements.

Posted by: Kenneth Jackson | Sep 20, 2010 1:26:52 PM

Where in Toledo Ohio is there an oppertunity for a 33yr. old man strong and very willing to work with a high school ed. 1 yr of college. He has several charges that keep him from getting a job. This system is set up for people to fail, there are many people I'm sure that don't want to ever break the law again, but they just can't get a second chance. I think in the long run it will cost the city's more to keep people from work. They won't be paying taxes, and family's suffer from the lack of employment. He has heard no way too many times, anyone have any ideas?

Posted by: Deb Morstadt | Nov 8, 2010 11:37:14 PM

i am just an ordinary person,my husband and i are both disabled, we need surgery both of us ,but i was caught up in an entrapment situation by a friend who was in trouble and used my friendship to give her some pain pill,s for a toothache,then said i gave her 20 for 20 $ ,which i didn,t do, but now we have no housing and lost foodstamps ,i don,t no what to expect next ,we can only pray that GOD will step in and take over, make it right ,pray for the bill to pass,GOD doesn,t judge,and he gives second chances ,who is any man NOT too, GOD Bless everyone and Pray, Linda

Posted by: Linda | Nov 19, 2010 12:57:32 PM

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