An Interview with Juanita Shanks

by Gordon Nary



Gordon: When were you appointed as President/CEO of FailSafe-ERA and what are your primary responsibilities?


Juanita: I am the Founder of FailSafe-ERA. It was launched August 2009, 2 years after my son was released from serving 3 years in a Federal Corrections Institute for drug trafficking. He committed this crime immediately after high school and it was very deviating and emotional for our family. FailSafe-ERA was launched because there were no services available to/for us.


Gordon: Approximately how many people does your organization serve?


Juanita: Our organization serves the Virginia Planning District 16 community that consists of Stafford County, Spotsylvania County, Caroline County, King George County, and the City of Fredericksburg. A population of approximately 359,097.


Gordon: What are some of the major challenges in responding to the needs of the people that you help?


Juanita: Our biggest challenge is housing, with employment closely following. Many landlords, like employers, conduct background checks and individuals with a felony are rarely considered for housing and there is no transitional housing currently available. It is on our list of things to accomplish. Employment is very similar, namely for higher paying jobs and with benefits.


Gordon: What can be done to reduce access to drugs by people in prison?


Juanita: Tighter security, training for officers to better understand the consequences and the importance of integrity; and prosecution of all who are involved.


Gordon: What can be done to reduce violence in prisons?


Juanita: In my opinion, life skills (behavior and attitude) training and counseling immediately upon incarceration and continued until released. For individuals who are serving a life sentence, training should also be required for them as they will influence those who have an exit date.


Gordon: If there was one state regulation about prisons that you had the authority to change, what would it be?


Juanita: Expunge records after 3 years free of criminal activity.


Gordon: What is your response to Florida’s approval of felons ability to vote?


Juanita: Great. All States should follow suit.


Gordon: Thank you for an insightful interview.



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