Notes from the Road: Richmond, VA, November 2009

While on a mini-book tour to Virginia in early November, I spent a day attending a statewide Restorative Justice conference . . . which was held in the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia . . .which was just a short drive away from where John Allen Muhammad was executed that same night. The juxtaposition of those three facts made for an intensely emotional and powerful day on the road.
Despite the dark cloud of a pending execution and the reminders of Holocaust violence on every wall of the museum conference room where we met, I was filled with hope after spending the day surrounded by several hundred people from all over Virginia with such a strong commitment to restorative justice and non-violence.

We shared ideas, information and encouragement for promoting RJ in our schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, prisons and elsewhere. There’s a LOT of terrific RJ work going on in Virginia!

One of their most pressing issues is to restore voting rights to people who were convicted of felonies after they have completed their sentence. Virginia is one of only a few states in the US that permanently prohibits voting rights after felony convictions. The only way a Virginia citizen can get their rights restored is by applying to the state governor, and then ONLY after a waiting period of three to five YEARS AFTER they have completed ALL aspects of their sentence, including their prison term, parole period and all restitution. (for more on state by state voting rights policies for people convicted of felonies, see: http://felonvoting.procon.org/viewresource.asp?resourceID=286 )

I came away with some RJ ideas to take back to Pennsylvania. Though PA has been relatively forward-thinking in some RJ arenas, such as writing RJ into the juvenile justice code via Act 33 in the late 90’s, and the Office of the Victim Advocate’s mediation program for cases of violent crime that has existed for about a decade, PA doesn’t have a state-wide RJ organization or an annual RJ conference . . . some food for thought.

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: restorative justice grace goes to prison book tour criminal justice death penalty

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