Testimony of James L. Cavenaugh on HB 480 Session of 2013 Amending the Right-to-know Law July 16, 2013
I am asking that the House State Government committee, as it considers HB 480, consider who is a felon and how the Commonwealth wants to treat these people. As an active member of the Capital Region Exoffenders Support Coalition (CRESC, details at http://www.reentrynow.org/index.html ) I have gotten to know many people who have felony convictions and yet have changed a great deal. They have become businesspeople, taxpayers, and leaders. In short, they are people who strengthen and improve our society. For example:
John W. Jackson has been home seven years. In that time he has found a good job, is active in his church and has founded a faith-based non-profit which raises money for scholarships so children in the Harrisburg schools may go on to higher
Vladimir Beaufils has been President of our Capital Region Exoffenders Support Coalition for several years. He is the founder and Executive Director of Sound Community Solutions (details at http://www.soundcommunitysolutions.org/ ) and serves as a
consultant to small businesses and nonprofits.
Marsha Banks is founder and Executive Director of Amiracle4sure (details at
http://www.amiracle4sure.org/) which helps women and men coming out of prison by mentoring them.
Laws like this proposal, to limit the rights of felons, are based on a view that says once you’ve been to prison you will never change for the better and you will
never reenter society. They arise from a ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ mentality. The felons I know are ready to admit that they made mistakes in the past, and they have paid the penalty of incarceration, job loss, weakened family ties. They have worked hard, found strength through faith, and become people I am proud to know and consider a friend. They have changed their lives and are working to help others make those same changes.
But who among us has not made mistakes when we were young, mistakes that in some cases could have gotten us on the wrong side of the law.
Have we changed since those days? I think so. So each of us can support
the idea that change is possible.
Sadly, our prisons are overflowing because of the ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ approach to dealing with people who break the law. But since our commonwealth’s Secretary of Corrections has said repeatedly ‘we cannot build our way out of this,’ he clearly does not share that mentality. He is putting PA tax
money to work to help reentering exoffenders, and our coalition is proud to be
part of the effort to help these reentering citizens do so successfully. As
Sec. Wetzel has stated on many occasions, 95% of those incarcerated in PA will
be released. It is in our best interest that they reenter
When this happens, the result is less crime and more taxpayers – a result I think this committee can support.
There are many laws in existence that penalize felons regardless of the changes they may have made, and these make it difficult for people coming out of prison to find housing, find jobs, and a new life.
I ask that this committee not add to the burden these reentering citizens face by approving HB 480