Home 2021 Elections Video: Jennifer McClellan Proposes Plan to Transform Virginia Justice System

Video: Jennifer McClellan Proposes Plan to Transform Virginia Justice System

"Comprehensive Plan will: End Qualified Immunity, Create State Investigative Unit for Police Misconduct, End Cash Bail and Mandatory Minimums, Reinstate Discretionary Parole"


From the Jennifer McClellan for Governor campaign:

NEW PLAN: McClellan Proposes Plan to Transform Virginia Justice System

Comprehensive Plan will: End Qualified Immunity, Create State Investigative Unit for Police Misconduct, End Cash Bail and Mandatory Minimums, Reinstate Discretionary Parole

NORFOLK, Va. – Today, candidate for governor Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) announced her plan to make Virginia’s justice system more fair for all Virginians during an event at the Norfolk Courthouse. McClellan was joined by Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), Norfolk City Treasurer Daun Hester and Lavern Rushin of Virginia Beach, the mother of Mathew Rushin – a previously incarcerated Virginian who helped inspire McClellan’s work on disability justice reform. She was also joined by Charles Artis, a previously incarcerated Virginian whom McClellan helped to receive parole.

In the new “Transforming Virginia’s Justice System” plan, McClellan lays out her agenda to reinvest and refund community programs to provide the help and the treatment that will keep many individuals from interacting with the criminal justice system in the first place.

McClellan calls for major police reform policies, including ending qualified immunity, mandating a new Civilian Review Oversight Board, and creating a State Investigative Unit for all police misconduct investigations.

The plan also proposes sentencing and bail reform, including reinstating discretionary parole, funding investigators to eliminate the backlog of pardon petitions, ending cash bail and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences. These actions will help reduce the disproportionate incarceration of people of color, low-income individuals, and disabled individuals. In her plan, McClellan also pledges to use her executive power to pardon anyone incarcerated for a marijuana possession offense.

READ: McClellan’s ‘Transforming Virginia’s Justice System’ Plan

McClellan’s agenda builds on her work passing a landmark justice reform bill this year that allows evidence of mental illness or intellectual and developmental disabilities into criminal proceedings and cosponsoring a sweeping police reform bill in 2020.

In McClellan’s 16 sessions in the legislature, she has been a leading champion of justice reform. She cosponsored the bill that abolished the death penalty in Virginia, which made Virginia the first state in the South to do so. McClellan also patroned and cosponsored bills to reduce the criminalization of low-level offenses, including increasing the felony larceny threshold; repealing the Habitual Offender Act; and decriminalizing HIV status. She has passed bills to break the school-to-prison pipeline and cosponsored legislation reforming Virginia’s bail and sentencing laws. McClellan is committed to transforming justice throughout the Commonwealth to create a generational cycle of restoration and re-entry rather than one of inequity.

McClellan has also led action to repeal laws that criminalize poverty, mental health conditions, addiction, and health status, such as laws suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid court debt, requiring incarceration for people driving on a suspended license, criminalizing as disorderly conduct incidents on school property, a school bus, or at a school sponsored event, and criminalizing HIV positive status. She also laid the groundwork for marijuana legalization and fought to legalize simple possession of marijuana by July 1, 2021.

“It’s time to fundamentally transform Virginia’s justice system,” McClellan said. “Too many Virginians have been incarcerated because of the color of their skin, their socioeconomic background, their mental health condition, or their ability. Black and Brown communities continue to be the target of excessive police force and brutality, and we have to put an end to it. As Governor, I will build on the generational progress we’ve made in the General Assembly and implement comprehensive justice reform across the Commonwealth to ensure that our justice system is truly just.

“Hampton Roads has seen injustice take its toll with the shooting of Donovan Lynch and the harassment of Lt. Caron Nazario cutting deep into our communities. It’s time Virginia had a governor who takes a firm stand and transforms justice in Virginia, and that’s exactly what I’ll do as governor.”

WATCH: McClellan Roll Out Her Plan to Transform Justice in Virginia

“I have watched Sen. McClellan lead the charge on addressing the criminalization of individuals with mental illness and cognitive disabilities,” Lavern Rushin said. “She has been listening to her constituents and ensuring that their needs were addressed since her first term in office—like she has done for me and my family. Sen. McClellan is the governor Virginia needs to continue our fight to transform our justice system into one that is truly fair and just for everyone in our Commonwealth. I believe in Sen. McClellan.”

“I’m here in support of Jennifer McClellan as governor because she has a plan to transform justice in Virginia,” Sen. Locke said. “Her transformative justice plan puts prevention first by reinvesting in communities, addresses police misconduct and violence, and addresses issues with sentencing and bail to make our criminal justice system more just for every Virginian. I have worked with Sen. McClellan for several years, and when we have Governor McClellan in office, I know she will make sure her justice plan is a priority. That is why I am proud to support Sen. McClellan for governor.

