Monday, September 7, 2015

A Good Meeting With Congressman Goodlatte

Congressman Bob Goodlatte
"God gives the homeless a family.
    He sets prisoners free, and they go out singing."
- paraphrase of Psalm 68:6a 

After trying for several weeks to arrange for a public forum here in Harrisonburg with Congressman Bob Goodlatte, he agreed to meet with six of us last Thursday to discuss his plans for initiating criminal justice reforms this fall. His Washington-based Public Affairs Liaison, Bryan Alphin, was also present, along with Matt Homer at the local office here on Mason Street, and Debbie Garret, the aide who works at his Staunton office.

Goodlatte, who is the chair of the Judiciary Committee, informed us there will be no one congressional bill introduced in the House on criminal justice reform but numerous ones, most likely dealing with the following issues:

1. Preventing innocent people from being incarcerated.
2. Providing more accountability for the actions of police officers.
3. Taking into account criminal intent on the part of citizens found to be in violation of the law.
4. Mandatory minimum sentencing reform, though not likely eliminating it altogether.
5. Making prisons more humane, less crowded and more rehabilitative.
6. Reforming policies having to do with the seizure of civil assets in drug and other criminal cases.

In response to our concerns, he expressed interested in getting more information on restorative justice and parole reform.

We showed him the folder of over 1000 petitions we had gathered urging local alternatives to incarceration and assured him of constituent support in making bold moves in the area of criminal justice reforms.

Terry Beitzel, professor of justice studies at JMU
Wynona Hogan, youth activist (got over 250 signatures in our local petition drive)
Rev. Stan Maclin, Harriet Tubman Center
Suzanne Prail, Fairfield Center's restorative justice program
Harvey Yoder, Family Life Resource Center
Howard Zehr, retired professor, pioneer of the restorative justice movement

Here's a link to contact Congressman Goodlatte

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