U.S. Bishops, Catholic Charities Call for 'Second Chance' for Former Inmates

Corporal Worker. Pope Francis visits prisoners in Italy.

In a letter to Congress today, the U.S. Catholic leaders came out in strong support for the Second Chance Act (S. 1513), legislation aimed at assisting the reintegration of men and women exiting America's prisons, jails and detention centers, and hoping to stay out permanently. "Our Catholic tradition supports the community's right to establish and enforce laws that protect people and advance the common good," wrote Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Dominican Sister Donna Markham, C.E.O. of Catholic Charities USA, in a July 8 letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "But our faith also teaches us that both victims and offenders have a God-given dignity that calls for justice, not vengeance."

The two Catholic leaders urged Congress to address some of the complex problems faced by the more than 650,000 men, women and juveniles who reenter society each year after incarceration. “Those who return to our communities from incarceration face significant challenges. These include finding housing and stable employment, high rates of substance abuse, physical and mental health challenges and social isolation." Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham wrote that, without necessary support services, these individuals have an increased chance of re-offending. The various interventions proposed by the act, job training, housing support and drug abuse treatment for example, have been proven effective in reducing recidivism rates, according to the letter from Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham.

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They argue that the Second Chance Act "will not only enhance public safety by providing the necessary resources to address prisoner reentry and recidivism, but promote human dignity by improving the quality of life in communities across the country."

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