October 16, 2015

In Norfolk, Kaine Discusses Criminal Justice Reform With Law Enforcement & Reentry Program Directors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine hosted a roundtable discussion at Up Center Books in Norfolk with local leaders and organizations focused on supporting ex-offenders as they return to their communities. Kaine is a supporter of legislation that provides communities with funding for reentry support – including substance abuse treatment and job training – to reduce recidivism. Up Center Books hosts two reentry programs for ex-offenders – the Responsible Fatherhood program and the Face Forward Juvenile program – which provide on-the-job training, communication and presentation skills, college and career exploration workshops and work ethic development courses.

“You have to make sure that the criminal justice reform legislation being proposed in Congress really speaks to the specific issues that I heard about today in Norfolk,” Kaine said. “We are seeing a real bipartisan movement in Congress to address a decades-long policy of over-incarceration. There is a moment here to make headway on criminal justice reform, but we have to make sure that when you have the moment you do the right things to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why this discussion was so important for me today.”

Participants at today’s roundtable included: Judge Junius P. Fulton, III; Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales; Major Chip Chappell – Chief of Corrections, Chesapeake Sheriff’s office; Vernon Williams, Drug Court Coordinator/Clinical Therapist; Derek Curran, Division Director, Community Services Board Hampton Newport News; Dean Barker, Coordinator / Manager Forensic Services Community Services Board Hampton Newport News; Sandra Brandt, STEP-UP, Incorporated and Virginia Parole Review Commission; Tanyika Carter, The Up Center; Darfeis Williams, Up Center Books; Nancy Stephens, Opportunity Inc., One-Stop System Director; Wanda L. Boulden, Career Development Specialist, Peninsula Council on Workforce Development; and Juanita Rivera-Gordon. Ms. Rivera-Gordon’s voting rights were restored by Kaine when he was Governor of Virginia.

“Scaling back non-violent drug sentences is fiscally smart and can make a real difference in people’s lives and enable them to be more productive in the community,” Kaine said.   

Kaine is also a co-sponsor of legislation to reduce mandatory minimums for non-violent offenses, create a federal prohibition against racial profiling and help communities address youth and gang violence. He supports the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a bipartisan compromise bill to reduce over-criminalization and over-incarceration without compromising the safety of communities. It would reduce the mandatory life sentence “three strikes” provision to 25 years and the 20-year minimum to 15 years, give judges more discretion when issuing sentences and improve recidivism and rehabilitation programs.

In May, Kaine joined a group of Senate colleagues in urging President Obama to expand job opportunities and reduce recidivism by taking executive action and requiring federal contractors and federal agencies to “ban the box” on job applications. “Ban the Box” refers to the section on job application forms that inquires as to whether the applicant has ever had a criminal history. For the more than 70 million Americans who have served their time and are trying to rebuild their lives, this barrier to employment so early in the hiring process can serve as categorical disqualification and limits their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Studies have shown that an inability to find employment is one of the leading causes of reoffending. Kaine is also a co-sponsor of the Fair Chance Act, which would prohibit federal employers and federal contractors from asking about criminal history information until the final stages of the employment process.