(Washington, D.C.) —TASC President Melody Heaps joined U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Illinois) at a Washington, D.C. press conference last week to hail the recent U.S. Senate passage of the Second Chance Act and to urge President George Bush to sign the legislation.
The Second Chance Act passed the Senate by a unanimous vote. It passed the House by a wide margin in November and is awaiting President Bush’s signature.
Davis, D-Ill., the bill’s original sponsor, said Bush has privately encouraged the bill.
The Second Chance Act authorizes $165 million in grants for state, local and non-profit re-entry programs, drug treatment programs, research, and a resource center for ex-offenders.
While Davis and Heaps celebrated the measure’s Senate approval, they both expressed dismay at the escalating U.S. incarceration rates.
A February 2008 report by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project says more than 2.3 million people are incarcerated in federal or state prisons, roughly one in every 100 adults. more people per capita than any other nation. More than Russia, more than China.
African-Americans are hit disproportionately. The Pew report says that one in every 15 black males over age 18 is in jail or prison. For whites, the number is one out of 106, and for Hispanics, it is one out of 36.
Heaps, also president of the Chicago-based Center for Health and Justice, says the Second Chance Act is economically smart, curbing state prison costs.
“The greater portion of most state dollars are going to feed a correctional industry, an industry which will be immune to recession,” she said.