What is the Second Chance Act (SCA)? The SCA is a piece of legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush on April 9, 2008. The law had bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. The law authorized federal funding for state and federal reentry programs. It also directed– but did not require – the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to consider giving federal prisoners longer stays in halfway houses.
The SCA was designed to provide federal funding for programs that help people leaving prison reenter their communities, so that they do not reoffend. Some parts of the law affected how long a person stayed in prison. These parts only affected people in federal, not state, prisons.
1) The SCA lengthened the outer limits of the time an individual is guaranteed consideration for prerelease community corrections (halfway house) from six months to 12 months. 2) The SCA increased slightly the percentage of a federal sentence that can be served in home confinement.
The SCA clarified the statute governing federal halfway house placement prior to release, and it ensured that prisoners are considered for longer placements – but the SCA did not require that the BOP put people in halfway houses earlier or for longer periods of time and:
Required the BOP to ensure that, to the extent practicable, a prisoner is considered for halfway house placement or other release preparation conditions for up to 12 months, not just up to six months, as previous law had stated.
Made a strong statement about how the BOP should approach pre-release halfway house decisions. It directed the BOP to issue regulations that ensure that halfway house placement is, among other things, determined on an individual basis and is of “sufficient duration to provide the greatest likelihood of successful reintegration into the community”;
Clarified 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c), which allows the BOP to place a prisoner in a halfway house or on home confinement. In the past, the BOP had relied on a mistaken reading of this statute to issue regulations that limited halfway house and home confinement placement to the final 10 percent of the person’s good-time adjusted sentence or six months, whichever was shorter.
Clarified that BOP’s broad discretion to determine the place of confinement, including a halfway house (but not home confinement) is not limited by 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c). In other words, any limits expressed in the halfway house provision, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c), do not restrain the BOP’s discretion to determine the place of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. §3621(b).
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