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September 7, 2010

The local impact of a little Second Chance Act funding

I just noticed that this weekend's Cincinnati Enquirer had this notable story, headlined "Grant to help ex-inmates get jobs," reporting on the biggest local funding winner to date from the federal Second Chance Act.  Here are the details:

Hamilton County officials this month won a $750,000 federal grant they'll use to create an "office of re-entry" to help convicts get the counseling and job training they need to ensure they're not arrested again.

That cash from the Justice Department will be matched by $880,000 from 20 local service agencies, infusing the new office with $1.6 million dollars, enough to help an estimated 200 convicts.

"This revolving door of less serious offenders takes up a huge amount of jail space and a huge amount of money," said Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper, whose staff made the grant pitch.  "We need to take a longer-term look and solve it...  This grant will help us do that."...

Of the six Second Chance Act grants worth a total of $2.3 million already awarded, Hamilton County got the most cash.  Jail officials have long said the county's recidivism rate is about 70 percent, but no recent studies have been done.

The Hamilton County Reentry Office will staffed by one person at a $40,000 salary who will coordinate local agencies to provide the counseling and job training.

The Talbert House, Easter Seals Work Resource Center and the Urban League will take the lead in targeting 200 people most in need of assistance.  Each person will get an individualized service plan -- counseling and job training -- tailored to their needs, some even before they're released.

These people won't be violent felons and they're not even necessarily the most arrested people, officials said.  Pepper is careful to say this program isn't a "get- out-of-jail free" card. They'll serve their sentences, he said.

Your federal tax dollars at work.  Actually, maybe it is more accurate to say a small slice of a federal tax penny at work.  Based on the total federal budget of roughly $3.5 trillion, I calculate that this $750,000 federal Second Chance Act grant amounts to a bit less than 0.0002% of the federal budget bill.  

Does everyone share my initial instinct that this Second Chance Act grant to Hamilton County is an example of (a very small bit of) our federal tax moneis reasonably well-spent?

September 7, 2010 at 12:57 PM | Permalink


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I am a federal defender and I participate in our district's re-entry team (essentially drug court for individuals who struggle with sobriety while on supervised release). We have used Second Chance Act funding (through the US Probation Office) on occasion when our clients face barriers to recovery that are not met by other sources. The dollar amounts have been fairly small, but the impact can be significant.

Posted by: Rebecca Pennell | Sep 7, 2010 2:00:10 PM

seems like $8000 per person helped, you would get more than a $40k per year clerk and "coordination" between already existing agencies. Seems like more waste and bureaucracy to me, and less actual help.

Posted by: rob | Sep 8, 2010 2:20:41 PM

I am a former student of Professor Berman and I am now on a board that received a similar grant in Delaware County, Ohio. The issue we are dealing with is helping the offenders deal with the bureaucracy. There are many different departments that can provide help, but you have to know where to go.

Posted by: John R. Cornely | Sep 8, 2010 9:23:27 PM

I live in hamilton county ohio and I haven't seen anything from anyone other than the usual non profit organizations sucking up funding to support the careers they make off the backs of felons. Any funding to government or agencies working with government simply mean paychecks for those who claim to do something yet can only point out the exceptions and never, ever the rule. Chryztof Knecht-former prisoner, current slave

Posted by: chryztof knecht | May 26, 2012 8:29:07 AM

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