WASHINGTON, D.C. — North Alabama's Tayna Rains was among the leaders representing diverse faith traditions from eight states who took part in a briefing on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, to underscore the importance of reentry programming for women and men following incarceration.
The luncheon briefing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill was hosted by the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society in collaboration with the Faith in Action Working Group, and the offices of Senators. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vermont.), and Rob Portman, (R-Ohio). The Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2011, recently introduced by Leahy and Portman, was the focus of the briefing.
Rains says, "It was a really wonderful opportunity to be invited by the General Board to speak on a panel in Washington, D.C., about the issues Alabama has with its criminal justice/ reentry system. "
The Second Chance Act passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law in April 2007. Since then, 250 grants have been awarded to community and faith-based organizations, and to state, local and tribal governments spanning almost every state in the nation. The grants have improved public safety and reduced recidivism by helping formerly incarcerated persons reintegrate into their communities.
The Second Chance Reauthorization Act (S.1231), according to its sponsors, will increase public safety and strengthen families by consolidating grants, make reentry programs more efficient and accountable, and provide returning persons additional incentives to participate in rigorous recidivism reduction programs.
The sponsors say their bill also will reduce overcrowding and costs within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that in 2006, federal, state and local governments spent approximately $68 billion on corrections. Furthermore, in some states, criminal justice spending outpaces spending on higher education.
The briefing covered an overview of reentry issues, first-hand accounts from religious leaders who direct reentry programs, and information on the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2011.
Three United Methodists are among the briefing’s presenters. Presenters included the following:
The Faith in Action Working Group consists of more than 25 national religious organizations in Washington, D.C., that advocate for an end to mass incarceration and adoption of restorative alternatives to the criminal justice system.
Besides the General Board of Church & Society, members include the National Alliance of Faith & Justice, the National Association of Evangelicals, Mennonite Central Committee, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Episcopal Church, Catholic Charities, JustPeace, Disciples of Christ, Sojourners, American Baptists, USA, Friends Committee on National Legislation, National Council of Churches and World Vision.