April 22, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information contact:
Elizabeth Jones Valderrama, OAR
OAR WELCOMES NEW LAWS REFORMING CRIMINAL LEGAL SYSTEM IN VIRGINIA
The criminal justice reform bills that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into law on Monday, April 13, 2020, represent an important step forward in seeking “justice for all” in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“We applaud the Governor and the Virginia General Assembly for starting the process of overhauling the state’s criminal legal system – a system that disproportionately impacts people of color,” said OAR Director Elizabeth Jones Valderrama.
“Collectively these changes will make a huge difference for those who engage with the system going forward,” Jones Valderrama said. “Some will also help the people we work with – people experiencing incarceration and coming home to our community who want and deserve second and fair chances.”
The new laws increase the felony larceny threshold to $1,000; end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for non-driving related offenses; and decriminalize simple marijuana possession, seal the records of those convicted for this offense in the past, and prohibit employers from asking about such convictions when they are screening job applicants.
Other measures officially repeal the longstanding practice in the State of suspending the driver’s licenses of those owing fines or court costs (a practice that Governor Northam had already put on hold via a budget amendment last year); make individuals sentenced by juries between 1995 and 2000 eligible for parole consideration (correcting a miscarriage of justice involving inadequate jury instructions); and allow courts to credit community service performed while an individual is experiencing incarceration against fines and court costs that they would otherwise owe after release.
“We are thrilled that Governor Northam is starting to end practices that helped fuel mass incarceration and perpetuate inequities in the legal system,” Jones Valderrama said.
“These decisions move the needle a little closer to what I hope we all want, which is a just society for everyone.”
Founded in 1974, OAR journeys with men and women returning to the community after incarceration, manages an alternative sentencing program that allows others to avoid that life-altering experience, and works to achieve race equity in the criminal legal system and society at large.