NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke Monday at the 3rd Annual Community Collaborations Reentry Summit in Norfolk, an event centered on helping to get former offenders back on their feet.
This effort is something McAuliffe has been fighting for since he took office.
The governor has been slowly restoring voting rights for felons after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled he could not do it all with one executive order. A spokesman for Gov. McAuliffe says rights for 85,000 felons have been restored have been restored since he took office. Of those, 67,217 fell under the new process.
The governor denied the move was a veiled effort to get more votes for his party.
“We’re doing what the vast majority of states have already done,” he said. “They’ve done their time.”
Beyond voting rights, the summit was an opportunity for professionals involved in the criminal justice and corrections process to share best practices to help prisoners reenter society.
Four years after finishing his 18-year sentence, William Lafferty talked about what worked for him. He pointed to public assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid and grants that helped him earn a certificate from Tidewater Community College.
“People do want to change and we need to help people change in order for our communities to grow and become stronger, safer,” Lafferty said.
Like the governor, Lafferty stressed that helping convicts become fully functioning citizens benefits everyone.
“Even in the nicest neighborhoods, crime is crime, and it affects every area and every aspect of society,” he said.
Without the assistance he received, Lafferty said he could have ended up like other former inmates, overwhelmed by things like grocery shopping and paying taxes.
“They go back to what’s comfortable to them, and what’s comfortable to them is crime.”