Arkansans Organizing 4 Justice

Tips & Guidelines for a Letter Writing Campaign

Use this letter format to contact your rep/senator about sponsoring the proposed draft legislation.

June 19, 2014

 

Ms. Female Rep ____

P. O. Box xxxx

City, AR xxxxxxxxxxx

 

Dear Ms. Female REP  _________:

My name is ______________ and I represent Arkansans Organizing for Justice (AOJ). AOJ is networking with other individuals and advocacy groups to support efforts for criminal justice reform.  I want to say thank you for the professional kindness and courtesy you have always shown to the citizens of the state.  We desperately need more leaders like you as public officials who are concerned about the people of Arkansas and the state’s future.

The purpose of this letter is to express concerns and to ask for your support and sponsorship for a bill during the 2015 regular session.  I’m sure you’ve heard enough recently from both sides of the “no new prison” issue.  However, I believe solutions exist to help close prisons rather than build them and help prison overcrowding. 

First are front end solutions geared toward slowing prison growth, like Act 570 of 2011, and I know many have supported the bill.  Although it has drawn controversy, all evidence indicates it slowed prison growth and has been credited for dropping the prison population from 16,400 to less than 15,000 in under two years.  I want you to consider supporting more of this type of reform.  Wider use of probation in non-violent cases is a good example of front end solutions, but it’s not enough by itself to sustain the desired long term effects. 

Second are back end solutions geared toward parole and release.  Currently, a significant number of inmates are serving excessively long terms under the 70% and 100% laws.  I think we all realize the human and financial impact of incarcerating people this long.  Others are serving life terms that must be commuted by the Governor prior to parole or release. 

Over the past two years, AOJ has worked diligently on drafting a bill that would expand the parole board’s authority to review long term prisoners for possible release.  The idea is to create a review process without involving the Governor’s executive powers and allow inmates a second chance.  Statistically, prisoners with at least 20 consecutive years can be released on parole with low risk of recidivism.  According to the Department of Justice, only one percent of people age 50 or older return to prison. 

I have attached an excerpt of this draft.  I respectfully request that you review it at your earliest convenience.  I ask your advice as to the content and any suggestions for revision.  If you are unable to sponsor such a bill at this time, I appreciate any assistance in finding a sponsor in the 2015 session.  Thank you for your time and consideration.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

_________________