■ POLICY PRIORITIES
End Mass Incarceration Practices in Richmond
I will prioritize ending mass incarceration practices in Richmond.
The problem is that Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office employs no standardized, evidence-based system of prosecutorial discretion to determine whether to advocate for incarceration or alternatives. Because no such system exists, decisions to advocate for incarceration are not transparent, consistent, reviewable, or subject to improvement toward public safety ends. The result is an office culture of decision-making that defaults to incarceration as the measure of its success, enabling mass incarceration practices in our City.
Solutions must acknowledge that prosecutors hold unique, constitutionally protected powers within the criminal justice system that should require responsible adoption of public checks and balances on the execution of their duties. A published system of prosecutorial discretion must be developed through community-centered, radically candid, and transparent conversations that respect community risk preferences and the humanity of all those affected by crime. Richmond’s CWA’s Office must engage in annual, public reviews of its discretionary procedures and publish performance metrics and data in a public safety balance sheet to enable continuing public comment on what safety returns we should seek by the significant human and financial costs of incarceration.
Innovate Holistic Community Interventions in Violence & Shooting
I will prioritize innovating holistic community interventions in violence and shootings.
The problem is that Richmond is experiencing what local media outlets have called a wave of violence, driving increases in shootings and homicides. Arrest rates in these incidents are at a low, an indication of the on-going challenges in community and police relationships.
Solutions must break the mold of current operations – they must be new – they must be proactive, not reactive – and they must reset relationships for positive renewal between community, police, and prosecutors. Groups like RISC are advocating for such progress. And, agencies like VCU’s Youth Violence Reduction Initiative and NOLEF Turns are setting creative examples for how holistic, community interventions in situations ripe for violence can work to keep people safe. These efforts must be adopted and expanded by cooperative efforts between community, prosecutors, police, and key governmental agencies in Richmond.
Innovate Holistic Partnerships for Poverty & Root Causes of Crime
I will prioritize innovating holistic partnerships to address poverty and the root causes of crime.
The problem is that most crime is an expression of a need for services. Prosecutors and police have tools to manage violent risk for communities in the short-term – but the best approach for long-term public safety is social services. There is so much more justice for people outside of our courtrooms, jails, and prisons.
Solutions must break the mold of current operations – they must be new – they must be proactive, not reactive – and they must reset relationships for positive renewal between community, police, and prosecutors. Groups like the Virginia Holistic Justice Initiative, OAR, and REAL LIFE are advocating for and implementing such progressive interventions to address the root causes bringing people into the criminal justice system. These efforts must be adopted and expanded by cooperative efforts between community, prosecutors, police, and key governmental agencies in Richmond.
Reset Relationships to Build Public Trust & Transparency in Prosecution & Policing
I will prioritize resetting relationships between community, prosecutors, and police to build public trust and transparency in prosecution and policing.
The problem is that relationships between community, prosecutors, and police are at an all-time low. This is evident in the way this summer’s protests were handled – it is also apparent in the low arrest rates for shootings and homicides. The state of these relationships significantly reduces the ability of Richmond’s prosecutors and police to investigate and prosecute serious violent crimes in our City.
Solutions to reset relationships for positive renewal between community, police, and prosecutors must be implemented through radical candor and transparency to build public trust. Innovating holistic approaches to public safety and adopting an operational framework of relationship-driven prosecution and policing would do much to jumpstart this process. Chief Smith’s establishment of a community advisory committee and the Mayor’s Task Force on Reimagining Public Safety are examples of efforts that should be encouraged and expanded in cooperation with the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. In consultation with community and police, Richmond’s CWA’s Office must also determine and make public charging criteria and procedures for handling public assemblies and police use-of-force incidents to ensure these events are managed transparently in the future.
Richmond as a Reform Leader
I will prioritize setting Richmond out as a leader for criminal justice reform and public safety in Virginia.
As our Commonwealth’s capital city, Richmond is uniquely positioned to become a model for what’s possible in building a humane and effective criminal justice system that works for all of us. But Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is not a signatory to progressive lobbying efforts in the General Assembly – we have not joined the Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice (VPPFJ).
My office would join VPPFJ immediately – but more than this, I will work to ensure that successes in Richmond’s reimagining of public safety result in systemic reforms across Virginia.