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On Monday, June 20, 2011 Senator Rob Portman (R‑Ohio) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D‑Vermont) introduced legislation to extend aspects of the Second Chance Act first passed in 2007. The Second Chance Act Reauthorization Bill is scheduled for Senate Judiciary Committee consideration on Thursday, June 232011

The Reauthorization Bill will improve public safety and improve outcomes for individuals returning to communities from prisons and jails. It is imperative during our economic crisis that such bills reducing prison costs for federal, state, and local governments are given proper consideration. 

Per the Press Releases from Senator Leahy’s office and Senator Portman’s office, the Second Chance Act Reauthorization Bill will: 

¢ Provide support for planning and implementation of key reentry projects to ensure that those projects use methods proven through testing and review to lead to meaningful reductions in recidivism rates…; “¢ Create an incentive for inmates to participate in rigorous recidivism reduction programming by awarding a credit of up to 60 days per year toward completion of their sentence for participation in such programs…” 

Funding from the first Second Chance Act currently supports San Francisco, California’s Juvenile Collaborative Reentry Team (JCRT). In September 2009, San Francisco was one of only five jurisdictions from around the nation selected as a Second Chance Act National Demonstration Project site by the United States Department of Justice. San Francisco’s JCRT is a unique collaborative between the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, the San Francisco Superior Court, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, and the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. 

JCRT was originally designed to address the city’s utilization of out-of-home placement and the absence of comprehensive reentry planning and aftercare services upon release from placement. Unfortunately placement at a group home often severs family connections as most facilities are located outside the city and length of stay at these placements can vary from six to eighteen months. Typically when youth are released from placement, few services are available to address the youth’s multifaceted needs such as family reunification, housing, vocational preparation, behavioral health, and family therapy. 

Since its inception almost two years ago, JCRT has reduced recidivism for youth returning from out-of-home placement, improved collaborative inter-agency case planning and coordination for juvenile justice-involved youth in out-of-home placements, and implemented an unprecedented collaboratively enhanced JCRT court as part of the Superior Court of California. San Francisco’s JCRT has received national recognition. The JCRT team’s presentation at the national Second Chance Grantee Conference in Washington, DC was one of the highest-rated sessions for the juvenile grantees during the entire three-day conference. One of JCRT’s most recent successes was a visit from newly appointed California Supreme Court Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye who observed JCRT court in session just last week. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye was pleased to see the uniqueness of the JCRT court and documented the session for future training purposes. 

With continued support from the Second Chance Act Reauthorization Bill, projects like San Francisco’s JCRT initiative can continue to save the lives of our city’s juvenile justice-involved youth.