Update 3/31/2017–U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced a resolution that would designate April 2017 as "Second Chance Month."
"We applaud Sen. Portman for his resolution declaring April as Second Chance Month," said Craig DeRoche, Prison Fellowship®'s senior vice president of advocacy and public policy. "As America’s largest outreach to prisoners and their families, Prison Fellowship was founded on the conviction that every person has God-given dignity and potential. We join over 50 organizations in celebrating Second Chance Month this April to unlock brighter futures for the millions of Americans who have repaid their debt to society."
Sen. Portman is the author of the Second Chance Act.
Today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C, representatives from Prison Fellowship, the NAACP, The Heritage Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Koch Industries Inc., and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) gathered to declare April 2017 as Second Chance Month.
THE SECOND PRISON
For far too many who have served time behind bars, the day of their release brings a new kind of prison: homelessness and poverty. Some 65 million Americans have a criminal record, which limits access to jobs, education, housing, and other things necessary for a full and productive life. Any hope and new identity found while behind bars can be quickly lost upon release when faced with the "second prison"—the more than 48,000 documented social stigmas and legal restrictions that inhibit building full, productive lives after paying a debt to society. Such was the case for Casey Irwin, who struggled to find a job or a landlord willing to rent to her because of her felony record.
"My second prison became reality once I was released after paying my debt to society," Irwin shared with reporters.
Irwin's struggles to find employment and housing ultimately contributed to her return to prison.
"This is an issue that doesn't just impact conservatives or liberals," said Ngozi Ndulue of the NAACP. "It impacts all of us."
JUSTICE REFORM: A BIPARTISAN NATIONAL MOVEMENT
Sentencing reform is gaining momentum in state legislatures and in Congress, bringing hope to people like Irwin who are still paying for a crime long after serving their time. Prison Fellowship, the nation's largest outreach to prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, is leading a bipartisan coalition to proclaim April 2017 as the first-ever "Second Chance Month," and urge state and federal policymakers to offer a resolution or issue a proclamation to spread "Second Chance Month" nationwide.
"We are in this together to help those who have paid their debt to society and need to have their rights restored," said Barry Pollack (NACDL).
During a time of questions and answers, USA Today reporter Lottie Joiner asked if the Trump administration would be good for this issue.
"Look at this diverse group of people up here," said Udi Ofer (ACLU). "From the ACLU to The Heritage Foundation. We have all found common ground with this and can get it done."