It seems like forever since Cong. Danny Davis first launched his campaign to provide services and resources for the formerly incarcerated.
Actually, it was six years ago that Davis first introduced his “Second Chance Act” in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The bill passed in the House in November and appears likely to pass next in the Senate.
By a wide margin of 347-62, the law, which calls for $361 million to fund programs benefiting ex-offenders, sailed through the House.
These programs include job training initiatives, GED classes, and assistance with finding housing.
“The Second Chance Act is a good first step that will provide much needed resources, and an approach to better understanding what works to increase public safety, reduce crime, and lower the recidivism rate,” Davis said. “We are a country that preaches redemption in our churches, synagogues, and mosques. We are a country that preaches that sins can be forgiven. That we can practice what we have preached is what we want to show with this measure.”
Davis added that the amount of support the bill has received was not surprising. It was simply a matter of economics.
“It takes about $20,000 to keep a man locked up,” he said. “However, if you work toward preparing him for life after incarceration, now he can work, pay his own bills, pay his own taxes and he is contributing to the economy.”
The measure is expected to impact organizations, such as Faith Inc. and Eyes on Austin, each with programs to help ex-offenders renter society.
“I’m happy to see such a measure like this receive the level of support it has in the House, but I hope that these resources actually go towards the people that need it,” said Diane Baker, outreach advocate with Eyes on Austin, 5519 W. North Ave.
Eyes on Austin offers programs in job placement, mechanics and carpentry. The non-profit, though, wants to expand its entrepreneurial program, which would put ex-offenders on the road to business ownership.
“I know people who had been working at their jobs for 15 years and they were fired because they lied about a previous incarceration,” Baker said. “Some of these were employees that had exemplary records with the companies that let them go. It’s just that some places don’t want ex-offenders on the staff no matter how hard they work.”
Terry Dean contributed to this story