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At what price? / November 13, 2014

Dear Viewpoint:

As I read the different articles and comments made on a weekly basis in the News & Record’s Viewpoint, it amazes me that not a single person has yet to mention this very relevant and important subject I am about to elaborate on.

Not too long ago, an article was printed in a newsletter published by Virginia Cure. A non-profit organization aimed at fixing and or bringing about fairness and equality to our justice and prison system in the state of Virginia, it printed a factual article that stated that by 2015 the Commonwealth of Virginia will have spent/wasted around 1 billion dollars on what is effectionately known as the truth in sentencing law, prison reform or just plain housing prisoners. That’s right, 1 billion dollars. That’s outrageous and only in the state of Virginia. This so-called truth in sentencing law which requires prisoners to serve at least 85% of their imposed sentence is being paid for by the hardworking taxpayers, not your government. This law is also outdated, irresponsible and not effective.

Truth in sentencing is just that, meaning the truth is that if you receive a 30 year prison sentence you’re gonna do almost all of it, no parole, nothing. This realization should eat at the soul of every human being. Every race and the mothers and fathers who are impacted by this. Sure, the money that’s being wasted is a hard fact, but it’s also a moral issue. Many of the young men and women who are subjected to this harsh reality are non-violent and comes from a loving and productive family. One such person comes to mind on this issue and he’s a very close person friend of mine, more like my foundation and family. His name is Michael Green. Michael is smart, family oriented, talented and has a lot to offer in society, but a wrong choice that was not in the least bit violent changed things for him and his family. A loving, caring and productive family.

Programs and therapy should have been afforded to Michael, not an 85% broken 1995 law. This is costly in more ways that one. The money that only the working citizens of Virginia is kicking out to foot the bill for this 85% law could really be used in areas such as fixing roads and highways, investing in new jobs, affordable healthcare, or in the future of our children by way of education. What’s not a secret is that Congress nor the federal government no longer funds Virginia for this 85% law, why is that? Many reasons, but to name a couple, it’s not working and it cost too much, so why should the taxpayers?

So the next time you’re at a luncheon with your state representative or congressman, ask them about the money that’s being used to keep and maintain a law and to house prisoners that’s not effective. It’s time to stop using scare tactics and greed as an excuse and at the expense of locking away young non-violent people for 30 plus years and at the taxpayers expense.

Lawrence Everett (Dinky)

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