Public Comments for 01/28/2021 Public Safety - Public Safety Subcommittee
HB1941 - Law-enforcement officer; discharge of firearm, etc., release of video or audio recording.
Last Name: Williams Locality: Henrico, VA. USA

I would like you to support this bill with only exception. Extend to release time from 15 days to 25 days. This would give all the appropriate agencies (law enforcement, etc.) time review the sound & video.

Last Name: Carpenter Organization: NAACP Locality: Blacksburg

I believe that this bill is necessary because we need to hold those in law enforcement accountable for the use of force. I believe that this action would protect not only the person being pursued by the officer but also it would protect the officer. I believe that the majority of police are there to protect. I also know that there is inherent racism and bias that has led to unfair treatment of people of color. This bill, I believe will make everyone safer.

Last Name: Pannabecker Organization: VA NAACP Locality: Montgomery County, Blacksburg

I urge the Public Safety Committee Chair and Members to fully support all of the following: HB 1941 - Rasoul HB 2226 - Kory HB 2291 - Williams Graves HB 2325 - Hope HB 1941 - Rasoul would require that, whenever a law-enforcement officer discharges a firearm or weapon on a person resulting in death or serious bodily injury, any video or audio recording that relates to such incident produced or obtained by a law-enforcement officer be open to inspection and posted on a website that is available to the public or that clearly describes how the public may access such data. This legislation provides new protections for victims of police brutality, specifically Black and Brown victims. Accountability must be present in law enforcement if better relationships are to be fostered between them and Black communities, which is why I join the Virginia NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. HB 2226 - Kory establishes a process that allows a person to contest the determination that they are a member of a criminal street gang, request information about whether their information has been entered any systems, request removal of their information from said systems, and petition a general district court for review of an agency's decision to enter his information into the systems. This legislation will provide a modern and advanced demonstration of Virginia attempting to combat its discriminatory past. Virginians deserve a chance to address any allegations that have been made about them, especially criminal affiliation, which is why I join the Virginia NAACP in supporting this important legislation. HB 2291 - William-Graves would add a sheriff's office to those law-enforcement agencies that may be overseen by a law-enforcement civilian oversight body created by a locality and adds a non probationary deputy sheriff to those law-enforcement officers who are subject to such body if created by a locality. This legislation provides new protections to prevent police brutality and hold law enforcement accountable. Permitting civilians to be included in the conversation of law enforcement allows for the fostering of better relationships in Virginia communities, specifically Black, which is why I join the VA NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. HB 2325 - Hope would create the Office of the Department of Corrections Ombudsman. The bill enumerates the duties and powers of the Office to protect the livelihood of inmates such as providing information, as appropriate, to inmates, family members, representatives of inmates, Department of Corrections employees and contractors, and others regarding the rights of inmates. Legislation such as this provides new protections for inmates and their well being. Correctional facilities and officers must be held accountable now more than ever, which is why I join the VA NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. Thank you for your time, consideration, and work on behalf of equity for Virginians.

Last Name: Kanoyton Locality: Hampton

VSC NAACP are in strong support of all checked bills

Last Name: Fox Organization: NAACP member Locality: Alexandria

Please vote yes on this bill - vote yes for transparency and to improve citizens' access to police data. (Whenever a law-enforcement officer discharges a firearm or weapon on a person resulting in death or serious bodily injury, this bill would make video or audio recording open to inspection and posted on a public website (or describes how the public may access this data.) Thank you.

Last Name: Rhyne Organization: Virginia Coalition for Open Government Locality: Williamsburg

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government supports this bill.

HB2226 - Criminal street gang reporting; notice & process for contesting entry of information into databases.
Last Name: Williams Locality: Henrico, VA. USA

Please support this bill WITH OUT the notification language.

