In a proclamation declaring April 2022 Second Chance Month, President Joseph R. Biden underscored the needs of people reentering their communities after incarceration. Calling the United States "a Nation of second chances," the President asserted that criminal and juvenile justice systems must offer "meaningful opportunities for rehabilitation and redemption." It is vital, he said, to address both the root causes of crime and the needs of citizens during reentry.
Residential placement facilities in the United States hold more than 36,000 youth on any given day, according to recent statistics. Congress passed the Second Chance Act in 2008, intending to reduce recidivism among youth and adults reentering the community after secure confinement or out-of-home placement, and to protect public safety. The First Step Act reauthorized the Second Chance Act in 2018. Provisions in the law authorize federal grants for supportive services to youth during reentry, including employment and education opportunities, housing assistance, treatment for substance use disorders, mental healthcare, family engagement, and mentoring.
“Together, let us recommit to empower Americans who have paid their debt to society and to provide them with a second chance to participate, contribute, and succeed.”
—Presidential Proclamation Recognizing April 2022 as Second Chance Month
Between fiscal years 2016 and 2021, OJJDP awarded more than $73 million in Second Chance Act funds, supporting direct services to youth and families, system improvements, and training and technical assistance. In fiscal year 2021 alone, the Office awarded more than $14 million for two reentry programs. Nearly $10 million went to 13 grantees under the Second Chance Act Youth Reentry program, which encourages collaborations between state agencies, local government, and community- and faith-based organizations. The Office awarded nearly $4.5 million to six grantees under the Second Chance Act Addressing the Needs of Incarcerated Parents and Their Minor Children program.
In northwestern Ohio, for example, OJJDP funds the Community Treatment Center (CTC)—a demonstration project run by the Lucas County Juvenile Court for youth ages 14 to 17 following short-term detention. CTC orientation begins prior to a youth’s release; court-ordered youth attend the program 10 hours daily for approximately 6 to 9 months. Court officials develop comprehensive reentry plans unique to each CTC participant, addressing risk factors that contributed to past behaviors, including a youth’s mental health care needs, substance use, unmet educational and housing needs, and—for older youth—employment status.
The program offers participants a variety of services, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and education about substance use disorders. An arts component includes classes from the Toledo Arts Commission and drumming instruction from members of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. On Saturdays, youth perform community service or work on school assignments. The program emphasizes family involvement—parents and guardians meet regularly with program staff to discuss their children's case plans and to receive updates about skills the youth have learned. Probation officers also monitor youth progress and offer support to families.
"While holding youth accountable and protecting the community, CTC provides an opportunity for youth to become productive citizens," says Program Manager Cheryl Bath. The program asks participants to think about their values and beliefs, to examine the behaviors that led to their detention, and to build relationships with the wider community. "As a juvenile justice professional, CTC allows me the opportunity to truly make a difference in building up my own community," she says.
OJJDP is recognizing Second Chance Month with webinars throughout April that focus on youth reentry issues. Topics include youth housing needs, support for families, and justice system transformation. On April 26, the final webinar will feature a panel of youth with lived experience of juvenile justice systems, discussing how agencies can better support youth during reentry.