NAACP Supports Passage of Comprehensive Ex-Offender Reentry Legislation
House, Senate bills to assist in the reentry process and fight recidivism are awaiting floor action
Each year, more than 650,000 men and women are released from prison, which equates to roughly 1,700 individuals returning to our communities every day. This has a disparate effect on communities of color, since two-thirds of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For African American males in their twenties, one in every eight is in prison or jail on any given day. These numbers are expected to grow, as more men and women are incarcerated each year and more complete their sentences.
For most ex-offenders, the transition back into their communities is difficult: many lack the necessary skills to successfully reenter into society. Studies have shown that many of those released from prison come back into society with a substance abuse addiction or mental health problem. Employment and housing are often difficult; one study found that applicants with criminal records experienced a 50% reduction in job offers for entry level jobs, compared to those without records. This was compounded by racial bias as African American former inmates experienced a 64% reduction in offers. As many as a quarter of all ex-offenders go to homeless shelters upon release. Furthermore, most communities where prisoners go upon release already struggle with high poverty, unemployment, fragile families and a dearth of jobs.
Over two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years and one-half of those rearrested were convicted and re-incarcerated. Not only does this recidivism cause tremendous problems for our communities, but it also places a huge burden on American taxpayers. The average cost of incarcerating each prisoner exceeds $22,600 per year; expenditures on corrections alone have increased from $9 billion in 1982 to $60 billion in 2002.
To combat this problem, Congressmen Danny Davis (IL) and others have introduced H.R. 1593 and Senator Biden (DE) and others have introduced S. 1060, the “Second Chance Act of 2007.” Both bills have been approved of by the respective committees, and both are currently awaiting action on the House and Senate floors. Under this legislation states and local communities would receive federal assistance to establish ex-offender reentry projects, with enhanced focus on job training, housing, substance abuse and mental health treatment, as well as programs to work with the children and families of ex-offenders. In short, the Second Chance Act would encourage new community partnerships to help educate, train and employ those recently released who might otherwise return to a life of crime.