Last Name: Annan Organization: The Activated People Locality: Herndon

Dear Honorable Members of The Courts of Justice, In response to questions and concers raised by the State Police, please see the below: Does the Bill provide for Witness/Informant protections? Yes. - “Evidence in support of such determination, provided that such evidence protects the personal identifying information of (a) and informants and witnesses involved” (lines 21-23 of Substitute bill 1/29/2021), repeated throughout, lines 63, 95, 103. - In attorneys’ experiences, all police reports and information already redacted, in 10 years of practice, never seen witness or informant’s information revealed. Complies with VA code for protection of witnesses, § 19.2-264.9. - Advocates conscious of this protection, the same orgs. That represent witnesses, victims, “snitches” also represent folks who have been alleged to be gang members in these databases. Does the Bill provide for confidentiality around ongoing investigations? Yes. - Sec. A ”unless providing such notification would compromise an active criminal investigation or compromise the health or safety of the person if the person is under 18 years of age.,” Provided same language multiple lines 23, 59, 95 of substituted bill 1/29/2021 Does the Bill Harmonize with Federal law? Yes. - This is a red herring issue. 28 CFR 23--- in fact, in it’s very writing, it says: “A project shall not include in any criminal intelligence system information which has been obtained in violation of any applicable Federal, State, or local law or ordinance. “ - This bill is about information placed into the system/database. (not taking out of) So if a state law says it would be a violation to enter information w/o notice to impacted person, then can't enter it into the crime reporting system. - Further, 28 C.F.R. Sec. 23.20(a), which permits law enforcement agencies to “collect and maintain criminal intelligence information concerning an individual only if there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal conduct or activity and the information is relevant to that criminal conduct or activity.” Gang membership (or alleged, hang out) alone is not a crime, so it falls outside the scope of the statute. Does this bill have costs? Nominal, if any. - Initial Fiscal note was $0. Should be limited to mailings. CA Bill saw reduction of entry of names into system by 56% (CAL Gangs Report 2018), after passage of bill due to overinclusion. The bill itself reduces costs.

Last Name: Annan Organization: The Activated People Locality: Herndon

Dear Honorable Members of The Courts of Justice, We, the undersigned, urge you to support HB 2226, a bill that will amend Code of Virginia § 52-8.6 Criminal Street Gang Reporting, so that all Virginia Residents will have greater transparency in police surveillance. These key changes will include: notice of a determination to enter one’s name into gang databases; right to contest designation; right to appeal designation; and annual reporting of entries of names into the database. The racial profiling of Black and Brown communities and immigrants means they are more likely to have encounters with law enforcement and then end up charged and, or, prosecuted for crimes, and in some cases deported. This system has in turn acted as a direct pipeline to the immigration system. As of January 2020, there are over 77,000 people in the GangNet database used by Virginia law enforcement, and at least 7,000 from the Washington metro area. According to the U.S. Census, Virginia (in order of greatest percentage) is comprised of 61.2% White, 19.9% Black, 9.8% Hispanic or Latinx, and 6.9% Asian. In blunt contrast to the population demographics, DMV gang databases over-included minority populations: 49.2% African Americans, 27.2% Latinx, 20.2% White, and 0.9% Asian. HB2226 will cut racial bias in the law, its practical application, and address the overinclusion of Black and Brown communities, while also ensuring organized information and accountability. Currently, there is no notification requirement when someone is placed in any database, and in particular, GangNet, nor is there a manner to remove one’s name. This highly subjective designation then self-perpetuates into national records, including Immigration. Nonetheless, these databases carry serious criminal and civil, immigration consequences. Most people are not even aware that they are in these databases. Often, the first time someone learns they are in the database is when they are in immigration court or at sentencing for even the most minor of offenses. Similar bills have been successful in California and Rhode Island. After enactment, California police reduced designations by 56%, due to overinclusion. Prince George’s County, Maryland is currently considering the same. We, the undersigned, ask you, please support HB 2226, the Transparency in Policing Bill, amending the criminal street gang reporting statute. In gratitude, Abu Unity Foundation ACLU of Virginia The Activated People Arlington for Justice AsylumWorks Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (CAIR Coalition) CASA in Action Central American Resource Center Community Impact Everytown First Alliance Consulting LLC First Baptist Church of Vienna Humanization Project International Migrants Bill of Rights of Georgetown Law (Student Organization) March for Our Lives Maryland Carey Law Immigration Clinic- University of Maryland Carey Immigration Clinic Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Northern Virginia Chapter Northern Virginia Equity Agenda Coalition Progress for All RISE for Youth Southerners On New Ground South County Task Force for Human Services Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax Virginia Grassroots Coalition Virginia Justice Forward Contact: Kofi Annan The Activated People theactivatedpeople@gmail.com Kelly White CAIR Coalition kelly@caircoalition.org

Last Name: Charles Brown Locality: Hampton

I, Charles Brown, support HB2226.

