Charlottesville, Albemarle County prosecutors dive into criminal justice policies in light of 2021 session

Charlottesville, Albemarle County prosecutors dive into criminal justice policies in light of 2021 session

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - On Wednesday, the Albemarle County and Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorneys discussed issues surrounding criminal justice reform on Zoom with the Senior Statesmen of Virginia.

It is these types of conversations that give us a look ahead to what we might expect in this year’s highly anticipated legislative session.

Both Jim Hingeley and Joe Platania dove into a host of high-profile issues. The two top prosecutors are leading the charge on many changes they wish to see in our own criminal justice system. One of the biggest ones is the death penalty.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the death penalty is administered and imposed in a racially discriminatory way,” Hingeley said. ”That’s reason enough to abolish it, but if we needed more reason to abolish it, I would say that we have a flawed system for determining who should be sentenced to death and who should be spared.”

Hingeley and Platania are among several Commonwealth’s Attorneys to sign a letter calling for change.

“We have written a letter supporting the abolition of the death penalty,” Platania said. “Governor Northam has said he would sign abolition legislation.”

They also talked about the possible legalization of marijuana. This is another hot topic that Virginia lawmakers will likely discuss in this year’s session. “We have a lot more important things that we need to devote our criminal justice resources to than marijuana prosecutions,” Hingeley said.

Both Platania and Hingeley also emphasized the need to put an end to cash bail statewide. They say the determining factor in deciding if a person can be released should be based on their risk to the community, not wealth.

“In the city, we have not used cash bail for ten or 15 years,” Platania said.

“Cash bail is not a factor in Albemarle County or Charlottesville and there’s legislation pending, criminal justice reform legislation in this session,” Hingeley said. “I hope to see cash bail eliminated statewide.”

They hope to also put an end to mandatory minimum sentences and expunge the criminal records of formerly system-involved community members.

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