What is the Second Chance Act?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 March 2020
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The Second Chance Act may refer to one of two United States bills presented to the US Congress between 2007 and 2009. Both Acts deal with the rehabilitation of criminals following non-violent offenses. The Second Chance Act of 2007 was signed by President George Bush in 2007 and provided rehabilitation and training opportunities for first offenders upon completing all requirements of a criminal sentence. The Second Chance Act of 2009 was introduced by Representative Charles Rangel allows first time non-violent offenders to have their criminal record expunged after meeting a variety of conditions. The 2009 version of the Second Chance Act remains in the congressional review process as of the end of 2010.

The purpose of both bills is to meet a serious challenge presented by the reintegration of criminal offenders into society. Experts suggest that those who have been convicted of a crime have a difficult time finding a lawful path through life following incarceration. Many younger offenders have missed out on opportunities for job and skills training, and a high portion suffer from drug and alcohol addiction. Both version of the Second Chance Act attempt to facilitate a lawful post-conviction existence by providing job training, substance abuse counseling, and possibly removing the stigma of a prior conviction.


The Second Chance Act of 2007 was a re-authorization of an earlier bill known as the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. It created a grant program that allowed funding to be diverted toward prisoner reentry programs that would help certain offenders reintegrate into society after prison. In addition to providing funds for programs geared toward prison inmates,the Act also provide grants for diversionary programs that would allow non-violent drug offenders to undergo monitored treatment as an alternative to jail. Other provisions of the bill allow for the creation of job placement programs an post-incarceration mentoring services to help ex-convicts settle into a lawful life.

The 2009 bill of the same name allows non-violent first time offenders a chance to have their conviction stricken from the records. This bill requires that candidates have never been convicted of a violent offense or for any offense other than the one in question. In addition, proof must be shown that the candidate has completed any court-ordered rehabilitation programs and remained free from illegal substance use for at least a year, and has completed at least one year of verified community service. If a convict meets all of these conditions, and possesses a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, he or she may be able to have their conviction expunged.


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