In the last decade, the prison population in Virginia has declined about 10 percent. That's according to numbers from the U.S. Department of Justice, reported WTVP-FM.
Sean Weneta at the ACLU says a number of factors are
at work behind that decline.
"Crime has been on the decline, and fewer
people are getting arrested. We've also seen some prosecutors being more
willing to divert people to community interventions.”
In the same time that Virginia's prison population
declined 10 percent, the national average was a 25 percent decline. So Virginia
is well behind states that are leading the trend, like Connecticut, New Jersey,
California and New York. The prison population in those states declined 30
percent or more.
Brad Haywood at Justice Forward Virginia says that's
because of Virginia's longtime resistance to criminal-justice reform.
"When other states were focused on getting rid
of mandatory minimums and making sentences less reflexively retributive,
Virginia was doing the exact opposite. We've added mandatory minimums. We've
made it easier to overcharge people, and made it easier for courts and
prosecutors to recommend extreme sentences."
The numbers from the Justice Department end in 2020,
so they do not reflect criminal justice reforms Democrats were able to pass
when they were in power. Add to that efforts to reduce the prison population
during the pandemic, and that could mean an even steeper decline in Virginia’s
incarceration rates in the future.
To read more CLICK HERE