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Remarks of Amy L. Solomon, PDAAG at the Commemoration of Second Chance Month

      Thank you for joining the Office of Justice Programs as we commemorate Second Chance Month. Each April, we reaffirm our commitment to helping people successfully return home as productive, thriving members of their communities.

      We have made amazing strides as a nation. Jurisdictions across the country are removing unnecessary barriers to reintegration and expanding options for people who have had contact with the criminal legal system. Agencies are engaged in greater collaboration, working across systems to open up avenues and access to education, employment and other opportunities so critical to reentry success. I am encouraged by the work being done in many communities throughout our nation.

      But I am also aware that there is much left to do. Hundreds of thousands of people leave state and federal prisons every year. Millions enter and exit local jails. And for those with criminal records, the impact can extend well beyond their arrest or confinement, keeping them in a perpetual state of punishment. These collateral consequences are suffered, not just by the people who are arrested or incarcerated, but by their families and our society as a whole.

      Helping people return to their communities is a moral responsibility we must all work to fulfill. Many who have had contact with the system have the potential to achieve great possibilities in their futures. And we should be working to help them fulfill that potential—to remove the roadblocks to accessing education, finding jobs and housing, and fully participating in civic life.

      Supporting these efforts is a top priority of the Office of Justice Programs. We have made more than a thousand awards under the Second Chance Act, totaling more than $700 million, to support adult and youth reentry programs across the country. More than 350,000 people have received treatment, vocational services, job placement and employment, cognitive behavioral intervention and other critical services through Second Chance Act funding.

      We will be building on these investments with a new round of funding this year. I’m especially pleased to announce that the Bureau of Justice Assistance has posted a brand-new solicitation called the Second Chance Community-based Reentry Incubator Initiative. This new program will help break down barriers to federal resources by funding intermediary organizations that will then deliver subawards to small community-based reentry providers. The intermediary organizations will also provide hands-on technical assistance to help these CBOs grow their capacity to deliver support for people returning home. We are so excited by this new dimension of Second Chance funding as we work to strengthen the community-based ecosystem of reentry services and support.

      At the same time, we are actively building our base of knowledge about what works in the reentry space. Our National Institute of Justice is supporting a wide range of rigorous studies that will give us critical information about reentry strategies on the federal, state and local levels. And we are now soliciting proposals for projects that will explore the issues around jail reentry.

      We are also joining with our partners at the Department of Education to prepare for the full reinstatement of federal Pell grant eligibility for incarcerated students beginning this academic year. In fact, I’m excited that we are kicking off Second Chance Month with a roundtable discussion at the Florida Department of Corrections. We’ll meet with incarcerated students and other stakeholders to celebrate the power and potential of Pell reinstatement, to learn more about the barriers incarcerated students encounter and to discuss promising strategies to overcome these obstacles. This discussion will be led by our own Angel Sanchez, a BJA Second Chance Fellow who is helping us leverage this pivotal opportunity to expand Pell.

      We’re also ramping up our efforts to help states seal and expunge criminal records so that an individual’s past does not forever foreclose future success. And OJP is proud to support the mission of the federal Alternatives and Reentry Committee, which is designing a whole-of-government strategy to promote both front-end justice reforms and effective reentry strategies at the local, state and federal levels.

      This work has never been more important, and our commitment has never been stronger.

      I hope that you will join us during Second Chance Month in reaffirming your own commitment to this vital work. I encourage you to take advantage of the many opportunities that will be made available through the National Reentry Resource Center over the course of the month, including live learning events, videos, podcasts and publications. These resources are designed to help strengthen our collective resolve and provide the tools we need to improve the health and safety of our communities.

      Thank you for being part of this commemorative month, and thank you for all you do year-round to help fulfill the promise of America as a nation of second chances.


Date Published: April 1, 2023