Last week, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., announced he will help lead two caucuses on Capitol Hill.
Rutherford is joining U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., to lead the Congressional Deaf Caucus which is “dedicated to bolstering the relationship between members of Congress and their Deaf and hard of hearing constituents and advocating for accessibility policies.”
“For the last ten years, the Congressional Deaf Caucus has focused on bringing awareness to the challenges felt by Deaf and hard of hearing Americans, including those at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind located in Northeast Florida,” said Rutherford. “I am excited to join Rep. Takano again in addressing opportunities in Congress to promote equity for the Deaf and hard of hearing communities.”
“I’m thrilled to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Congressional Deaf Caucus by relaunching the Caucus in the 118th Congress with Representative Rutherford,” said Takano. “As a former teacher, and the representative in Congress for the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, I will continue to work to break down educational barriers for the hard-of-hearing and fight for robust resources to make schools more accessible for Deaf students and their families. As members of Congress, I believe it is our charge to advocate for a more inclusive and equitable society for all.”
Rutherford also paired up last week with U.S. Reps. Kelly Armstrong, R-ND, Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and David Trone, D-Mary., in launching the Second Chance Task Force, which will “promote policies that improve reentry outcomes and reduce employment barriers for formerly incarcerated individuals.”
The North Florida congressman offered some of the reasons why the group was launched.
“Over 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons every year in the United States, and recent studies show that formerly incarcerated people are currently unemployed at an average rate of over 27 percent. This new task force aims to address the barriers to successful reentry,” Rutherford’s office noted.
“As a lifetime member of law enforcement, I saw firsthand how difficult it can be for those leaving our jails and prisons to re-enter society. From getting an ID to finding a job, stable housing, and healthcare, these individuals face many barriers to success after incarceration. When I was sheriff, I created a robust reentry program in Northeast Florida, and I look forward to continuing that work in Congress. Helping the formerly incarcerated become productive members of society makes our communities safer and reduces the number of repeat offenders. That’s not being soft on crime, that’s being smart on crime,” said Rutherford. “I look forward to working with Representatives Trone, Armstrong, and Blunt Rochester, and all of my colleagues on the Second Chance Task Force, to support those reentering society and reduce recidivism.”
“Returning citizens continue to face hurdles that prevent them from rebuilding their lives and becoming productive members of society. After paying their debts to society, they are effectively shut out of housing, employment, financial support – you name it. This isn’t fair, and this isn’t right,” said Trone. “As a businessman, I know firsthand that there is a lot of value in hiring returning citizens and giving folks a second chance. I’m proud to co-found and co-chair the Bipartisan Second Chance Task Force so that we work together – Republicans and Democrats – to address the problems in our criminal justice system head-on, and provide returning citizens with the resources they desperately need.”
“Providing tools and treatment to help incarcerated individuals re-enter society is critical and reduces their chances of re-offending, making our communities safer,” said Armstrong. “The most critical time for someone leaving incarceration is the first 30 days after release, yet they face many obstacles. We have to be smarter about how we can help provide the stability they need. That’s why I’m honored to team up and co-lead this critical, bipartisan task force.”
“As our economy continues to grow in the wake of the pandemic, we know that we currently have more job openings than those looking for work. That reality presents us with an opportunity to break down barriers to those who have been traditionally excluded from the workforce, such as justice-involved individuals,” said Blunt Rochester. “I’m thrilled to be joining colleagues from across the aisle and political spectrum to create second chances for those who have paid their debt to society and are looking to better their lives. The bipartisan Second Chance Task Force will help champion initiatives such as my Clean Slate Act. Together, we can create opportunity for these folks along with growth in our economy and prosperity for our nation.”
A longtime law enforcement officer, Rutherford served three terms as sheriff of Duval County before running for Congress in 2016 when U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., announced his retirement. He represents parts of Duval and St. Johns Counties.
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