The First Step Act offers significant changes to federal sentencing laws and improvements to programs. The aim is to reduce recidivism and support the criminal justice system.
The new law builds on the Second Chance Act. Each year, $100 million will be available through grants for programs to promote successful reentry for people returning to the community after incarceration. Programs can take many forms. Skills to support reentry and reintegration which can reduce recidivism include:
- Personal growth programs for substance abuse, anger management, and problem resolution
- Practical matters like budgeting, money management, and GED preparation
- Relationship development through better parenting skills and family values
- Employment services
Most local and state agencies are eligible to apply for funding through this federal grant program. The National Criminal Justice Initiatives Map has information on where grantees of the Second Chance Act and other federal grant programs are located.
The Second Chance Act has been in place for over 10 years. It has been deemed very successful. Reentry Matters: Second Chance Act 10th Anniversary Edition recounts several success stories of programs and individuals supported by the Second Chance Act. From the introduction:
“After years of developments in thinking about the purpose and impact of incarceration, the concept of successful reentry has become a critical aspect of correctional missions to improve public safety and is now deeply entrenched in criminal justice policy and practice.
Enacted with bipartisan support, SCA helps state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations in their work to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes among people who have been in the criminal justice system. Since its passage 10 years ago, SCA has supported more than 900 grants for adult and youth reentry programs, as well as systemwide improvements to help jurisdictions better address the needs of people who are incarcerated.”
For more information about this and related topics visit The National Reentry Resource Center.