As a former prosecutor, substitute judge, legal advocate for children, and as a legislator, I’ve seen how the criminal justice system is not always fair or just. One example: Virginia led the nation in prosecuting kids criminally for even minor incidents that take place in our schools. That’s why, in the state legislature, I worked to promote alternatives to suspension, including positive behavior incentives, mediation, peer-to-peer counseling, community service, and other intervention alternatives so that we’re sending fewer of our children into the school-to-prison pipeline.
I believe our nation should dispense justice while correcting injustices that plague our system and lead to mass incarceration. During my time as a prosecutor and defense attorney, I saw firsthand the uneven administration of justice toward Black and Brown Americans and the deep need for legislative action to correct it. I also saw how too often our law enforcement officers find themselves dealing with people suffering mental health crises that they are unequipped to deal with. I support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would address discriminatory and excessive policing practices like chokeholds while providing funding for local police departments for body cameras, deescalation and crisis intervention training, and other programs to help them even better serve our communities.
I’ve also leveraged my position on the Appropriations Committee to secure $270,000 for the Manassas Police Department to create a domestic violence and mental health case management team and $250,000 for the Prince William Police Department to evaluate and analyze its use-of-force policies, training programs, police culture, supervision, de-escalation strategies, and tactics. I was an early cosponsor of the COPS Counseling Act, which would expand access to counseling services for our police officers, and have championed initiatives to combat the stigma of mental health within law enforcement.
Congress should also make our system more effective, efficient, and equitable for all. I support reforming mandatory minimums, ending use of for-profit private prisons, working with localities and states to promote community policing, supporting reentry programs and voting rights restoration, drug, mental health and veterans courts, and decriminalizing possession of marijuana.