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These last few weeks have been difficult.
I’ve been doing justice work for almost 10 years, working with people who spend time in prison and are forced to start life over again after release. The work we do at Voices for a Second Chance (VSC) is hard, but it is rewarding. We get to help justice-involved people renew and restore themselves to walk into a brighter future, and that is something for which I am grateful.
What has made these weeks difficult is the thought of the countless number of individuals who we could not help, because they did not survive their encounter with law enforcement. To be clear, the stories of police brutality and racial injustice are not new. But the video footage of the brutal murder of George Floyd, and the reports of similar injustices in the cases of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, have all shone a bright light on an uncomfortable truth: that Black people have been dehumanized, targeted and victimized by an unjust criminal justice system. And it doesn’t stop at police encounters. Those who survive arrest go on to enter a judicial system where outcomes differ largely based on race and class, and they re-enter a society that perpetuates racial inequality by continuing to punish justice-involved individuals after their sentences.
VSC stands with the protesters in Minneapolis, here in Washington D.C., and now around the world, declaring that “Black Lives Matter.” We know that phrase is more than a slogan; it is a demand that Black lives be treated with respect in our society. At VSC, this demand is necessarily part of our mandate. For the past 50 years, we have served a population that is predominantly Black -- the result of a justice system where Black people are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged and convicted of more serious offenses, and more likely to receive longer sentences. Through our services, we strive to reduce the harmful effects of this systemic racism and to help our clients to live productive lives with dignity and respect.
Despite the difficulty of the last few weeks, I am deeply inspired by the communities who have mobilized to fight injustice and demand reform of a system that has proved so destructive to our country. For VSC’s part, we will continue to raise the voices of the unheard and serve those in need a second chance -- recognizing that many first chances were spoiled by institutional racism. Our commitment to that mission is stronger than ever, and we hope you will support us along the way.
If you want to help us as we continue our work, you can donate here. Times like this are difficult, but the support of friends like you makes it easier.