AUSTIN—The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission has partnered with Prison Fellowship and more than 150 other organizations to observe April as Second Chance Month for ex-offenders.
Second Chance Month recognizes 65 million people with a criminal record have limited access to education, jobs and other opportunities.
“Second Chance Month is meant to highlight the plight of millions of Americans and their families who are formerly incarcerated,” said Kathryn Freeman, CLC public policy director.
“They have paid their debt to society but still find themselves locked out of affordable housing, decent job opportunities and certain occupations despite the fact that studies have shown steady housing and employment dramatically reduce recidivism.”
‘Remember the prisoner’
In conjunction with the initiative, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation affirming April as Second Chance Month in Texas.
“Second Chance Month promotes increased awareness about collateral consequences, the need for closure for those who have paid their debt to society and opportunities for individuals, employers, congregations and communities to extend second chances,” the proclamation said.
Freeman expressed appreciation both to Abbott and Prison Fellowship for “helping to shine a spotlight on this issue.”
“We hope to continue to advocate for legislative reforms, while encouraging churches to look for ways to ‘remember the prisoner,’” she said.
Through funding from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering and the Mary Hill Davis Offering in 2018, Texas Baptist churches will provide more than $28,000 to restorative justice ministries in Texas, including $9,800 specifically for re-entry ministries.
The CLC encourages churches to support the formerly incarcerated not only through the Hunger Offering, but also through supporting public policy initiatives that balance community safety and successful reintegration in our communities.
The CLC urges support for legislative efforts to:
- Expand diversion programs and specialty courts.
- Curb fees and limit court debt to a percentage of a person’s income.
- Reduce probation revocations for minor infractions and incentivize best practices that keep those on probation at work and on the road to rehabilitation.
- Assist in the transition of ex-offenders back into society through the development and expansion of re-entry programs, including access to basic safety-net services for those who have completed their sentence.
- Improve community police relations including for funding for body cameras, training on implicit bias, and better data collection.
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