On December 15, 2009, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Attorney General Eric Holder cohosted a Fatherhood Town Hall Meeting at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. The Town Hall session discussed the importance of fatherhood and focused on ways in which the criminal justice system can support the reentry of incarcerated fathers back into the community.
“More than 1.5 million American children have fathers in prison,” the Attorney General noted in his address, “And we know that children of incarcerated parents suffer from the physical and emotional separation, the stigma associated with having a parent detained, the loss of financial support, and the disruption caused by introducing new caregivers into a child’s life.”
Approximately 700,000 people return to their communities from prison every year. However, only a small percentage of these people receive any help preparing for their return. Research reveals that incarcerated men who maintain strong family ties while behind bars are more successful when they are released. They have an easier time finding jobs and staying off drugs. In fact, a recent study done for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that people who were married or in committed relationships were half as likely to use drugs or commit new crimes after they returned to their communities. Family connections—and responsible and engaged parenting—improve public safety.
In fiscal year (FY) 2009, $25 million was appropriated to the Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) for the Second Chance Act of 2007, the first legislation ever enacted authorizing federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, family programming, mentoring, and other services to help reduce recidivism and offer ex-offenders a chance to lead productive lives.
BJA made awards to 15 government agencies for adult reentry demonstration projects and 36 nonprofit community and faith-based organizations to provide mentoring and transitional services to adults. These grants included parenting training inside facilities and reunification programs for people returning to their families and communities. OJJDP made awards to 5 government agencies for juvenile reentry demonstration projects and 11 nonprofit community and faith-based organizations to provide mentoring and transitional services to youth.
On December 22, 2009, BJA and OJJDP announced the release of FY 2010 solicitations for their joint Second Chance Act Adult and Juvenile Offender Reentry Demonstration Projects. Funding allocated for these FY 2010 awards totals $37 million. To be eligible for funding, the jurisdiction preparing the application must have developed a reentry strategic plan, which includes a detailed implementation schedule as well as extensive evidence of collaboration with key public and private stakeholders. Applications are due no later than March 4, 2010.