Last Name: Pannabecker Organization: VA NAACP Locality: Montgomery County, Blacksburg

I urge the Public Safety Committee Chair and Members to fully support all of the following: HB 1941 - Rasoul HB 2226 - Kory HB 2291 - Williams Graves HB 2325 - Hope HB 1941 - Rasoul would require that, whenever a law-enforcement officer discharges a firearm or weapon on a person resulting in death or serious bodily injury, any video or audio recording that relates to such incident produced or obtained by a law-enforcement officer be open to inspection and posted on a website that is available to the public or that clearly describes how the public may access such data. This legislation provides new protections for victims of police brutality, specifically Black and Brown victims. Accountability must be present in law enforcement if better relationships are to be fostered between them and Black communities, which is why I join the Virginia NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. HB 2226 - Kory establishes a process that allows a person to contest the determination that they are a member of a criminal street gang, request information about whether their information has been entered any systems, request removal of their information from said systems, and petition a general district court for review of an agency's decision to enter his information into the systems. This legislation will provide a modern and advanced demonstration of Virginia attempting to combat its discriminatory past. Virginians deserve a chance to address any allegations that have been made about them, especially criminal affiliation, which is why I join the Virginia NAACP in supporting this important legislation. HB 2291 - William-Graves would add a sheriff's office to those law-enforcement agencies that may be overseen by a law-enforcement civilian oversight body created by a locality and adds a non probationary deputy sheriff to those law-enforcement officers who are subject to such body if created by a locality. This legislation provides new protections to prevent police brutality and hold law enforcement accountable. Permitting civilians to be included in the conversation of law enforcement allows for the fostering of better relationships in Virginia communities, specifically Black, which is why I join the VA NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. HB 2325 - Hope would create the Office of the Department of Corrections Ombudsman. The bill enumerates the duties and powers of the Office to protect the livelihood of inmates such as providing information, as appropriate, to inmates, family members, representatives of inmates, Department of Corrections employees and contractors, and others regarding the rights of inmates. Legislation such as this provides new protections for inmates and their well being. Correctional facilities and officers must be held accountable now more than ever, which is why I join the VA NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. Thank you for your time, consideration, and work on behalf of equity for Virginians.

Last Name: Kanoyton Locality: Hampton

VSC NAACP are in strong support of all checked bills

Last Name: Allen Organization: The Virginia Gang Investigators Association (VGIA) Locality: Chesapeake, VA

