Here’s my view. Our criminal justice isn’t broken—it’s working with the frightening precision of a system designed to uphold racial and economic injustice. America cages more people in prison per capita and in sheer gross numbers than does any country in the world. So much for the land of the free huh?
Anyone who knows me knows I’m passionate & committed to reforming this system. To reform, we must end the private prison industry and shift to a system built on rehabilitation—not revenge.
How do we do that?
I met Juanita Shanks last week to learn about her journey. After her son was convicted of a felony in the early 2000s, it threw her and her family into a tailspin of grief, embarrassment, and confusion. Down but not out, Juanita launched Failsafe-Era to equip returning citizens with the tools they need to revive their life and overcome the obstacles that led them down a path to prison in the first place. She works to remove the stigma that returning citizens face, and to truly give our neighbors a new lease on life.
Today her son has emerged as a leader in his own right—a personal trainer and author of 6 books. Juanita’s leadership continues to inspire thousands of families a year.
As Failsafe-Era celebrates its 10 year anniversary this month, I met with Juanita to understand how we can better empower our young people early on? We discussed ways to change policy to uplift our society with compassion, rather than beat them down with incarceration.
The numbers are abysmal. Black men and boys are charged and incarcerated at a rate of up to 9 times the rate of white men and boys for the exact same crimes. At only 13% of the population, African Americans represent 40% of the prison population. 1 in 3 black men will get wrapped up in the criminal justice system. Once out, and even after they’ve done their time, they’re denied financial aid, subsidized housing, or food benefits. Again, so much for the land of the free, right? And the torture continues.
Even after “paying their debt to society,” they’re still stripped of their right to vote, creating both an economic and political subclass in society. The cruelty is the point. This results in high rates of recidivism and the vicious cycle continues generationally.
This must end. I’m running for VA Senate to return compassion and true safety for all our citizens, and leaders like Juanita give me hope that we will succeed in elevations compassion over condemnation.
Leaders like Juanita give me hope that we are working to rise above these injustices and bring about the reform we need. But we must all work together to ensure our story is one of hope and success.
You can help. Every dollar counts. Let’s help build a society based on compassion.