In Virginia, a good first step to cut recidivism
By Dave Marsden
This week, I attended Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s news conference regarding the creation of his Prisoner and Juvenile Offender Re-entry Council. The goal of this initiative is to improve services to inmates returning to society and increase positive outcomes for them, which can lead to decreased recidivism and enhanced public safety.
I worked with the governor when he was in the House of Delegates and when I ran the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice on important juvenile justice legislation. I am pleased that he is taking thoughtful steps to improve the lives of people who, upon release from incarceration, need to reconnect with and support their families, work and pay taxes, and not reoffend. Imagine the potential of a system where the vast majority of state inmates who are being held in local jails for lack of space in state prisons were being prepared for release into their communities rather than preparing for transfer to prison. I believe that communities would respond to the needs of these returning individuals as work-release programs and other training and treatment efforts were being initiated. State funding could also be reallocated to support this effort. This would be a great improvement over straight release from a facility hundreds of miles from an inmate’s home with no serious preparation for returning to society.
With so many negative images of Virginia and our government being reported over the past five months, it is time for our leaders to get down to critical matters of public policy. By taking this progressive step, Mr. McDonnell has started to move Virginia forward on an important issue.
The writer, a Democrat, represents District 37 in the Virginia Senate.
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