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
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>.▪