Early release for people who have rehabilitated is good for public safety

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Imagine this: You are a person who has spent decades of your life behind bars, separated from your family, and missing out on the lives of your loved ones. Not giving up on hope, you've worked hard on transforming yourself, keeping an infraction-free record, acquiring employment skills, and participating in educational and training programs so that once you get out, you are prepared to rebuild your life and get back on your feet. Your hard work over the years paid off, and now you are counting down the days until you can hold your loved ones in your arms. Your family has made plans for your return: They have signed leases, found work for you, scheduled weddings and family reunions, and booked plane tickets. Yet, all these plans can quickly be destroyed.

Virginia's lawmakers are trying to repeal earned sentence credit legislation already signed into law by Virginia's governor in 2020, by sneaking an amendment into budget deliberations during this month's special session. It is not appropriate to legislate through the budget on issues that have already been decided on through the normal legislative process. Doing so would essentially take away a critical mechanism for people in Virginia's prisons to work towards their freedom and return to their communities.

Research has shown that the best way to keep someone from committing crime and returning to prison is to give them incentives to work on their own growth and self-improvement, as well as to provide them with the support and resources they need to succeed upon release. Let's recognize the hard work people put into transforming themselves and return people to the communities as better citizens. Let's protect earned sentence credits rather than perpetuating fear-mongering tactics to undo this much-needed reform.

Your action can help reunite a family that has been apart for far too long and brings someone home after many years of incarceration.

Message Recipients:
Your State Senator
Your State Representatives

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As your constituent, I am writing to ask you to protect the progress made on earned sentence credits, a bipartisan, sensible reform that encourages people who are incarcerated to work on their own growth and transformation.

Earned sentence credit is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. The people who are able to gain their early release have worked, educated themselves, and remained infraction free for five consecutive years. When it’s possible to get an infraction just for having the wrong colored ink pen, this is quite a feat and a testament to the hard work people put into rehabilitating themselves. People change. Our laws should recognize that.

Earned sentence credits give people who are incarcerated an incentive to rehabilitate & a pathway to go home. Breaking this promise hurts not just people who have worked hard to earn their freedom, but their families who made plans for their return.

Research shows that the best way to improve public safety, education, economic opportunity, and community engagement after crimes occur is to offer meaningful, tangible incentives for people to improve their circumstances and return to society early.

I urge you to publicly voice your support for earned sentence credits and oppose any effort to roll back this valuable program via the budget process. It encourages good behaviors and participation in programs that are critical for successful reentry. When we return people to the communities as better citizens, we improve public safety for everyone.


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