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January 4, 2021

Group of Virginia prosecutors urge state lawmakers to enact major criminal justice reforms

As detiled in this local article, headlined "‘Progressive prosecutors’ want Virginia to end the death penalty, cash bail and mandatory minimums," a group of elected prosecutors in the Commonwealth of Virginia are urging their state legislature to enact an array of criminal justice reforms.  Here are the basics:

A handful of self-described “progressive” Virginia prosecutors — including four from Hampton Roads — called Monday for state lawmakers to make dramatic changes to the state’s criminal justice system, including ending the death penalty, cash bail and mandatory minimum sentences and changing the “three strikes” law.

In a letter Monday to state leaders, the Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice group said the changes would “help keep our communities safe while producing more equitable outcomes in our courts.”

The group of 12 prosecutors includes the elected commonwealth’s attorneys from Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Portsmouth.  The prosecutors come from cities and counties that make up more than 40% of the state’s population, according to the group.

The changes are likely to meet resistance from other prosecutors and from at least some Republicans in the legislature. Though Democrats now control both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation, some legislation backed by liberals has met resistance from more moderate members of the party.

The prosecutors want legislation that would allow certain criminal records to be expunged automatically — and for free — after people keep a clean record for a certain amount of time....

The prosecutors are also asking for:

  • Ending mandatory minimum sentences, which the prosecutors said lead to “irrationally lengthy” sentences that “fuel mass incarceration while exacerbating … racial and socioeconomic inequities.”
  • Eliminating cash bail. The prosecutors said cash bail creates a two-tiered justice system, “one for the rich and one for everyone else,” and the impacts of not being able to post bail disproportionately affect people of color.
  • Abolishing the death penalty.
  • Changing an aspect of the “three strikes” law that increases a misdemeanor larceny charge to a felony if a person has a prior misdemeanor larceny conviction.

The full letter from the prosecutors can be found at this link.

January 4, 2021 at 11:51 PM | Permalink


A really encouraging development. I hope to see this enacted and spread in the coming months to other States.

Posted by: peter | Jan 5, 2021 3:43:16 AM

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