The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is calling on Episcopalians to contact their United States Senators and urge them to support the Second Chance Act of 2007 (Senate Bill 1060) when it comes to the floor.
The Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives this fall by an overwhelming vote of 347-62, would invest in prisoner-reentry programs that have helped released prisoners learn how to lead productive lives and reduced the likelihood that they will return to prison. More and more states are trying this approach, but they need federal assistance, said an EPPN alert, which is emailed to more than 21,000 Episcopalians and religious advocates.
"The sad reality is that many children born in minority communities today are...on a 'cradle to prison pipeline.' When we see how simple it is to get them on a 'cradle to college pipeline,' it is tragic, and much more costly to society, economically and socially if we don't do so," said Congressman Robert Scott (D-VA), an Episcopalian and chair of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, in Congressional testimony.
The EPPN alert notes that the United States has the largest prison population in the world -- 2.2 million in state and federal prisons and millions more in local jails. "Incarceration without effective re-entry programs is inhumane for the prisoner, unsafe for communities, and expensive to the taxpayer," the alert said. According to recent testimony before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, prison costs are estimated at $200 billion each year.
Approximately 650,000 ex-offenders will be released this year and, the alert said, and two-thirds of them will commit new crimes within three years and go back to prison. The Second Chance Act would coordinate federal, local, state and faith-based efforts to help ex-offenders return to their communities.
"Unfortunately today most ex-offenders do so with few job skills, inadequate drug treatment, insufficient housing, a lack of positive influences and few mental or physical health services," EPPN said. "Investing in re-entry and training programs is a wise use of public funds. The Episcopal Church and other communities of faith have a long history of ministering to prisoners both during and after incarceration, and we have seen the benefit that training and services provide."
Further information on the Second Chance Act of 2007 is available here.
Further information about EPPN is available here.
EPPN represents the social policies of the church established by the General Convention and Executive Council, including issues of international peace and justice, human rights, immigration, welfare, poverty, hunger, health care, violence, civil rights, the environment, racism, issues involving women and children, and the Millennium Development Goals.