Letter: Rosemary Lawler, Leesburg

Editor: I’m responding to a recent letter from Barbara Hyde of Ashburn. Ms. Hyde wrote to disparage Buta Biberaj, largely due to materials she received from New Virginia Majority. I would encourage voters to gather their information directly from that organization, rather than from the distorted view provided by Ms. Hyde.

One line of Ms. Hyde’s letter demands direct response from me: “Given Buta Biberaj’s criminal advocacy one wonders who would support such a candidate?”

I would, Ms. Hyde, I would. I have spoken at length with Ms. Biberaj about her reasons for running, her perspective on our judicial system, and her goals and priorities. I had that conversation as a person with a unique and painful experience with the criminal justice system and a violent offender. My mother was murdered in 1977.

Her killer was caught. Her killer confessed, and there was no question about his guilt. Her killer was convicted. Her killer served time. Justice was served, right? No. Not really. Not in my mind.

He did deserve to be convicted and to serve time. No question. But the criminal resolution ignored the realities of the man’s abused childhood, ignored the example of violence set by his abusive father, ignored chances early on in his younger years for someone – anyone – to intervene in a compassionate and structural way to shift the path of his life.

Justice to me is about a system that intervenes with young people caught in circumstances beyond their control; provides resources to help young people see a successful and functional way out of sometimes dysfunctional family dynamics; creates a pathway out of an impoverished background; and that believes in the power of positive change and actively empowers positive change.

Yes. Break the law and there will be consequences. An offender should pay in some way. But not all felony infractions are created equal, not all deserve prison time – and it takes wisdom to know the differences.

Justice to me is all about redemption – and not about societal revenge.

By the way, Ms. Hyde. I happen to know a convicted felon who had voting rights restored just before the last Presidential election. He votes a straight Republican ticket – so don’t be so sure that those who have their rights restored vote for Democrats. But I’m willing to take that chance, because this man did deserve restoration of voting rights. His voting preferences don’t change my belief in that right.

Rosemary Lawler, Leesburg

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