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Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal Justice Reform

Our criminal justice system is broken.  The United States imprisons more people – by far – than any other industrial nation.  And Virginia ranks third in the number of people per 100,000 who are incarcerated.

Although prisons do have a role in maintaining a civilized society, in Virginia and most of America imprisoning someone is the default solution rather than one tool in dealing with crime. Ample evidence shows that in many cases where either serious mental health issues and/or drug use are precipitating factors, the perpetrator and society as a whole would be better served by diversionary programs. We should not be punishing our citizens with mental health issues; we should be helping them.

Women face special challenges in prison.

This is especially true for women.  Since 1980, the number of women in jail or prison has increased by more than 1,100 percent!  These women are overwhelmingly poor, and a significant majority have mental health issues and a history of sexual abuse. They are separated from their children, even newborn babies. They have fewer vocational training opportunities than men and abysmal health care. When women are sent to prison, children often lose their primary caregiver and families crumble. The opioid crisis has made the situation even worse.

Whenever possible, the criminal justice system should provide rehabilitation and training, and not punishment and neglect.

Virginia should:

  • Eliminate private prisons that put profit over care

  • Re-invent prisons for women that better reflect the unique needs of female prisoners

  • Provide vocational training for women that is equal to that provided for men

  • Eliminate solitary confinement

  • Separate mothers from young children only as a last resort

  • Prioritize rehabilitation over punishment for offenses involving drugs and/or mental health issues

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