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Government News
Bill Would Ease Way for Inmates to Reenter Society
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 16 page 10-10

Nearly half a million people are released from jails or prisons each year in the United States. When they return to their communities, they face discrimination in jobs, housing, student aid, and child custody.

Human Rights Watch, a New York—based organization that monitors and advocates for human rights for people worldwide, is urging Congress to pass the Second Chance Act of 2004 (HR 4676).

This is a bipartisan legislative effort by Reps. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), and Mark Souder (R-Ind.). The legislation is also supported by President George W. Bush.

"Human Rights Watch has criticized laws and policies that deny the rights of formerly incarcerated people and prevent their successful reintegration into the community. If this legislation is enacted, it will be an important first step in addressing those problems," stated a press release by the organization.

The Second Chance Act would establish a National Offender Reentry Resource Center to collect and distribute best practices and provide training and support for former inmates. States, local governments, service providers, faith-based organizations, corrections systems, and community organizations would have access to the resource center.

The legislation would also

Human Rights Watch hopes if the bill becomes law, it "will serve as an entry point in turning the nation's approach away from excessive retribution and punishments [and] towards rehabilitation and redemption."

The Second Chance Act of 2004 (HR 4676) can be accessed online at<http://thomas.loc.gov> by typing in the bill name or number. The Human Rights Watch press release and letter to Congress are posted at<http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/06/25/usdom8960_txt.htm>.

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