The 19th Annual Advocacy Day in Richmond VA was attended for the first time on January 17th by members of the OAR Advocacy Council for this recognized Day of Service on Martin Luther King’s birthday. While attending the General Assembly session and meeting with various legislators, Council members accompanied several veteran advocates from Virginia C.U.R.E., a 28-year old group headquartered in Alexandria VA. Special mention is given to Mary Anne Stone, Ph. D., NCC, Assistant to the Director of Specialized Services for the Department of Correctional Education, for her assistance and support during this event.

The purpose of the visit was to introduce the mission of the Advocacy Council to support bills relating to incarceration or former offender reentry as introduced to Senate and House Committees.

Representing the Advocacy Council in Richmond were Richard Lee (Council Chair), Amin Abdulbasir (Housing Committee Chair), J.D. Walker (Leadership Committee), Tracy Christiansen (Council Liaison), David Elliott (Vice Secretary), Erick Franklin (Employment Committee), Pam Calloway (Housing Committee) and Nykia Braxton (Employment Committee).

As advocates, they lobbied for the implementation of bills such as HB1488 in reference to female prisoners being shackled during the stages of labor as introduced by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington). Also, members met with Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) to discuss SB796 relating to rehabilitative programs providing earned-sentence credits when programs are successfully completed during incarceration.

The advocates were invited to express their concerns to several Delegates and Senators along with fellow advocates. Council members also met with Sen. Puller (36th District); Valerie Braxton-Williams, Legal Assistant. to Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (16th District), Senator Dave Marsden (37th District), Deborah Sherman, Legal Assistant to Sen. Vivian E. Watts (39th District), David Russell, Legal Assistant to Senator Mamie E. Locke (2nd District), Legal Assistant Peggy Papp for Senator Patricia Ticer (30th District) and several other legislators or fellow advocacy groups.

Each member of the Senate Committee, or their representative, invited Council members to their offices to share their unique point of view as former offenders in relation to relevant topics and legislative actions. Legislators, advocates and Council members shared genuine concern for the targeted issues. Many Richmond legislative offices gave Council members invaluable advice, encouragement and insight for their future endeavors.

The Advocacy Council is already anticipating their attendance next year.

– Written by David Elliott, Advocacy Council Member