Governor McDonnell’s biennial budget to continue commitment to improving Virginia’s prison re-entry and restoration of rights processes

Alexandria News

Governor Bob McDonnell will recommend substantial new state investments in the areas of prisoner re-entry and restoration of rights when he puts forward his two-year spending plan for the Commonwealth next Monday. The governor has put a focus on the two policy areas over the last four years, establishing Virginia’s first-ever prisoner re-entry statewide plan and appointing the first-ever prisoner re-entry coordinator. Today, the Commonwealth has the nation’s second-lowest recidivism rate at 23.4 percent. The governor has restored the rights of 7,500 individuals, more than any governor in Virginia history and this summer he instituted the state’s first automatic restoration of rights policy for non-violent offenders.

“America is a nation of second chances,” said Governor McDonnell. “I’m a former prosecutor and attorney general. I believe strongly that we are a nation of laws and failure to abide by those laws has consequences. But when someone has met those consequences, we must be there to help them successfully rejoin society. That’s good for the individual, and it’s good for the community. When we help men and women put together a positive plan for life after prison we increase their chances for success going forward, and we lessen the burden on our state from individuals returning to prison. The same thing happens when we make it easier for our fellow Virginians to regain their civil rights. When someone has a stake in their government and community, they are far more likely to contribute, to give back and to help our Commonwealth grow. These new investments will continue the great progress we are making in these critically important public policy efforts.”

The governor’s budget will provide the following funding for prisoner re-entry and restoration of rights efforts:

Re-entry Initiatives:

·         Provides funding for emergency housing for offenders upon release.  This will enable the Department of Corrections to provide temporary lodging for hard to place offenders to minimize public safety risks and to assist with re-entry. Adds $533,517, the first year and second year of the biennial budget.

·         Increases funding for inmate education program. The funds are for the cost of administering GED testing and for additional computers in classrooms, and funding for part-time instructors to enable the Department of Corrections to enhance its re-entry efforts.  Adds $331,660 for the first year and $482,773 the second year in general fund support.

·         Provides funding for the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment grant match.  The Department of Corrections was awarded a federal grant to provide substance abuse treatment services to improve its re-entry services. The grant program serves over 300 inmates and is established in 11 correctional facilities.  For FY14 the state match is $342,147; and the state match for the first year is $537,660 and $586,538 for the second year of the new biennial budget.

Restoration of Rights Initiative:

·         Appropriates $197,309 in the first year and $243,052 for the second year of the new biennial budget in general fund support for the operations and management of the automatic restoration of civil rights process. This funding is for four new additional staff positions for the biennium.The new funding and positions will provide additional resources that will allow the Commonwealth to respond in a timelier manner to an increased number of applications for the automatic restoration of rights.