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In Richmond, Kaine Joins Ex-Offenders For Roundtable Discussion On Criminal Justice Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today in Richmond, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined a group of ex-offenders for a roundtable discussion about the challenges of returning to their communities following incarceration. The discussion was co-hosted by Adult Alternative Program, a program based in Richmond that helps former offenders obtain the training and credentials to prepare them for employment after incarceration.

“My takeaways from today’s discussion were, first, we need to determine what educational programs can keep kids on the right track and off the wrong track. Second, we should provide more opportunities for those within the federal, state and local prison systems to learn and improve themselves. Third, let’s make sure that there is advice for people – including where to go for help and where to find helpful rehabilitation programs – right before they leave the prison system. Fourth, once people are out of prison, what can we do as a society to make it easier for them to vote or get a job? And lastly, let’s make sure we are supporting organizations that have proven programs that keep people from falling back onto the wrong path,” Kaine said.

Kaine has been a supporter of criminal justice reform legislation, including the recently announced 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.

“People want something to belong to, and if they get out of prison and feel that there isn’t any connection with people, then they may fall back onto the wrong path and that’s why recidivism is so high,” Kaine said. “We need to keep people on the right track.”

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.