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New Virginia Laws Offer 'Second Chance' For Ex-Offenders

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More than 13,000 felons were released from Virginia prisons in 2010, yet two-thirds are likely to be re-arrested within three years. Another 50,000 offenders were discharged in 2010 from local jails.

To strengthen the state's prisoner re-entry program and lower recidivism rates, Gov. Bob McDonnell had already created a Re-entry Council and appointed the first-ever statewide coordinator. At a special ceremony, he signed seven bills with practical additions.

"America is a nation of second chances," McDonnell says.

But he said 90 percent of inmates will be released and their adjustment is a public safety concern. Sen. Ryan McDougle's bill creates a trust account with funds from prison work to use upon release. He said the goal is to remove barriers to productive lives.

"After people spent time incarcerated, they didn't have the financial ability to just do basic things: make sure they could get their driver's license back or get insurance for their vehicle," McDougle says.

The other new laws improve reentry planning, require HIV testing, and create new job opportunities.

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