“Norfolk needs a leader who will bring a new perspective to criminal justice reform: Jenn is that leader,” Norfolk City Treasurer Daun Hester said. “Jenn does more than just talk about action; she has a 15-year proven track record. She’s passed legislation that has helped transform the justice system to be more equitable for those accused and incarcerated. As Governor, Jenn will continue to be a champion of reforming the justice system to be truly just.”

“I can firsthand tell you from personal experience that by working with Sen. McClellan and her office when I was going up for parole and dealing with a lot of injustice in the Department of Corrections, she was a listening ear,” Charles Artis said. “She was not one of the ones who I sent a letter to and the letter just got put on the backburner or got torn up and thrown away. She walked with me through the whole rehabilitation process from point A to point Z. I’m here to tell y’all that she is a listening ear, she will work with individuals one-on-one, and fight the injustices that need to be fought.”

McClellan’s “Plan to Transform Virginia’s Justice System” will:

  • Put Prevention First: Reinvesting in Women, Children and Communities
    • Invest in behavioral health, evidence based prevention models, anti-violence community grants, and treatment and support for women, children, individuals and families.
    • Create a Safe Community Fund to prevent gun violence, substance addiction, domestic violence and child abuse through grants to community based organizations.
    • Fully fund the Delinquency Prevention and Youth Development Act, which has not received funding since 2008.
  • End Low-Level Offenses that Criminalize Poverty, Mental Health Conditions, Autism, Intellectual/Disabilities and Addiction
    • Implement marijuana legalization to redress the harms of prohibition.
    • Conduct a comprehensive review of non-violent criminal and traffic laws to decriminalize or reduce
    • penalties for low-level offenses such as those born out of historic vagrancy laws like disorderly conduct, youth status offenses, and simple possession of drugs.
  • Hold Law Enforcement Accountable for Excessive Force and Police Misconduct
    • End qualified immunity
    • Mandate Civilian Review Oversight Boards
    • Create a State Investigative Unit to investigate police misconduct across the Commonwealth.
    • Expand Marcus Alert to implement community response teams to de-escalate and address mental health crises through mental health support.
  • Ensure Fair Trials and Sentencing for Everyone
    • Eliminate cash bail and increase transparency in the pre-trial and trial systems.
    • Expand and increase funding for public defender offices and end prosecutor funding based on volume of felonies charged.
    • Eliminate mandatory minimum sentences.
    • Increase transparency and community involvement in the judicial appointments process.
    • Direct the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission to collect, analyze, and report on sentencing outcomes by race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and ability.
  • Reform Juvenile Justice
    • Create a Community Care Team within the Department of Juvenile Justice to build community relationships and expand the spectrum of locations, structures, and options that best serve and address the root causes of juvenile offenses and serve as non carceral facilities.
    • Continue to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by creating the Equity Accountability Program to address educational inequities, establish a School-to-Prison Pipeline Task Force, and require all school districts to set concrete policies to address racism and bias.
    • Raise the defendant age in juvenile court to 20 years old and make clear that youth below the age of 14 cannot be incarcerated in a carceral setting.
    • Lift the cap on school support personnel to get more assistant principals, social workers, and behavioral health professionals in our schools.
    • Fund peer mentorship in schools.
  • Implement Restorative Practices
    • Increase offenses eligible for and accelerate implementation of automatic expungement, and eliminate the lifetime cap of two sentencing incidents, and ensure those with mental health conditions, and developmental and intellectual disabilities are eligible.
    • Ensure passage of the pending constitutional amendment and necessary enabling legislation to automatically restore the rights of re-entering individuals who have completed their sentences.
    • Oversee implementation of equitable marijuana licensing and entrepreneurship for Black and Brown communities through the newly established Cannabis Control Authority.
    • Use executive power to pardon anyone incarcerated for legalized marijuana offenses pending legislation to do the same.
  • Update the Virginia Correctional System:
    • Reinstitute the Department of Corrections Civilian Oversight Board
    • Establish a Rehabilitation and Safety Task Force to review and recommend improvements to The Virginia Department of Corrections’ current programs to prepare incarcerated individuals for re-entry, such as behavioral health care, more robust jobs and skills training, and extended access to educational resources and improved access and safety surrounding family visitation.
    • Direct the Rehabilitation and Safety Task Force to analyze how relocating an incarcerated individual to an appropriate security tier facility nearest to their home can play a role in family centered rehabilitative engagement.
  • Improve Efficiency, Consistency and Transparency for the Parole and Pardon Process:
    • Direct the Rehabilitation and Safety Task Force to make recommendations for increased efficiency
    • and transparency in release decisions.
    • Update the process to ensure victims and families of victims are able to testify or submit written testimony at parole hearings.
    • Live stream Parole Board Hearings.
    • Reinstitute discretionary parole.
    • Increase availability for good time earned credits.
    • Fund additional investigators to help expedite the backlog of pardon petitions.
    • Create a community liaison position for the Parole Board to help families navigate the pardon and parole process.
    • Separate the pardon process from the parole process by creating a Director of Pardons.
    • Commit to responding to pardon petitions within the year of their submission.

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