RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia attorney general’s office is creating the position of a statewide coordinator to prepare local inmates for their return to society.
Attorney General Mark R. Herring also announced Monday the creation of a re-entry portal to assist in that effort.
While the state has worked in recent years to assist the re-entry of state prison inmates, local correctional centers have had little guidance or resources to help the men and women held in their lockups.
The re-entry coordinator will identify and address service gaps and help coordinate communications between sheriffs’ departments and government agencies. They include workforce development programs and mental health services.
Herring said re-entry programs have been proven to reduce recidivism and save taxpayers’ dollars.
An estimated 29,000 people are held in jails statewide.
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Virginia sheriff’s, legislators and community leaders expressed support for the initiative after Herring’s announcement Monday:
Senator Mamie Locke
“An effective re-entry program is critical to the success of individuals leaving incarceration and returning to their communities as contributing citizens. Attorney General Mark Herring understands this and is taking a necessary step to ensure the re-entry process is effective. With the hiring of a re-entry coordinator, Attorney General Herring is ensuring that sheriffs around the state have a resource that they can tap into to assist in the reduction of the inmate population and the transition from incarceration back into society. I applaud this action.”
Senator Donald McEachin:
“I would like to commend the Attorney General for this innovative plan that will help offenders not become lifetime criminals. We need to ensure that when folks have done their time, they can become constructive members of our communities. These kinds of reforms offer opportunities for future success and reduce recidivism while saving taxpayer dollars. I thank the Attorney General for instigating this critical program that will make a significant difference for the Commonwealth. This program is just one more example of how this Attorney General is serving our citizens and benefiting our Commonwealth.”
Delegate Lionell Spruill, Sr.:
“When someone in incarceration is released back into our neighborhoods, they need to be ready to take care of themselves and be a productive member of society. Without any opportunities, they stand a much higher chance of re-offending. We should support those who have paid their debt to society and want a better life by helping them find the tools and resources they need. I’m proud that Attorney General Herring has made this a priority and keeping his promise of opportunity for all.”
Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe:
“The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office has been providing Reentry Programming and Alternatives to Incarceration for non-violent offenders for many years, including Cognitive Drug/Alcohol/Mental Health Treatment, DMV Identification Cards assistance, job training assistance and actual job placement. A key to our success has been the partnership with The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office Reentry Programming with the Specialty Courts in our city which provides 18 months of Intensive Supervision for nonviolent offenders after completing programming in our facility.”
Chesapeake Sheriff Jim O’Sullivan:
“The reduction of recidivism in the Chesapeake Correctional Center has been one of my top priorities as the Sheriff of Chesapeake. The utilization and establishment of our re-entry program has been a positive step to accomplish this task. The collaboration and partnering with community stakeholders, volunteers, and many other agencies, has provided a strong foundation for those incarcerated individuals that attend the program. As these individuals leave the walls of confinement back into society, they have been provided with tools to aid them in becoming productive citizens within the community. I look forward to working with Attorney General Herring and his office to enhance the effort to reduce recidivism.”
Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody:
“Now that we have successfully and completely moved into the Richmond City Justice Center (RCJC) my vision for providing programming is a priority. Our mission in the Program Department is to provide opportunities for each inmate to reclaim, transform, and restore their life. Under the direction of our Internal Program Director, Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, we are working to bridge the gap from incarceration to reentry into the community by addressing needs and barriers most closely related to reoffending, in order to increase public safety, lower the recidivism rate, and transform the lives of those who have been residents of the RCJC. Already we have seen great successes and behavior changes within the facility and I continue to be very proud of the progress being made by our program department and residents. As this is a priority for the RCJC, I applaud the Attorney General’s efforts in also making this a priority of his administration. The announcement of a re-entry coordinator for Virginia is yet another step in ensuring that those in the justice system are provided an opportunity to garner the skills and develop the tools necessary while they are incarcerated so they are equipped with a much higher likelihood of success after released from jails and prisons. The Richmond Sheriff’s Office will do all we can to support the Attorney General’s efforts, as well as other Sheriffs who are also making programming and re-entry a priority.”
Bristol Sheriff Jack Weisenberger:
“I look forward to this new partnership with the Attorney General’s office to bring more services to our jail in Bristol. These programs are important and we appreciate his support.”
Henrico County Supervisor Rev. Tyrone Nelson:
“What exciting news this is to hear! I applaud the Attorney General for making such a commitment to reducing recidivisms. For years, the churches in the region and state has waited on this level of commitment to re-entry effort. There have always been efforts to care for and prepare those in the justice systems to become productive citizens, but the efforts have been disjointed. This appointment allows for a connected effort of identifying and addressing gaps within the communal work. Thank you for your commitment to this!”