Home Crime Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano Announces Reforms Aimed at Curbing Pre-Trial Detention,...

Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano Announces Reforms Aimed at Curbing Pre-Trial Detention, Calls on General Assembly to Ban Cash Bail

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From Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano:

FAIRFAX COUNTY COMMONWEALTH’S ATTORNEY STEVE DESCANO ANNOUNCES REFORMS AIMED AT CURBING PRE-TRIAL DETENTION, CALLS ON GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO BAN CASH BAIL

Reforms include codifying the office’s practice of no longer requesting cash bail and prioritizing alternatives to pre-trial detention for individuals who do not pose a danger to the community or flight risk.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA – Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano has announced his office’s latest reforms to the County’s criminal justice system, with the goal of significantly limiting the use of pre-trial detention while ensuring the community’s safety.

CA Descano formalized his office’s commitment to not seek cash bail, a practice he initiated immediately after taking office in January. He also announced that his office will seek alternatives to pre-trial detention for defendants who do not pose a danger to the community or a flight risk. These determinations will be made based on a comprehensive analysis of each defendant’s unique circumstances. CA Descano affirmed that the office will ensure that no single tool is mechanically followed in this analysis to safeguard against the potential for embedded racial bias.

While emphasizing that these policies will make the County safer and its criminal justice system more equitable, CA Descano also called on the General Assembly to ban cash bail in the coming legislative session and noted that comprehensive reform will prove elusive until the state acts.

“Simply put, cash bail creates a two-tiered justice system – one for the rich and one for everyone else,” said Descano. “Those who can’t afford bail often face the risk of losing their jobs, housing, and even potentially custody of their children. Many plead guilty simply to avoid these rippling consequences –which are most likely to impact Black and Brown community members already disadvantaged by the system’s legacy of structural racism.

Cash bail has proven to be an efficient tool for increasing our community’s pre-trial detention population, while proving ineffective at ensuring our community’s safety. This office has better options at its disposal. By no longer requesting cash bail and prioritizing alternatives to pre-trial detention, we can more effectively safeguard the County and produce more just outcomes in our courts.

Still, comprehensive reform requires that the General Assembly act. So long as judges can continue to impose cash bail on defendants, community members in Fairfax County and across the state will remain behind bars simply because they cannot afford bail.

It is therefore vital that the General Assembly end cash bail in its coming legislative session.”

CA Descano’s announcement comes on the heels of earlier reforms announced by the office that include the formation of a Justice Advisory Council, the restructuring of the office to produce accountability around reforms, and a cessation of the prosecution of marijuana possession, among others. The comprehensive policy can be reviewed here: fairfaxcounty.gov/commonwealthattorney/reforms. CA Descano’s recent oped in the Washington Post on bail reform can viewed here: https://wapo.st/3raULQ2.

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