Criminal Justice Reform
Here’s the Problem
We know viscerally that justice in Virginia is not just, fair, or equitable. As a former magistrate judge and public defender, I’ve seen firsthand the two criminal justice systems Virignians face — one that works for the wealthy and well-connected and the other that works against Black people, poor people, and other marginalized communities.
During the summer of 2020, Virignians, Americans, and the world took to the streets to protest against police brutality. And this year, a few miles away from where George Floyd was killed, Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by a police officer. Here in Virginia, we saw a jarring video last week of officers assaulting Lt. Nazario during a traffic stop.
As Governor, I’ll also fight to end police brutality. The hurt and the harm done to communities like mine, has to end. That’s done through prevention, but also by holding bad actors accountable. We’ve had instances of police brutality happen in here Virginia, and politicians of the past have refused to even ask for an independent investigation. It’s far past time to take this issue seriously, so our families aren’t threatened and even killed when they’re living their lives.
My Plans as Governor
I will work tirelessly as Governor to ensure that our criminal justice system in Virginia is just and fair, and I will work just as hard to end police brutality and hold bad actors accountable. I will fight for an equitable justice system — for my sons and for all Virginians.
As Governor, I will:
- Continue to address police misconduct and accountability by ending qualified immunity, which widely shields law enforcement officers from civil suits.
- Ensure that mental health professionals have a role as first responders and that officers use the de-escalation techniques they are trained to use so that everyone is treated the way we should be treated.
- Guarantee that every case of a police-involved killing is subject to an independent investigation and work with the Attorney General’s office to ensure there are proper resources and staff needed to enforce this executive order.
- Build on marijuana legalization to ensure the inclusion of minority-owned businesses and sellers in the cannabis industry, full collective bargaining rights for employees, and that reinvestments are made in communities most harmed by cannabis prohibition.
- Restore judicial autonomy and authority by instituting the full repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Move the responsibilities of the Department of Juvenile Justice to the Secretary of Health & Human Services in order to prioritize youth rehabilitation.
- Reduce statutory restrictions on specialty dockets (i.e. Drug Courts, Mental Health, and Veterans dockets) and ensure greater funding for treatment services, including trauma-informed counseling.
My Record & Experience
I began fighting for a fairer and more equitable legal system as a magistrate judicial officer and later as a public defender. I have dedicated years to representing clients who could not advocate for themselves or afford representation, ensuring fairness in eviction proceedings and criminal hearings involving the poor, the mentally disabled, and the youth.
As a Delegate, I:
- Passed legislation to prohibit law-enforcement officers from using neck restraints, such as chokeholds, in the performance of their official duties and supported efforts to ban the use of no-knock search warrants.
- Co-sponsored legislation that was passed into law to establish the Marcus Alert System, which provides a mental health response with an informed law enforcement element to those experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis.
- Co-sponsored legislation that was passed into law requiring law-enforcement officers to undergo training on de-escalation techniques, the lawful use of force, and implicit biases, including against people with mental illness, developmental, or intellectual disabilities.
- Sponsored legislation to raise the grand larceny threshold from one of the lowest in the country and to conduct a statewide review of parole-eligible inmates in the Commonwealth.
- Carried a bill to reform the cash bail system. Research contends that “46 percent of the people in local jails aren’t there because they were convicted of any crime.” Pretrial detention disproportionately impacts people of color, placing many at risk of losing their jobs, homes, and families.
- Passed legislation repealing the Habitual Drunkard law, which unfairly punishes the homeless and those struggling with alcoholism.
- Passed legislation to create the first public defender’s office in Prince William County, the second largest county in Virginia, to ensure high quality representation for those who cannot afford an attorney.
- Created the “Diversifying the Bench” initiative to recruit, train, and mentor minority judge candidates so residents face qualified and thoughtful legal minds of various backgrounds. This effort led to six new judicial appointments in Northern Virginia in 2020, including the first Latino judge in Prince William County and the first Black Judge in Loudoun County.
More Issues & Priorities
- Access to Broadband
- Affordable Housing
- Childcare & Early Childhood Education
- Clean Government & Ethics
- Gender Equality
- Gun Violence Prevention
- Health Care
- Jobs & the Economy
- Labor & Working Families
- Protecting LGBTQIA+ Rights
- Racial Justice
- Supporting Immigrant Communities
- Supporting Virginians with Disabilities