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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Here Is A Summary Of The CJP Press Release On Mark Earley's Visit To EMU Tuesday

Criminal Justtice Reform Advocate Mark L. Earley
Mark Earley, former State Senator and Attorney General of Virginia.... currently serves as co-chair of the Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Commission on Parole Review and is immediate past president of the nationwide ministry, Prison Fellowship USA, founded by Charles Colson. He practices law with Earley Legal Group in Leesburg.

Earley will speak Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. in Martin Chapel at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) on “Why America Incarcerates So Many People and What We Can Do About It.”

Broad coalition endorsing visit

His visit is sponsored by a diverse coalition of more than 20 area organizations, including EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP).

Earley’s visit comes months after the Harrisonburg Police Department, aided by CJP-trained practitioners from EMU, James Madison University and the local Fairfield Center, announced an ambitious restorative justice program aimed at reducing local incarceration rates and reforming the local criminal justice system. 

"In light of all of the recent conversation going on in our community over the issue of jail expansion, some of us saw Mark Earley as an ideal person to speak to the urgent need for criminal justice reform, given his conservative credentials and his years of experience in the field,” said Harvey Yoder, Mennonite pastor, counselor and criminal justice advocate. “The more than 20 local agencies and organizations officially endorsing the event, ranging from the Harrisonburg Police Department to James Madison University's Department of Justice Studies, reflects some of the broad interest in this topic."

Yoder is among the leaders of a local chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith peace organization, as well as of a local working group focused on local justice issues known as Building Better Community.

Organizations endorsing Earley’s visit include the following:

Center for Justice and Peacebuilding
Harrisonburg/Rockingham/Page Reentry Council
Harrisonburg/Rockingham Building Better Community Working Group 
The Fairfield Center
Harrisonburg/Rockingham Interfaith Association
Community Mennonite Church
The Mahatma Ghandi Center for Global Nonviolence
The Harriet Tubman Center
JMU Department of Justice Studies
Gemeinschaft Home
Virginia Organizing
Martin Luther King_Jr._Way Coalition
Harrisonburg Democratic Committee
NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center
Northeast Neighborhood Association
Immanuel Mennonite Church
On The Road Collaborative
Harrisonburg Police Department
Harrisonburg City School Board
Valley Family Forum

Harrisonburg NAACP
Our Community Place
Harrisonburg Mennonite Church
Harrisonburg Fellowship of Reconciliation
Community Mennonite Church
Institute For Reform and Solutions

Relationships with incarcerated changed his mind 

Earley, an attorney, practiced law for 15 years in Norfolk, Virginia, as a criminal defense attorney and then served in the Virginia State Senate from 1988-1998. During that time, Virginia executed 36 people. In 1998, he was elected Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, resigning in
2001 to run an unsuccessful campaign for governor. For all of these years, Earley says he supported the death penalty, but had increasing doubts about its morality. 

He also delved deeply into the lives and culture of the incarcerated as part of a task force on gangs and youth violence, and visited every juvenile detention center in Virginia – a visceral experience that he recounts in an interview in The American Conservative. 

After losing the governor’s election to Mark Warner, Earley served the next eight years until 2011 as president of Prison Fellowship USA. According to its website, Prison Fellowship helps to make prisons “more rehabilitative places, advocates for a restorative criminal justice system; and supports church and service providers to support former prisoners, their families and communities.” 
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