1. The proposed amendment is in conflict with Federal Law 28 CFR section 23 and release of information restrictions. 2. The provision that allows officers to claim exception for "ongoing criminal investigations" will not apply to the Department of Juvenile Justice or Department of Corrections, who may identify individuals and activity in their facilities, but do not necessarily conduct "ongoing criminal investigations" so you will be risking the safety of any juvenile or prisoner who has information in that system. Additionally, local and federal law enforcement partner with both of these entities because many of our states most dangerous gang members run gang sets on our streets from inside the facility. 3. There is already a federal purging process for removing gang intelligence from a database that is automatic after a period of five (5) years provided there is no new gang involvement. 4. This would apply to all organizations that meet the definitions under 18.2-46.1, which INCLUDES White supremacist groups, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and other organizations for which law enforcement maintains regular intelligence. Giving any of these organizations access to criminal intelligence or failing to gather intelligence on these organizations would be detrimental to your constituents. 5. Additional concerns would be the safety of inmates and juveniles who may have acted as informants, or sought assistance or protection from security threat groups. What about people seeking help from law enforcement when they are being terrorized by gangs or trying to get out of a gang, for fear of their name ultimately being put out to the gang or being labeled a “Snitch”. Even redacted, Gang members can figure out who the person is based on the described interactions. 6. Section F as written, does not allow for the database to be updated absent a conviction for new criminal activity, however, individuals may continue their gang affiliation and activities outside of predicate convictions, or may commit crimes they do not intend to benefit the gang, but ultimately do through "Street Cred". 7. The bill creates an administrative process for a Judge, who may not specialize in gangs, to determine on a clear and convincing standard that someone is an actual gang member. If the bill is only creating an administrative review of the agency decision, or allow an individual to contest the process, then the language falls short. Simply put, a clear and convincing standard determination of gang membership is less than a criminal standard. Constitutionally, you have a right under the 1st amendment to be a gang member. It's not illegal. A legal status determination (not protected), even if sealed, takes a (protected) investigatory classification, based on a secure process, and makes it available to the public through open court and docketing. 8. Criminal Court is the only time gang affiliation can be used against someone in compliance with the 1st Amendment Freedom of Association requirements. Court is in fact the ONLY appropriate time that someone should be hearing that information. You cannot be searched or detained solely for gang membership and it can only be triggered if charged with a predicate act. 9. Immigration is a federal process. State law does not control federal law or a federal process. Respectfully, Steve Allen VGIA Board member

Last Name: Fox Organization: member of NAACP Locality: Alexandria

Please vote yes on HB2226. This bill establishes a process for a person to contest a determination that they are a member of a criminal street gang, request information whether their information has been entered into state databases, request removal of their information, and also petition a general district court for review of an agency’s decision to enter their information into a state database.

Last Name: Annan Organization: The Activated People Locality: Herndon

Dear Honorable Members of The Committee on Public Safety, We, the undersigned, urge you to support HB 2226, a bill that will amend Code of Virginia § 52-8.6 Criminal Street Gang Reporting, so that all Virginia Residents will have greater transparency in police surveillance. These key changes will include: notice of a determination to enter one’s name into gang databases; right to contest designation; right to appeal designation; and annual reporting of entries of names into the database. The racial profiling of Black and Brown communities and immigrants means they are more likely to have encounters with law enforcement and then end up charged and, or, prosecuted for crimes, and in some cases deported. This system has in turn acted as a direct pipeline to the immigration system. As of January 2020, there are over 78,000 people in the GangNet database used by Virginia law enforcement, and at least 7,000 from the Washington metro area. According to the U.S. Census, Virginia (in order of greatest percentage) is comprised of 61.2% White, 19.9% Black, 9.8% Hispanic or Latinx, and 6.9% Asian. In blunt contrast to the population demographics, DMV gang databases over-included minority populations: 49.2% African Americans, 27.2% Latinx, 20.2% White, and 0.9% Asian. HB2226 will cut racial bias in the law, its practical application, and address the overinclusion of Black and Brown communities, while also ensuring organized information and accountability. Currently, there is no notification requirement when someone is placed in any database, and in particular, GangNet, nor is there a manner to remove one’s name. This highly subjective designation then self-perpetuates into national records, including Immigration. Nonetheless, these databases carry serious criminal and civil, immigration consequences. Most people are not even aware that they are in these databases. Often, the first time someone learns they are in the database is when they are in immigration court or at sentencing for even the most minor of offenses. Similar bills have been successful in California and Rhode Island. After enactment, California police reduced designations by 56%, due to overinclusion. Prince George’s County, Maryland is currently considering the same. We, the undersigned, ask you, please support HB 2226, the Transparency in Policing Bill, amending the criminal street gang reporting statute. In gratitude, Abu Unity Foundation ACLU of Virginia The Activated People Arlington for Justice AsylumWorks Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (CAIR Coalition) CASA in Action Central American Resource Center Community Impact Everytown First Alliance Consulting LLC First Baptist Church of Vienna Humanization Project International Migrants Bill of Rights of Georgetown Law (Student Organization) March for Our Lives Maryland Carey Law Immigration Clinic- University of Maryland Carey Immigration Clinic Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Northern Virginia Chapter Northern Virginia Equity Agenda Coalition Progress for All RISE for Youth Southerners On New Ground South County Task Force for Human Services Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax Virginia Grassroots Coalition Virginia Justice Forward Contact: Kofi Annan The Activated People theactivatedpeople@gmail.com Kelly White CAIR Coalition kelly@caircoalition.org

