The stacks of handwritten letters sitting on a table in Larry Terry’s office tell tales of regret. One with the aid of one, Terry thumbs through them, his facial expression converting as he recollects the details of every correspondence. Some of the letter-writers have devoted unspeakable acts, matters that Terry stated: “you couldn’t un-pay attention.” Other correspondents had done something regrettable when they were younger, now not information the results in their actions. Then there are the people who fall inside the middle; Terry can’t pretty parent out the occasions of their downfalls.
All of the people are convicted felons currently incarcerated in Virginia’s correctional machine. They have written to Terry, the executive director of the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, truely because they saw his name and “parole” someplace within the same sentence. “Many of them are actually reaching out because they need to experience like there’s hope,” stated Terry, who is still trying to parent out which letters to reply to. “What type of desire do they have got? Whether it’s their time in prison or after they get out, are matters going to better for them?
“Some of the letters are truly hard to read. You can experience the desperation.” In January, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam appointed Terry to serve on a crew whose undertaking is to discover the great practices and techniques for crook justice reform, especially how to make sure that human beings who have finished their sentences return to society as productive citizens. Terry is a part of a six-member team chaired by Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Morgan. The others are Virginia Parole Board Chair Adrianne L. Bennett; parole board member Linda L. Bryant; Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections Harold Clarke; and Fairfax County Del. Mark Sickles.
Terry, who holds an appointment in UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy, is familiar with the inner workings of the crook justice machine. During his time at the University of North Texas, he became involved in some initiatives, such as the Second Chance Community Improvement Program, one of the first legal network courts within the United States, and Miles of Freedom, a nonprofit targeted on reentry programming. Terry, a California native who came to UVA in 2018, lately sat down with UVA Today to speak approximately his modern-day pursuit.
Q. You’re approximately two-thirds of the way thru Gov. Northam’s learning collaborative. What’s the revel in been like?
A. It’s been extraordinary to be a part of this dynamic network of people who have involved approximately the well-being of the Department of Corrections as a group. However, additionally supporting the inmates have a better transition once they end up returning citizens.
Q. Before you came to UVA, you have been involved in giving individuals who have been in problems with the law 2nd probabilities. Has this continually been vital to you?
A. It hasn’t continually been important to me. It had become critical to me when I turned into in Texas and turned into able to connect with a town legal professional named Yulise Waters, who was a part of the founding group that hooked up the country’s first legal network court, which allowed those who were arrested for non-violent offenses to undergo a six- to 18-month application geared toward addressing individuals’ troubles, from mental fitness to substance abuse.
The preliminary imaginative and prescient for this system got here from a judge named Rick Magnus, who felt that minorities particularly were being disproportionally sentenced to prison or prison, and he wanted to offer an opportunity to incarceration that advanced the individual, the criminal justice device, and the network.
I would display up as soon as every week to a courtroom and were given to analyze what the contributors were going via, simply as people. You forestall looking at them as, “You dedicated this crime.” You begin to remember that many things can contribute to why this crime came about – drug dependency, humans being sexually abused, dropping out of college in eighth grade, youngster being pregnant. All of these items make contributions to this second in which they’re now standing in the front of a decision.
You must look at it and ask, “This is human trouble, so how will we cope with their issues holistically and now not just recognition on the criminal factor?”
Q. And you felt a personal connection as well?
A. Yes. Many of the faces coming through the court were minorities, and, for me, as an African American and Hispanic man, it turned into something that touched me. About six months into my time with [the Second Chance Community Improvement Program], I skilled one of the more difficult days in court, wherein a player became taken to jail I and I had a difficult time watching all of it show up in front of me.
On my way domestic, I was known as this system’s case supervisor, and I said, “There’s extra that I can be doing than simply gathering statistics for the court,” which become my initial function on the SCCIP team.
I did some mentoring, but I also performed an element in their education, making plans to have individuals in change or community college applications and meeting with their GED teachers to assess their progress. But in the long run, I attempted to do my element to attach our individuals to possibilities that could enhance their lives.
It becomes one of the pleasant things I’ve accomplished in my expert profession because it changed into so impactful to look at the types of things our members were able to obtain if we helped them get admission to to the resources they had to now not just survive daily but to succeed and make lengthy-term investments in themselves.
Q. How does the work you did in Texas affect what you’re doing now with the governor’s crew?
A. The work I did there has been a prison diversion application that turned into an alternative to incarceration and might expunge their report if they graduated. The work I am part of now’s involved with institutional reform inside the criminal justice system and supporting returning residents to be successful upon their release.
Thoughtful reentry plans are essential in supplying stability and help continue the increase or reformation a person might also have skilled while incarcerated. But a number of the same problems we see while they are launched have also been elements earlier than they went to prison – from a lack of job opportunities to get right of entry to secure, less expensive housing.
These hardships keep and are often systemic. While in lots of approaches, the problem of helping returning residents may be arguable. We need them to contribute to their communities in effective ways. How public servants and other stakeholders constructively cope with this difficulty calls for complex discussions about broader public safety; however, can also ignore the importance of getting admission to sources and innovative answers which are collaboration-pushed; the weight returning residents face can’t be located on any single crook justice or community organization.