First Federal Social Impact Bond?

We reported last week on the youth-related figures in the 2014 spending agreement. The bill careened through both houses and onto the desk of a pen-in-hand President Obama for his signature.

But in the context of history, it might be a modest carve-out for adult prisoner services that stands out in this field from 2014.

Congress approved $67.5 million for programs authorized by the Second Chance Act, a piece of legislation that since 2008 has directed funds toward re-entry services for both adults and juveniles. As is often the case, appropriators carved a few programs into the total. Of the $67.5 million:

  • $6 million goes to “smart probation”; no surprise, Congress has supported those for years.
  • $2 million to Children of Incarcerated Parents Demonstration Grants; no surprise there either, there used to be a $50 million approp for mentoring children of prisoners in the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget.
  • $7.5 million for “Pay for Success” discretionary programs.

Hold the telefono! We might have a precedent-setter.

As YSI has reported in the past, President Obama has embraced the concept of pay-for-success projects, also known as social impact bonds (SIB). For the uninitiated: SIBs involve private dollars fund a social venture, and the government pays back on said venture based on success.

A brief timeline on the executive branch’s support for the concept:

This would appear to be the first time that Congress has actually appropriated money for social impact bonds. The pot will be overseen by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the same Justice division that prioritized SIBs in that 2013 solicitation.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1128 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.