Public Comments for: SB1442 - Public defender office; establishes an office for the County of Chesterfield.
Please support this bill.
SB1442. It's time to correct pretrial injustices and the fundamental rights of the people of Chesterfield.
I urge the House to pass Senate Bill 1442. Our pre-trial detention system is cruel and defendants deserve adequate representation as they await trial. This is an important equity issue to address the racism and classism in our criminal justice system.
People with few economic resources or whose living situation is impacted negatively for this lack of resources need an advocate to ensure fairness for all in our justice system. I have formerly incarcerated friends who now advocate for criminal justice reform and have seen first-hand the impacts of our justice system on disadvantaged citizens. Around 80% of detainees in Chesterfield County are indigent from data citizens, including me, collected from New Virginia Majority's Court Watch program which was active in Chesterfield County before the pandemic and which we hope to resume their soon.
I urge the House to pass SB 1442!
The Citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and specifically the residents of Chesterfield County, all need this bill to move forward. As a formerly incarcerated individual who has experienced years of pretrial detention and mass supervision, I know how thousands of individuals have in the past, and currently are experiencing horrendous conditions in our current system, due to the fact that they don't have a State Advocate on their behalf. This bill will provide that for thousands in Virginia. This bill will address the inequities and injustices thousands face in the current pretrial system, where 80% of detainees are indigent, where Pretrial Assessment tools are racist and bias, the lack of quality Legal Representation, and all this disproportionately affects Black folks, people of color, and the poor! I urge the House to pass SB 1442!!!
SB 1266 - Removing the presumption against bail allows for Judges to evaluate bail in a more fair and just manner which aligns with the core tenet of presumption of innocence. Judges can and should be allowed to determine bail on a case by case basis without being forced to start at a presumption against bond. Arbitrary pretrial incarceration makes it difficult for defendant's to assist in their defense and can lead to mental health and medical issues associated with the poor treatment of inmates, especially during a pandemic. SB1315 - Our justice system must include language that allows for the defendant's mental health to be addressed during the case in chief. This bill allows for our state to become more in line with the Model Penal Code. I have had dozens of cases as a criminal defense attorney over the last two decades where an individual with significant mental health issues did not meet the very rigid and narrow definition of insanity and instead were incarcerated for substantial amounts of time after a guilty verdict. These individuals should have been able to present evidence of their mental health at the time of the offense when determining guilt or innocence. It was a travesty of justice that they could not and it is time for Virginia to recognize the need to give those suffering from mental health other avenues for justice. SB1442 - As a former public defender in the City of Richmond I encourage the members of this Committee to vote in support of a Public Defender's Office in the County of Chesterfield. I practice frequently in this County and can say the level of representation by the court appointed counsel is substantially hindered by the lack of resources and low pay for these attorneys. A Public Defender's Office helps level the playing field for indigent defendants by providing those resources currently not available to court appointed counsel, as well as, not making counsel dependent upon the Judge for their source of income. A defendant represented by a Public Defender would have access to an investigator in their case, regardless of the severity. Currently, only the most serious of charges warrants the granting of funds for an investigator. This means defendant's facing misdemeanors and low level felonies, that could result in jail time, do not have access to an investigator who could help locate witnesses, canvas scenes, and provide other pretrial work the attorney cannot or should not be doing. Additionally, the Public Defender's office would have mitigation specialists on staff to help with complex cases or complex defendant's who need more help at the pretrial or sentencing phase of a case. Additionally, thanks to the substantial number of Public Defender Offices across the state attorneys would have access to brief and motions banks for trial and appellate purposes. Lastly, attorneys in this office would have supervision and daily oversight to insure they are held to the high standards put in place by the Indigent Defense Commission for representation of their clients. Real reform of our justice system must include the ability to have counsel that is both qualified and has the resources necessary to be effective in their representation. Thank you.