Hill, Turner propose bipartisan Shift Back to Society Act

Eligible offenders re-entering the workforce following their incarceration would receive educational support under a bipartisan bill introduced on Aug. 13 by U.S. Reps. French Hill (R-AR) and Mike Turner (R-OH).

“People need to be reunited with their families, with their kids, reunited with the dignity and success of work and reunited with their faith. All of those things take a bad turn in prison,” Rep. Hill said. “Any American in good standing with the law, regardless of prior offenses, deserves the opportunity to succeed and improve their own lives through a job.”

“Rehabilitated individuals leaving incarceration deserve the opportunity to be successfully reintegrated into our communities and pursue the American dream,” added Rep. Turner. 

The Shift Back to Society Act, H.R. 5016, which Rep. Hill sponsored with three original cosponsors including Rep. Turner and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), would establish a five-year pilot program to provide grants to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for educational programming that would assist formerly jailed Americans in their re-entry, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmaker.

“The Shift Back to Society Act, coupled with current efforts in Arkansas and across the nation, are vitally important to the long-term viability and sustainability of a healthy, growing, prosperous America,” said Rep. Hill last week.

Additionally, H.R. 5016 would define eligible offenders as individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense and have been released from incarceration for no more than one year; or are scheduled to be released within a year; require matching funds for the grant program and funds from the federal government may not exceed 50 percent of the project cost; and provide an authorization that will not exceed $5 million annually, the bill summary states.

“The pilot program created by this legislation has the capacity to reduce rates of recidivism, unemployment, and homelessness,” Rep. Turner said. “By providing federal funds to HBCUs, we are investing in future career and educational opportunities for Americans seeking to turn their lives around. I urge my colleagues to support this vital initiative.”

Thurgood Marshall College Fund President and CEO Harry L. Williams endorsed the measure, which has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee.