US Senate Unanimously Votes in Support of Second Chances for Americans with Criminal Records

Senate Resolution Declares 'Second Chance Month' to Support Prison Fellowship Efforts to Unlock Better Futures for Former Inmates

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a resolution declaring April 2017 "Second Chance Month," continuing Prison Fellowship's national effort to reduce barriers that keep formerly incarcerated Americans from successfully rejoining society.

The resolution "calls on the people of the United States to observe Second Chance Month through actions and programs that promote awareness of collateral consequences; and provide closure for individuals who have paid their debts."

Co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., James Lankford, R-Okla., and Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

Prison Fellowship, joined by a bipartisan coalition of organizations, earlier this month declared April 2017 the first-ever "Second Chance Month." They are seeking to reduce the social stigma and barriers that plague Americans with criminal records—one in four adults—who are trying to re-enter society and become contributing members of their communities.

"There is no such thing as a throwaway person, and by granting second chances to those who have earned them, we will be contributing to the restoration of families, communities and our nation," said Craig DeRoche, senior vice president of Prison Fellowship. "We are honored that Senators Rob Portman and Amy Klobuchar introduced this bipartisan legislation designating April 2017 as Second Chance Month. Together, we are working to remove unnecessary barriers that prevent those with a criminal record from becoming productive members of society. We believe people with a past can rise from their failure, repay their debts, and that healing is possible for our communities affected by crime." 

Interview Opportunity: Craig DeRoche, senior vice president of Prison Fellowship, who himself encountered the criminal justice system because of alcohol addition when he was the youngest speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, is a available for interviews on second chances. 

For far too many who have served time behind bars, release from incarceration brings a new kind of prison. Some 65 million Americans have a criminal record. This limits their access to jobs, education, housing and other things necessary for a full and productive life. Any hope and new identity found while incarcerated can be quickly lost upon release when faced with the "second prison"—the more than 48,000 documented social stigmas and legal restrictions that inhibit opportunities to rebuild someone's life after paying a debt to society.

Though April is nearly over, Prison Fellowship encourages Americans to take up a variety of actions and behaviors to catalyze a nationwide celebration of second chances:

  • Individuals can express public support for those with a criminal past through coordinated petitions and social media.
  • Churches can hold a "Second Chance Sunday," preach on redemption and second chances, and offer prayer for families impacted by the long-term effects of a criminal record.
  • Communities can host a local Second Chance event—exhibit art made by people with criminal records, provide practical resources through employment and re-entry fairs, and offer other events aimed at welcoming those with a criminal past to the community. 

In addition, Prison Fellowship held Second Chance 5K events in Denver on April 8 and in St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 23 to help raise awareness of the "second prison" and the need for second chances. 

About Prison Fellowship
Prison Fellowship is the nation's largest outreach to prisoners, former prisoners and their families, and a leading advocate for criminal justice reform. With 40 years of experience helping restore men and women behind bars, Prison Fellowship advocates for federal and state criminal justice reforms that transform those responsible for crime, validate victims and encourage communities to play a role in creating a safe, redemptive and just society.