On March 11, 2008, after years of waiting for approval, the Senate approved the Second Chance Act. The House had approved the bill in November 2007. Because of the significant impact that reentry has and will continue not have in New Jersey, this is an important step that will not only address prisoner reentry but also assist in ending homelessness in New Jersey. In New Jersey all members of Congress voted for the bill except for Scott Garrett who voted no and James Saxton who did not vote. The total cost according to the Congressional Budget Office would be $2 for every person in the country for budget years 2008-2012. This is a modest cost compared to the benefits.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Second Chance Act has been explicitly billed as a “first step: in developing a more effective federal response to the problem of people leaving corrections without adequate support. This bill would reauthorize and revise an existing grant program within the Department of Justice, providing money to states for reentry programs; create a federal interagency task force to study and coordinate policy; commission a number of research projects including a study of barriers in federal policy to successful reentry; and authorize grants from the Justice Department directly to non profits for reentry programs.
Housing is a key part of any reentry strategy, and it is addressed in a number of ways in the Second Chance Act:
Under the state grants program, housing activities are eligible uses of program funds, from providing housing directly to assisting people in securing housing from the private market or other housing programs.
Another eligible use of funds is strengthening the capacity of prisoners’ families to provide stable living situations.
Housing is to be addressed in the strategic plan required of each state receiving funding.
Housing is one of the performance outcomes that each state receiving funding is required to monitor and report to the Justice Department.