Long Walk to Freedom Shines Light on a System 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

On a rainy morning, about 200 people joined the Long Walk to Freedom, a project meant to call attention to the barriers ex-offenders face once released from prison.

The four-mile loop began Saturday at the City Jail, wound its way past the State Capitol, state and federal courthouses, City Hall, the Mosby Court housing project and ended at the Richmond Juvenile Center. Many of the walkers came out of prison with felony records to find that their criminal histories made it difficult to find work, housing or credit.

"You paid your time, but you can't vote," Sheriff C.T. Woody says before the march began. "They promised you jobs, but won't let you work. In some ways, the system was set up to send you back here."

A rally preceding the march called for more mental health and substance-abuse services, diversion programs and alternative sentencing. William Wiggins, 51, who was incarcerated for 10 years and released in 2012, says he joined the walk to encourage others in his situation. "I want them to know if they persevere, they can make it."

This was the seventh annual walk. Its lead sponsor was the faith-based nonprofit Boaz & Ruth.

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