New Organization will Help Lead Effort to Reach Thousands of Convicted Voters
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A newly formed statewide organization comprised of formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones will participate in an effort to contact tens of thousands of disenfranchised West Virginians to help them understand their rights as voters in the 2020 General Election, the organization’s founders announced today.
The West Virginia Family of Convicted People (WVFCP) was created to identify, support and lift the voices of those who have been directly affected by our brutal system of mass incarceration so that they can lead the movement to dismantle it, WVFCP President Greg Whittington said.
“Any successful criminal legal system should focus on rehabilitation of people convicted of crimes,” said Whittington, who also serves as the Criminal Law Reform Campaign Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU- WV). “But all too often, our system is focused on revenge, not on helping people to improve themselves and lead happier, more productive lives.”
This system will not change until those who have been directly harmed by it can get more involved in the policy-making process. That all begins with exercising their rights as voters, Whittington said.
Since his release, Whittington has worked to help formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet as they re-enter society. He said many people who have served time in prison or jail incorrectly believe they are no longer allowed to vote.
“In reality, relatively few people are barred from voting after they have served their sentence,” he said. “In fact, most people in jail for a misdemeanor are allowed by law to vote while incarcerated.”
With its partners at ACLU-WV and Vote Together WV, WVFCP will contact as many formerly incarcerated people as possible before the fall election. Volunteers and staff will begin making calls and sending text messages this week.
Election work is just the beginning for WVFCP, board member James Boyd said. The organization will also work to empower formerly incarcerated people in all aspects of civic life.
“After release from prison, then what? You get over the hump of incarceration and there is nothing over there,” he said. “WVFCP gives opportunity for true and sustainable personal re-entry for those fortunate enough to be released from prison.”
WVFCP and ACLU-WV will provide training to any interested phone banking volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact ACLU-WV Outreach Director Mollie Kennedy at email@example.com.
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