By Charles Cheek, CCDA Hampton Roads Local Network Connector
The Hampton Roads Christian Community Development Network‘s focus on addressing Justice System issues is multi-layered and is developed around partnerships and assisting in developing and supporting existing resources where needed.
Our motto: Agitate, Organize and Educate forms the basis for our movement in addressing issues of the incarcerated, returning citizens, and prevention. Our focus on ReEntry is due to our partnerships with the lead person of our CCD network ReEntry and Incarceration, Angela Antoine, who has a non-profit that focuses on returning citizens and also serves on several local ReEntry Councils.
Also, I (Charles Cheek) serve on the Hampton Roads ReEntry Employment Committee. We have also partnered with various city agencies to conduct job training programs. Also, to address issues of homeless and housing that presents for returning citizens we have acquired and continue to acquire more housing units that provide wrap-around services such as job training, mental health assessment, and care and, skill builders to help the clients navigate their daily life choices.
We have partnered with RISE FOR YOUTH which advocates and lobbies for a juvenile justice system where young people are held accountable for their actions while still given the opportunity to turn their lives around and make valuable contributions to our state; changes that will rehabilitate youth, secure communities, and strengthen the family structure. I have spoken on behalf of alternative and community sentencing and incarceration sites that are in the communities and not located away from the families and support systems.
Additionally, we partner with a group known as Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. They have a structure that is set up to engage people of faith and goodwill to advocate for economic, racial, social, and environmental justice in Virginia’s policies and practices through education, prayer, and action. They have a strong lobbying system in place utilizing the faith community to advocate for change. Through our collective efforts with them in 2020, there was successful legislation passed to address Jury Sentencing Reform, Racial Profiling and PreText Searches by Police, Release of Prisoners earned credits from 4.5 days to 15 days per 30 days.
Expungement Reform is still on the table from 2020. So far in 2021, Virginia has become the first southern state to eliminate the Death Penalty.
The Office of Youth Violence and Young Adult Opportunity offer a comprehensive violence prevention plan in the City of Hampton that has been developed to work across disciplines in a multidisciplinary effort that works in partnership with the community to reduce violence in the City of Hampton. The six outcome areas are action-oriented and place a significant emphasis on engaging those who are most at risk and those who are actively participating in violent activities. There are efforts that are currently being implemented that will be altered to ensure that prevention, intervention, and re-entry support is provided. The need for a more in-depth system that addresses intervention and re-entry is necessary, as there are young people who are actively engaged in negative behaviors who will not participate or benefit from some of the existing programs. Also, based on our participation in several workgroups, the need for a more in-depth system is clear. While these committees were developed to identify proactive responses that address concerns in the juvenile justice system and the systems of care that support young people with diverse experiences, there is a need for a more robust effort that shows where intervention is most effective. We received immediate support from the faith-based community as it relates to this effort. The faith community has agreed to provide space for meetings, support community engagement, work with our employment component, and serve in any capacity that supports those who will benefit from this effort.
We are continuing to address issues of justice, incarceration, and ReEntry through innovation and partnerships.