Last Name: Manoharan Organization: The Activated People Locality: Fairfax

My name is Gayatri with Moms Demand Action in Fairfax and The Activated People. Gang databases disproportionately impact black and brown communities without notice or appeal. This bill seeks to strengthen due process and offer recourse. Targeting black and brown boys and men based on racial profiling puts them in a prison system designed to never let them succeed in life. The current database provides zero notice, appeal, and accountability with the police and perpetuates the very system we are trying to eradicate. I support police reform and peace intervention workers. Changing the criteria to offer standardized guidelines and due process will help end abuse of power and contribute to reform by providing oversight and transparency. A citizen continuously placed into the prison system will feel traumatized, anger, and hopelessness which undermines peace intervention workers. A higher stringent review and appeal process will decrease recidivism leading to increased public safety. Please vote yes to pass HB2226. Thank you.

Last Name: Brown Organization: The Activated People Locality: HAMPTON

On behalf of The Activated People, I, Charles Brown support HB2226. If passed, HB 2226 will amend Code of Virginia § 52-8.6 Criminal Street Gang Reporting, so that all Virginia Residents will have greater transparency in police surveillance. These key changes will include:   Notice of a determination to enter one’s name into gang databases;  Right to contest designation;  Right to appeal designation;  And annual reporting of entries of names into the database.   The racial profiling of Black and Brown communities and immigrants means they are more likely to have encounters with law enforcement and then end up charged and, or, prosecuted for crimes, and in some cases deported.   This system has in turn acted as a direct pipeline to the immigration system.   As of January 2020, there are over 77,000 people in the GangNet database used by Virginia law enforcement, and at least 7,000 from the Washington metro area.   According to the U.S. Census, Virginia (in order of greatest percentage) is comprised of 61.2% White, 19.9% Black, 9.8% Hispanic or Latinx, and 6.9% Asian.   In blunt contrast to the population demographics, DMV gang databases over-included minority populations:  49.2% African Americans, 27.2% Latinx, 20.2% White, and 0.9% Asian.  HB2226 will cut racial bias in the law, its practical application, and address overinclusion of Black and Brown communities, while also ensuring organized information and accountability. Currently there is no notification requirement when someone is placed in any database, and in particular, GangNet, nor is there a manner to remove one’s name.  This highly subjective designation  then self-perpetuates into national records, including Immigration.  Nonetheless, these databases carry serious criminal and civil, immigration consequences.  Most people are not even aware that they are in these databases.  Often, the first time someone learns they are in the database is when they are in immigration court or at sentencing for even the most minor of offenses.   Similar bills have been successful in California and Rhode Island. After enactment, California police reduced designations by 56%, due to overinclusion. Prince George’s County, Maryland is currently considering the same.

Last Name: Williams Locality: Richmond

I'm in favor of HB2226. Being labeled a gang member can have a lifetime of consequences that can negatively impact a person's future - things such as being placed on probation for an indefinite amount of time, being given sentencing enhancements for suspected gang affiliation, being treated as guilty before proven innocent in traffic stops, being improperly violated as a citizen based on erroneous information. We had the great misfortune of my husband being incorrectly labeled as a gang member and it took an intervention from his probation officer to have him removed from the database. He was forced to go to the Department of Corrections' headquarters and be stripped, had each tattoo photographed, was connected to a polygraph machine and had to answer a series of questions and look at and explain several photographs. Whenever we were pulled over by police for minor traffic infractions, they would approach our vehicles with guns drawn. It was a complete nightmare; all because a CO put erroneous information in his file. He was assigned a gang PO and was placed on indefinite probation. There must be a better way; not only for innocent individuals, but for individuals who leave that lifestyle and change for the better. Please support this bill and stop tracking information of individuals who are not gang-affiliated.

