Top prosecutors from across Northern Virginia are calling on state lawmakers to take up several criminal justice reform measures at the upcoming General Assembly session, including abolishing the death penalty statewide.

Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice, a coalition of 12 commonwealth's attorneys, sent a letter this week to state leaders asking for "commonsense criminal justice reforms to make their communities safer and the commonwealth’s justice system more fair and equitable."

The coalition includes Prince William County Commonwealth' Attorney Amy Ashworth, Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Buta Biberaj, Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano and Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Porter, as well as prosecutors from Henrico, Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

An end to cash bail, the death penalty, mandatory minimum sentencing and the state's "three strikes" rule for felony offenses are among the reforms the coalition wants to see lawmakers address during the next General Assembly session, which begins Jan. 13.

In November, Virginia lawmakers finalized a sprawling package of criminal justice reform bills following a special legislative session that stretched nearly 12 weeks.

Democrats, who hold majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades, passed reforms that touch on every aspect of the state’s criminal justice system, from traffic stops to prison sentences.

"We supported many of the groundbreaking criminal justice reforms that you and your colleagues in the General Assembly implemented in the August special session," the letter to lawmakers said. "In the coming legislative session, we encourage you to build on these reforms and continue to make the commonwealth a national leader in promoting justice."

The prosectors' requests include:

Automated, automatic, and free expungement of criminal records for formerly system-involved community members: "Our communities are safest when we more fully reintegrate those convicted of crimes into society, instead of forcing them down a path of recidivism," the coalition wrote.

End mandatory minimum sentences: "We wrote in advance of the special session in support of the General Assembly striking mandatory minimums from state law. We once again urge you and your colleagues to implement this critical reform. Mandatory minimums prevent judges from taking an individualized, holistic approach to each sentence based on the specific circumstances of a given case," the letter said.

End cash bail: "Cash bail leads to a two-tiered justice system – one for the rich and one for everyone else. Those who sit behind bars while awaiting trial are exposed to significant collateral consequences, like the loss of a job or even custody of their children," the coalition said.

Abolish the death penalty: "The death penalty is unjust, racially biased, and ineffective at deterring crime," the letter reads. "We have more equitable and effective means of keeping our communities safe and addressing society’s most heinous crimes. It is past time for Virginia to end this antiquated practice."

End the “three strikes” felony enhancement for petty larceny offenses: "The collateral consequences associated with felonies far exceed those of misdemeanors," the letter said. "State law currently saddles too many Virginians with these collateral consequences by transforming a misdemeanor larceny offense into a felony offense when an individual has previously been convicted of misdemeanor larceny offenses."


(14) comments

Tom Manson

There are certainly some criminals who's crimes deserve death, but the penalty serves little prophylactic purpose, and we frequently see convict sentences overturned after decades in prison.

Holding a pro-life position regarding abortion should equate to the death penalty.

The death penalty should be terminated.

John Dutko

Bigger question: What is the purpose of a prison? Is it a punishment or a chance at rehabilitation? And if it is punishment, why not skip all the formalities and go straight to death penalty for all crimes (that includes white collar crimes where there is high recidivism).

Jerzy Brick

Sourced from

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-MA) unveiled the rules for the 117th Congress on Friday, which contain “future-focused” proposals, including the elimination of gendered terms, such as “father, mother, son, and daughter.

.....“These future-focused proposals reflect our priorities as a Caucus and as a Country,” the House Speaker added.

Within the proposals are the creation of the “Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth,” which would require Congress to “honor all gender identities by changing pronouns and familial relationships in the House rules to be gender neutral.”

In clause 8(c)(3) of rule XXIII, gendered terms, such as “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, grandson, or granddaughter” will be removed.

In their place, terms such as “parent, child, sibling, parent’s sibling, first cousin, sibling’s child, spouse, parent-in-law, child-in-law, sibling-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, half-sibling, or grandchild” will be used, instead.

As this all pertains to this article as it relates to abolishment of the Death Penalty?

Your going to have to also have to remove "Till Death Do Us Part" in marriage vows, that will be a Class 1 Misdemeanor if included and spoken verbatim and/or agreed upon, coming to a Commowealth near you.

Sic Semper Tyrannis...

John Dutko

Mostly false:


You want it...You got it...Toyota. The voters put these clowns in office. Elections have consequences. But evidently committing a crime shouldn’t, according to our new “Social Justice Warriors “. Why not just make it legal to do anything. Abolish the police. See who suffers the most!

John Dutko

Dude. You are off your meds again.

Lynne June

Change the laws to appease potential voters or lobbyists. That makes sense. It is clear to me that most of these lawmakers who hide under the guise of “progressive” have never had any experience actually working with criminals. What makes real sense is to address the root causes of crime, but that’s not as quick and doesn’t sound as good. I have no problem with reducing bail but it’s wrong to discontinue the possibility of death penalty for heinous pre-meditated murder, to include serial murders.

John Dutko

I think that we should have the death penalty via beheading and streaming online. Or we can opt for the ol' eye-for-an-eye approach and execute them how they performed their crimes.

It should be as gruesome as possible to act as a deterrent to potential criminals.

Lynne June

Don’t get yourself too aroused, Bean.

PWC resident since '69

It not a deterrent, never was but it does make damn sure that the loser never kills again! As a matter of fact most have had 4 or 5 strikes!

Wake Up & Smell The Coffee!

By all means, let’s implement all of the “Progressive”, LOL, recommendations! We’ve come a long way, but we’re not quite third world-ish enough yet.

Todd Jones

I have a better idea. If someone commits a crime, make them promise not to do it again and send them home. Imagine the tax dollars saved from closing all the jails.

John Dutko

Or, you can be like the police and kill them before they get though the judicial system. That'll save tax dollars!

PWC resident since '69

I second that, bout time you had a good idea!

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