Monday, April 25, 2022, 5:00pm to 6:00pm
This event will center on the current state of parole and incarceration in Virginia by uplifting the perspectives of people who have been imprisoned. We will discuss the use and shortfalls of various methods of release from incarceration, such as traditional release, parole, and pardons. We will also highlight restorative justice policy alternatives to the current system. These proposed policies are meant to grant agency to all parties in the system and provide communities and individuals with dignified pathways to preventing future harm and strengthening communities.
In 2004, Shawn Weneta was sentenced to serve 30 years in the Virginia Department of Corrections for embezzling $60,000 from his employer. He was 28 years old and with Virginia having abolished parole and enacted “Truth-in-Sentencing” policies in 1995, Shawn was certain to serve 85% of his sentence, releasing him in 2030 when he would be 54 years old. While in prison, Shawn took full advantage of his time. His work included tutoring other incarcerated men, starting programs that trained rescue and therapy dogs, a recycling program, and a victim-oriented rehabilitation program for people behind bars based on restorative justice practices. Some of these programs have been expanded across Virginia and around the country, including Massachusetts. Shawn also started a CPR and opioid overdose reversal training program, creating a groundbreaking partnership between corrections and the American Red Cross. He was among the first group of incarcerated men in the US to be certified as an American Red Cross CPR Instructor and used those skills to certify the other 1000+ men incarcerated at his facility. In April 2020, after over 16 years in prison, Shawn was pardoned by Governor Ralph Northam in recognition of his contributions to the communities of the Commonwealth, and the Department of Corrections, and in acknowledgment of his efforts toward rehabilitation and redemption. Upon his release Shawn started a small business providing Red Cross training to businesses and individuals in Virginia, employing two other returning citizens. He began volunteering as a legislative advocate to advance criminal justice reforms in the Virginia General Assembly, passing the first expansion of earned sentence credits since the establishment of “Truth-in-Sentencing” laws. Shawn volunteered as the Legislative Liaison for The Humanization Project, advancing several other justice reform policies, and, in 2022, he was recognized for his work by the Virginia General Assembly in a commending resolution passed unanimously by the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate. Shawn currently works as a Policy Strategist for the ACLU of Virginia, leading their decarceral legislative agenda in policy spaces like second look legislation, jail and prison profiteering, correctional oversight, restoration of voting rights, and parole reform.
Sincere B. Allah
Sincere Allah was born in Boston, MA, and spent his childhood between Roxbury Mass and Lynchburg, VA. He spent 24 years in the Virginia Department of Corrections. He was pardoned by Governor Ralph Northam and released on January 14, 2022. Prior to his release, Sincere worked as a mentor and therapeutic aide to men with substance abuse and mental health issues. Since his release, Sincere has worked diligently to advocate for those that remain incarcerated. He has spoken on the Virginia Senate floor lobbying for Second Look Legislation this past General Assembly Session and lobbied for legislative reform in Federal Prisons. He has participated in Day of Empathy programs for the University of Richmond Law School and participated in several webinars regarding Second Chances. He has also spent his time volunteering and mentoring others and continues to find ways to be of service to the Richmond Community.