CIVIL RIGHTS and RACIAL JUSTICE
Every generation is charged with advancing the cause of civil rights in order to reach the day when Americans are truly equal, both under the law and in lived reality. In Virginia – the former capital of the Confederacy and the first state to elect a black governor – we know well that this is a sacred charge and very much unfinished business. I am committed to addressing discrimination based on race, national origin, gender or sexual orientation, and disability. These inequalities and biases are reinforced by political structures that require systematic change.
While Virginia has made real progress, our draconian criminal code remains long overdue for reform. We must replace the school-to-prison pipeline with a school-to-opportunity pipeline. Virginia’s juvenile justice system currently incarcerates our kids at a 75% higher rate than the rest of the nation. Instead of setting children up for a cycle of punishment and incarceration, I believe we should offer community-based rehabilitation that builds on successful reforms begun under the McAuliffe administration.
I will also make it a priority to advance reforms to the criminal justice system that reduce the racial disparities we see today, particularly the criminalization of poverty through suspension of drivers’ licenses for inability to pay fines and one of the lowest thresholds in the country for felony larceny, and a pitiful rate for indigent legal defense. The cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Virginians and weakens too many communities, and these systemic problems must be comprehensively addressed.