On Tuesday, the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution declaring April 2017 as "Second Chance Month."
The resolution states that Congress "honors the work of communities, governmental entities, nonprofit organizations, congregations, employers, and individuals to remove unnecessary legal and societal barriers that prevent an individual with a criminal record from becoming a productive member of society."
Furthermore, it "calls on the people of the United States to observe Second Chance Month through actions and programs that promote awareness of collateral consequences; and provide closure for individuals who have paid their debts."
Co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; James Lankford, R-Okla.; and Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
A BIPARTISAN COALITION
Prison Fellowship, joined by a bipartisan coalition of organizations, earlier this month declared April 2017 the first-ever "Second Chance Month." They are seeking to reduce the social stigma and barriers that plague Americans with a criminal record—one in four adults—who are trying to re-enter society and become contributing members of their communities.
"We are honored that U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Amy Klobuchar introduced this bipartisan legislation designating April 2017 as Second Chance month," said Craig DeRoche, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy at Prison Fellowship. "We believe people with a past can rise from their failure, repay their debt and restore and heal our communities that are affected by crime. There is no such thing as a throwaway person and by granting second chances to those who have earned them we will be contributing to the restoration of families, communities, and our nation."
"An estimated 65 million Americans have a criminal record, and 95 percent of current inmates are set to be released one day, two-thirds of whom will be released in the next five years. Sadly, too many Americans who serve their time become caught up in a cycle of crime," said Portman. "The mistakes of our past don't have to define the potential for our future. By designating April as Second Chance Month, we are supporting those who are returning from prison and want a fair shot at living an honest and productive life, by increasing public awareness and getting them the help they need."
Though April is nearly over, Prison Fellowship encourages Americans to take up a variety of actions and behaviors to catalyze a nationwide celebration of second chances.
Churches can hold a "Second Chance Sunday," preach on redemption and second chances, and offer prayer for families impacted by the long-term effects of a criminal record.
And communities can host a local Second Chance event—exhibit art made by people with criminal records, provide practical resources through employment and re-entry fairs—and offer other events aimed at welcoming those with a criminal past to the community.