McAuliffe plan builds on Virginia criminal justice reforms
Former governor Terry McAuliffe has released his plan for reforming the state’s criminal justice system, focusing on parole, marijuana legalization and the restoration of voting rights.
The Plan of Action for a Fairer Commonwealth prioritizes rehabilitation and second chances, fighting to achieve justice in sentencing, working to rebuild trust between communities and law enforcement, continuing to combat the opioid addiction epidemic, and solidifying the transformation of the juvenile justice system.
“Standing up against relentless Republican opposition and restoring voting rights to 173,000 Virginians is one of the proudest accomplishments of my life, but it was just one important step on the long journey to building a truly fair criminal justice system. For generations, Black and Brown Virginians have been unjustly targeted by our criminal justice system for the color of their skin or the neighborhood they live in. Our work is not done,” said McAuliffe, who is running for the Democratic Party nomination for governor, and a rare second term as governor of Virginia, which does not allow governors to succeed themselves in office.
“Now is the time to finally deliver Virginians an equitable, just system that is firmly rooted in redemption and second chances. Together, we will create a stronger, more equitable Commonwealth that works for its citizens, not against them,” McAuliffe said.
The release of the plan comes two weeks after McAuliffe had called on the Virginia General Assembly to pass a resolution for a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to Virginians convicted of felonies.
McAuliffe has also pledged to make sure Virginia joins dozens of other states in allowing expungements for certain misdemeanor and felony offenses, and to expand access to parole and create an Office for Returning Citizens so that the thousands of men and women returning home from correctional facilities each year have access to the support they need to succeed.
“Our criminal justice system promises the equitable and fair administration of justice, whether people can afford it or not. Public defenders and court appointed attorneys play a critical role in making sure every Virginian is provided due process under the law. Unfortunately, this is rarely what the citizens of Virginia receive. Public defenders are under-paid, under-resourced, under-valued and overworked,” said Deirdre M. Enright, director of The Innocence Project at UVA School of Law. “Terry’s criminal justice reform plan calls for expanding public defender offices throughout our Commonwealth. This is the right approach and one of the many ways we can – and must – ensure that no one is denied access to justice simply because they can’t afford it.”
The McAuliffe agenda to legalize marijuana would ensure that Black and Brown Virginians have meaningful ownership opportunities in the new industry. The plan calls for the creation of a Community Reinvestment Fund to direct state revenues into communities that have been impacted by disproportionate marijuana enforcement, through critical services, treatment for substance use disorders, and funding for alternatives to incarceration.
“For generations, Black and Brown Virginians have been disproportionately targeted by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws. The failed War on Drugs has instead been a successful war on communities of color, and Terry McAuliffe knows we have an opportunity right now to change this if we go big and act boldly,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, co-chair of Terry for Virginia.
“As Virginia’s 72nd governor, Terry took on this part of a racist system and successfully restored voting rights to more Virginians than any governor in American history. I know that with Terry as our next governor, we will continue to make progress and build a more equitable system that works for all. Our issues are his issues and he will take the big, bold action necessary for change”