April is Second Chance Month. And you can encourage your business or organization to be get involved. The celebration allows you to help focus attention on the need to offer opportunities to those who face tremendous barriers because of mistakes they made in the past.
Launched in 2017 by Prison Fellowship, a faith-based organization for prisoners and former prisoners and their families, the event has grown over the years. In the initial year, the nonprofit asked Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Senator Robert Portman, R-Ohio, and two other senators to sponsor a resolution declaring April as Second Chance Month. And it took off from there. Although created by a religious organization, participation doesn’t require any church or place of worship affiliation and can be secular in nature for those who prefer it to be.
President Biden committed to second chances
By 2020, 20 states had similar resolutions. Last year, in his proclamation of Second Chance Month, President Joe Biden declared that: “We must commit to second chances from the earliest stages of our criminal justice system. Supporting second chances means, for example, diverting individuals who have used illegal drugs to drug court programs and treatment instead of prison.
“It requires eliminating exceedingly long sentences and mandatory minimums that keep people incarcerated longer than they should be. It means providing quality job training and educational opportunities during incarceration to prepare individuals for the 21st century economy. And it means reinvesting the savings from reduced incarceration into reentry programs and social services that prevent recidivism and leave us all better off.”
More than 600 groups are Second Chance Month official partners
More than 600 congregations, companies and organizations have become official partners in celebrating Second Chance Month. These include everything from local churches, colleges and law firms to organizations such as the ACLU, the American Probation and Parole Association, Catholic Charities USA, the Center for American Progress, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation, I Have a Bean, Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, the NAACP, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Employment Law Project, Together We Bake, the Vera Institute of Justice and many others. And yours can join the movement too.
Sign up on Prison Fellowship’s website, and the organization will send you tools and resources to help you plan how to celebrate this event.
For churches, there’s a Second Chance Sunday toolkit with sermon notes that pastors can use, a discussion guide for small groups, sample church bulletin inserts that can be customized for each particular congregation and pages that children can color.
There’s also a toolkit that anyone can use to spread the word on social media. It includes examples of Facebook and Twitter posts, as well as downloadable graphics.
Second Chance Month is also being recognized by the National Reentry Resource Center – funded and administered by the U.S. Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance – which has set up its own program. It will host events, webinars, podcasts and other services to support the justice field and Second Chance Act grantees, organizations that received government funding for a program targeting returning citizens.
Help spread the word
Take the opportunity to help spread the word about the challenges faced by one-third of the U.S. population that has a misdemeanor or felony record. Bring attention to the need for second chances, so that people can find employment and get their lives back together. This will also support the U.S. economy by alerting employers about an untapped source of applicants who can fill the millions of current job openings.