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February 20, 2007

When at first you don’t succeed...

Just a few days ago a new study was released entitled Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America's Prison Population 2007-2011. Honestly, the results came as no surprise: the U.S. prison population is on the rise. No, really? We've been hounded by rising statistics for years now, but this report helped put the grim news into perspective with a price tag.

Dear Taxpayers,
Please expect an additional 27.5 billion dollars to be spent on accomodating our growing population in the next five years.
Sincerely, The Management

While many sit stunned with their mouths open, others ask the ever more burning question: why?

Perhaps the biggest factor is the poor preparation provided to inmates who are on their way out the prison gates. In fact, of the 650,000 individuals released this year, over 66% will be back in prison within 3 years. Here comes the looming question ... why?

As my previous post and this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out, the assistance available for an inmate who has paid his or her dues and seeks to return to society as a productive citizen is almost nil. And once they get out, society certainly doesn't rush to help them. But does this make sense to you?

Personally I'd like to see my tax dollars going to successful reentry programming and job assistance, rather than $20,000-$60,000 or more being spent to keep a person alive in a cell for a year. But hey, maybe that's just me.

Did you ever hear of a piece of bi-partisian legislation called the Second Chance Act of 2005? Well, this bill attempted to fix part of the problem by paving a way for successful reentry programs and other reentry assistance. Although the bill failed to pass this past Congressional session (due to the actions of only one Senator), its clone is set to be introduced in the next week or two: the Second Chance Act of 2007. Keep your ears open for that one and be sure to urge your respresentatives to support such a great bill!

Now all that's left is to talk society into offering ex-offenders a helping hand. Are you ready to give them a second chance? Or are you content to sit and throw more money, your money, at the problem? What should we do?

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Deborah Martin, Working Together Inc

The issues surrounding rehabilitation of inmates are very complicated, and the easiest solution always seems to be "build more prisons." The money allocated toward new construction would be better spent if it was divided between making current prisons more conducive to changes WITHIN the people they guard society from and the rehabilitation of the prison system that now exists. I personally believe that God is the missing factor in many of these decisions. Without an inner sense of moral boundaries, which salvation naturally brings to the human being, there is nothing to stop people from hurting each other. America will feel the impact of its turn away from God as the years unfold. Perhaps we need to rely less on our tax base and more on our Christian benefactors, our Christian denominations, and our Christian outreach efforts.


Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Deborah, there's a lot of truth in what you said. Crime is most definitely a moral problem and ultimately it's only in a heart change and total surrender (salvation) can we ever hope to accomplish true reform. That's why it is the time for faith-based groups to step up to the plate. Thankfully the wording of the Second Chance Act will allow non-profit groups to be eligible to receive grants for their work. Defintiely a step in a positive direction. Now the harder part might be finding motivated Believers...

Charles Benninghoff

Thank you for your insightful article. I have been a supporter of the Justice Fellowship and Prison Fellowship.

Recently it was my honor to suggest to Mr. Patrick Nolan an amendment to the Second Chance Act of 2007 which would provide for a new Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. This new rule would allow federal ex-offenders to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation. This is similar to, though not a restrictive as, Charlie Rangel's "Second Chance Act of 2007" (H623) which permits only expungement for non-violent crimes. It is my belief that the term "violent crime" in federal jargon has become so broad that petty acts are turned into violence simply by the twist of a legislator's pen; further that it ought to be up to a judge whether or not someone is rehabilitated and not to a legislator's contrived definition of who can be rehabilitated.

To help support your efforts as well as Congressman Rangel's, I founded The Rehabilitated Project and it is working to change how the world treats it's formerly condemned who now aspire to reclaim their life through civility and good works.

We are working to build a nationwide coalition to aid in the passage of the Second Chance Act of 2007 and to thereby give hope to offenders that - if they live a civil life and promote good works - they, too, can be declared rehabilitated. Doing this is in America's very best interests.

To prove this point one need look only as far as the Jose Padilla case where an ex-offender was proselytized while incarcerated and brainwashed into trying to nuke Chicago. Someone who had hope, who had a chance at redemption would never do such a thing.

That is why we ask you to join The Rehabilitated Project and fight side-by-side with us to get the Second Chance Act of 2007 passed.

You can find us at www.rehabilitated.org.

Charles Benninghoff, Founder
The Rehabilitated Project


Mr. Benninghoff,

Thank you for taking the time to inform me me about your organization. I will share your information with my collegues and be sure to visit your website.

Thank you again!

Allisio Rex

This Second Chance Bill 632 which keeps being reintroduced because Congress and the President (Bush) are more interested on the amnesty for illegal aliens,who have committed numerous Felonies themselves, is long overdue.
On the Federal Level there are no avenues to expunge a conviction except with a Presidential Pardon,impossible to get.Presidents only Pardon a few dozens of politically connected people leaving the other deserving millions on their own.
Additionally this Bill will correct a Constitutional injustice: " a Permanent deprivation of Civil Rights is a Cruel punishment" in view of the facts that most "crimes" do not amount to anything to warrant such harsh post-conviction lifetime disabilities,unacceptable in a Republic where the people decide their own destiny and not the politicians.

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