Criminal Justice Reform
The fight for social and criminal justice reform is very personal to me. As the first public defender ever elected to the General Assembly and as a former magistrate judge, I’ve witnessed the systemic flaws that define our criminal justice system, flaws that disproportionately impact Virginia’s most vulnerable communities. For years, I have advocated for those who could not advocate for themselves, and on behalf of those for whom our justice system is broken. Once, I represented a woman who only confessed to a crime because of a mental illness that made her want to be agreeable. Another time, I helped a young man, about to be branded a felon, who stole a jacket because he was cold. Our criminal justice system didn’t work for them and countless others across our Commonwealth. And the impact isn’t limited to the courthouse — these inequities set too many up for a lifetime of being left behind. We see the impact in our schools, in the jobs available to Virginians, in access to housing and healthcare, and so much more.
Record & Experience
I ran for Delegate to fix our broken criminal justice system and create a Virginia that treats all people equally. While serving in the House of Delegates I:
- Sponsored legislation to raise the grand larceny threshold from one of the lowest in the country and address cash bail reform in the Commonwealth.
- Passed legislation to repeal the Habitual Drunkard law, which unfairly punishes the homeless and those struggling with substance abuse, and
- Led the charge to create a much-needed public defender’s office in my district, which includes Prince William County
- Introduced legislation to legalize marijuana, which is key to putting an end to the mass incarceration of Black and Brown communities
- Created an initiative to recruit and train minority judge candidates so residents of our Commonwealth face qualified and thoughtful legal minds of various backgrounds
- Introduced legislation requiringschool authority officials to handle minor disciplinary issues at school instead of referring students to the police
- Co-sponsored a bill to limit the maximum number of days of school suspension from 365 to 45. This year,I passed the Dress Code Equity Act, the first bill in the nation to codify protections in school dress codes against religious and ethnic discrimination.
Plans as Governor
As Governor, I’m ready to do even more to address the historic injustices in our criminal justice system. We must end mass incarceration, eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline, and diversify the judicial bench.