April is Second Chance Month

For the third yr in a row, in 2021, President Biden declared April as Second Chance Month for former prisoners who’ve reentered their native communities.[1] Previous to his proclamation, efforts have elevated to deliver extra consideration to this important problem, particularly because the variety of prisoners launched from incarcerating establishments throughout the nation continues to develop. Proper now, the U.S. Division of Justice (DOJ) estimates that between 650,000 to 750,000 individuals are launched yearly. Lots of them face main reentry challenges.

Regardless of its present significance, prisoner reentry just isn’t a brand new problem because it has been a part of American society since 1790. That yr, the primary identified U.S. jail opened in Philadelphia. It was referred to as the Walnut Avenue Jail, and was constructed based on ideas espoused by Quakers who advocated for a regulated correctional setting, self-discipline, solitary sleeping cells, and measures to revive faulty minds. The aim of those ideas was to vary the spirit and habits of the incarcerated, but in addition set in movement three interrelated points: incarcerating individuals was supposed to be momentary; serving time in jail was anticipated to rehabilitate faulty minds; and prisoners have been to be launched, ultimately. Whereas the aim of rehabilitation has waxed and waned since 1790, incarceration and reentry have remained fixed.

As a result of growing variety of prisoners returning to society, the DOJ held an inaugural Nationwide Reentry Week the final week of April in 2016. It sponsored a whole bunch of occasions to lift consciousness, inspired partnerships, and educated the general public concerning the significance of getting individuals succeed at reentering society after serving time in jail.

Momentum from 2016 carried into the next yr when the Jail Fellowship declared April Second Chance Month, which was devised to harness the nationwide motion and switch Nationwide Reentry Week right into a monthlong collection of occasions. In 2017, the nationwide effort was supported by the U.S. Senate, which handed a decision, and several other proclamations have been handed by state and native communities. In 2018, the White Home declared April as Second Chance Month.[2] In 2019, official proclamations and bipartisan help elevated to call April Second Chance Month, and in 2020, nationwide and native occasions have been tailored to digital platforms.

Second Chance Month is designed to deliver elevated nationwide media consideration to “prisoner reentry” —  a phrase used to explain the method women and men bear when launched from an incarcerating establishment, comparable to a federal or state jail, and return to society. In principle, adults reentering after serving time in jail ought to comply with a path that results in making significant and productive contributions to their household, neighborhood, and society. This theoretical path consists of discovering authorized employment, securing secure housing, and reuniting with household. It additionally consists of collaborating in academic packages and actions aimed towards private enchancment, like counseling, and main a crime-free life.

In observe, nonetheless, this path is adopted by solely a small variety of returning adults. As a substitute, most adults’ reentry experiences include many hairpin curves and dead-ends. Reentry experiences for almost all of adults are difficult as a result of when exiting jail, people have entry to differing ranges of monetary sources, familial help, company, social capital, coping expertise, job and/or vocational experiences, and academic backgrounds. In addition they have numerous ranges of emotional and psychological well-being. Analysis exhibits that felony justice-involved populations cope with the burden of persistent well being and medical circumstances, in addition to elevated charges of psychological sickness, that are exacerbated whereas incarcerated. When adults return residence, those that can depend on familial help, entry monetary sources, and discover secure housing, are inclined to reenter efficiently. They’re hardly ever, if ever, concerned within the felony justice system once more. For individuals who are unable to entry sources or do not need households ready or prepared to help them, particular person burdens and deficits comply with them residence to rural, suburban, and concrete communities. As soon as residence, these people encounter the collateral penalties of a felony conviction.

In 2019, the U.S. Fee on Civil Rights’ report titled Collateral Penalties: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Results on Communities,[3] reviewed varied collateral penalties on the federal and state ranges which can be carried out after somebody has served time in jail. Collateral penalties check with a spread of insurance policies outdoors of the felony justice system that limit, hinder, or disqualify people from accessing private and non-private advantages. Collateral penalties are linked to 1’s previous felony conviction(s), and embody obstacles to private and non-private housing, public help comparable to SNAP or TANF, voting and jury obligation, getting a driver’s license, parental rights, and entry to employment alternatives together with occupational {and professional} licenses. These coverage restrictions range throughout jurisdictions. When carried out, punishment is prolonged past the unique felony sentence whereas profitable reentry is restricted to those that have been privileged previous to being incarcerated (i.e., Martha Stewart).

The U.S. Fee on Civil Rights argues that collateral penalties improve recidivism charges by barring reentering adults from accessing wanted sources, and the vary of insurance policies that restrict entry to authorized jobs, housing, and public help are not associated to defending the general public’s security. As a substitute, collateral penalties make reentry more durable as a result of they haven’t any time restrict and function as an prolonged punishment past the sentence imposed by the felony courts. The collateral penalties result in a big proportion of former prisoners remaining unhoused, unemployed, and disconnected from social establishments, leading to excessive recidivism charges. Roughly 67% of launched prisoners are arrested once more inside three years — a proportion that has remained regular for over 30 years.

For extra info that explores the connections between public insurance policies and lived experiences of returning residents, you may learn my e book, Convicted and Condemned: The Politics and Insurance policies of Prisoner Reentry (NYU Press), which demonstrates how insurance policies prolong punishment quite than assist returning adults efficiently reenter. Throughout this necessary month, it’s essential to know issues going through reentering prisoners and set up insurance policies that put them in a greater place for fulfillment.


  1.  A Proclamation on Second Chance Month, Presidential Actions, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/03/31/a-proclamation-on-second-chance-month-2021/. (Again to prime)
  2.  President Donald J. Trump Proclaims April 2018 as Second Chance Month, https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-april-2018-second-chance-month/. (Again to prime)
  3. U.S. Fee on Civil Rights, 2019 Report, Collateral Penalties: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Results on Communities, https://www.usccr.gov/information/pubs/2019/06-13-Collateral-Penalties.pdf. (Again to prime)

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