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HB 5148 For All

My name is David Ditter. I am currently serving a 44 year sentence under the new law (85%) * in the Virginia Department of Corrections. I’ve been incarcerated since the age of 20 (2002). I received 33 years of my sentence in Richmond City for attempted robbery, aggravated malicious assault, and for use of a firearm. I plead not guilty to those charges but I was definitely guilty.

I can only hope for the day that I get the chance to be able to take responsibility and ask the victim for forgiveness for these crimes I committed. At the age of 19, I became addicted to pain pills that led to heroin and crack cocaine. I committed numerous crimes to fuel-feed my addiction. Crimes which I already plead guilty to. I was young, immature, and without any worry of the consequences not only to me but others as well for the choices I was making.

Now at the age of 40 I can honestly say I am no longer that confused and scared 19 year old boy I once was. I have grown in many ways throughout my incarceration all to prepare me to be a productive citizen and a better man throughout the rest of my life.

I do know that I deserved incarceration for the crimes I committed. I might not agree with the amount of time I received but I accept it and blame no one.

I’m writing in regard to HB 5148 that was recently passed. The bill only applies to those with non-violent convictions. Like myself, there are numerous people with violent convictions that do have a release date and will be returning back to society without the help of this bill. The passing of HB 5148 is a good step in the process of criminal justice reform. To bypass people with violent convictions who are returning to society amongst our family and friends is giving up a great opportunity to rehabilitate those who might need that incentive/push to change their negative/destructive behavioral patterns.

We owe it to society to make sure that people are able to access the right tools to rehabilitate themselves. My journey through incarceration has not been perfect but as I get older and participated in programs, I have a better understanding of my life and how to doncut myself as an honest and productive man. The best thing I can say is that I’ve learned how to stop and think before I act. I’m still working on myself but, at the same time, I know what I want inlife, which is to be the best, honorable man I can be and help as many others on my way.

Prison is a negative environment. I can’t count the times before Covid-19 days that I would ask other offenders violent/non-violent to come to a program or sign up for this class or that. The majority of responses guys had was -- program for what?! You have to remember that 90% of these guys, including myself, are dealing with the same sort of issues like substance abuse or mental health. You can’t expect all people with these issues to grasp the fact that their way of living is wrong and there is a better way. Like myself, it took me almost 13 years of my incarceration before I grasped the fact that there was a better way to live and I was ready to change my ways. Had I been released back to society before then, I more than likely would have returned. Some offenders need that extra push or incentive. If HB 5148 would have applied to all felony convictions, you’d be giving numerous offenders a chance to actually transform before returning back to society. Then, every offender in here would be trying to get programs and this would increase the odds tremendously of successful rehabilitation.

Do the math, the majority are going back to society even though it might be 5, 10, 15 years down the road without HB 5148. The good outweighs the bad to apply to all felony convictions. Please be a voice at the next session to have this bill amended and apply to all felony convictions retroactively.


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