Virginia schools refer more students to law enforcement in the “school-to-prison-pipeline” than any other state. Although not all of those students go to court, the trend of turning to police rather than just a visit to the principal’s office is a disturbing trend. According to a recent report by Virginia Tech, African-American students make up 23 percent of the student population in Virginia and 49 percent of the referrals to juvenile court.
Many states, from Texas to New York, have adopted criminal justice reforms that reduce unnecessary incarceration and keep families and communities safe and intact. Virginia and the federal government lag far behind.
Leslie will work with legislators to promote smart, safe reforms at the federal level such as rewarding states that stop jailing people too poor to pay bail and limiting the government’s ability to take property away without a conviction through asset forfeiture reform. She will also investigate solutions to support healthy options for opioid addiction, preventing children from entering the criminal justice system maze and ensuring that people are not unfairly prosecuted.
It is wrong for poverty and race to play such a significant role in determining who gets a conviction. Leslie wants to help America invest in the future –in good schools, clean water and air and an economy that works for everyone-not in spending billions to incarcerate.