The importance of a second chance

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lorna and her children.
At ACRJ we have had the good fortune of collaborating with and learning alongside the Rebecca Project for Human Rights.  They do immensely important work led by women, largely mothers, who have been incarcerated. They have made incredible policy strides, including limiting the use of shackles on pregnant women in federal prisons, as well as providing leadership tools for women with hard life experience and much to give and teach. 

One of the programs many of their members depend on is in jeopardy.  A program started under George W. Bush, the Second Chance Act provides resources to men and women on their way out of prison, and greatly reduces the rate of recidivism.  The program is now under threat. The House has appropriated money for it, but the Senate is threatening to zero it out.
Common sense says that it makes sense to provide services to people getting out of prison. And a recent study by the Pew Foundation puts dollars to that, estimating that Texas could save $33.6 million, New York $42 million and California $233 million in the first year alone if they cut recidivism by even 10 percent.

The Rebecca Project for Human Rights started a petition on so we can let urge the Senate to fund this program.  One of their staff members, Lorna Hogan, shares her story about what Second Chance did for her:
My name is Lorna Hogan and I am the mother of four children. I began self-medicating with drugs at the age of fourteen because it was the only way I knew how to cope with my underlying trauma. In December, 2000, I was arrested on a drug related charge, my children were placed with Child Protective Services and I was sent to jail. In jail, I received no treatment and when I was released I went back to doing the only thing I knew, which was using drugs.

But thanks to a family-based drug treatment program, like those funded by the Second Chance Act-- a federal initiative that supports people reentering communities after incarceration in order to prevent crime--I overcame my addiction. I had a therapist and parenting classes that gave me insight into how to be a better mother. As part of my treatment process my children and I were reunited and my children received therapeutic services so that they too could heal.

I am ten years in recovery and my children and I have been together for nine years. They are succeeding in school and I am a PTA mom. I serve as Associate Director of Rebecca Project's Sacred Authority, where I train and inspire other mothers like me to be leaders in their own communities.

My family is a whole, strong and loving family today because I was given a second chance.

Unfortunately, programs like the one that helped me are in jeopardy. In September, the Senate Appropriations Committee zeroed-out funds for the bipartisan Second Chance Act. In the same legislation, the Committee increased funding for federal prisons by more than $300 million over last year to expand prison capacity. The Bureau of Prisons hopes to open seven new prisons over the next four years. This policy will continue a cycle of increasing incarceration and racial disparity that is very difficult to undo. It is important that Congress knows that building more prisons does not solve our crime problems and that resources should be invested in keeping people out of prison instead.
 Please join us in supporting this important petition. Sign, and spread the word!

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