Last Name: White Organization: Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition Locality: Washington

Public Safety Subcommittee Meeting Testimony by Kelly White, Director- Detained Adult Program, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition In Support of Transparency in Policing: Overinclusion of People of Color in Gang Databases in Virginia January 28, 2021 Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of Virginia residents (immigrants and mixed-status families, people of color, Black and Brown communities). My name is Kelly White and I am the Director of the Detained Adult Program at CAIR Coalition -- the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. In my role I regularly represent people who are detained by ICE and are denied liberty or even credibility because of police over-inclusion in gang databases. At CAIR, we have personally worked with people impacted by over-inclusion in gang Databases, including “John,” who was a Fairfax resident who entered the United States a few years ago, around age 20, fleeing gang violence in his Central American home. Soon after his arrival, he applied for asylum. While that application was pending, however, John was himself accused of gang membership in ways that still affect him today. There was no evidence of John’s gang membership, yet that accusation of John’s gang activity, was ultimately entered into evidence in John’s immigration case. John therefore found himself having to fight gang accusations with no basis. John was in immigration detention, during the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, but was able to win freedom from detention after the immigration judge found the allegation to be baseless. In Virginia, gang databases function with little transparency or due process, because a wide range of criteria is used by police to label communities of color as members or gang affiliates. These highly subjective criteria include: wearing white sneakers, wearing hair, nail polish, or clothing similar to gang style, identified as a gang member through reasonable suspicion, and living in neighborhoods where gang activity takes place. Currently there is no notification requirement when someone is placed in the main database, known as GangNet, nor is there a manner to remove one’s name. This highly subjective designation then self-perpetuates into national records, including Immigration. Nonetheless, these databases carry serious criminal and civil, immigration consequences. People I work with, often first learn of these allegations, in a state of shock and disbelief, while defending themselves from deportation, trying to remain here with their family and community, usually while seeking protection against the very gang they have been accused of being a member. HB2226 would require notification, opportunity to contest designation, and annual statistical reporting. California and Rhode Island enacted similar bills. Prince George’s County, Maryland is currently considering the same. After enactment, California police reduced designations by 56%, due to overinclusion. As of January 2020, there are over 77,000 people in the GangNet database used by Virginia law enforcement, and at least 7,000 from the Washington metro area. I ask you today to please support the Transparency in Policing Bill, also supported by the Activated People. Thank you. Kelly White, Esq. kelly@caircoalition.org (202) 769-5293

Last Name: Annan Organization: The Activated People Locality: Herndon

Dear Honorable Members of the General Assembly, The Activated People urge you to support HB 2226, a bill that will amend Code of Virginia § 52-8.6 Criminal Street Gang Reporting, so that all Virginia Residents will have transparency in policing. These key changes will include: notice of a determination to enter one’s name into the database; right to contest designation; right to appeal designation; and annual reporting of entries of names into the database. The racial profiling of Black and Brown communities and immigrants means they are more likely to have encounters with law enforcement and then end up charged and, or, prosecuted for crimes, and in some cases deported. This system has in turn acted as a direct pipeline to the immigration system. As of January 2020, there are over 77,000 people in the GangNet database used by Virginia law enforcement, and at least 7,000 from the Washington metro area. According to the U.S. Census, Virginia (in order of greatest percentage) is comprised of 61.2% White, 19.9% Black, 9.8% Hispanic or Latinx, and 6.9% Asian. In blunt contrast to the population demographics, DMV gang databases over-included minority populations: 49.2% African Americans, 27.2% Latinx, 20.2% White, and 0.9% Asian. HB2226 will cut racial bias in the law, its practical application, and address overinclusion of Black and Brown communities, while also ensuring organized information and accountability. Currently there is no notification requirement when someone is placed in any database, and in particular, GangNet, nor is there a manner to remove one’s name. This highly subjective designation then self-perpetuates into national records, including Immigration. Nonetheless, these databases carry serious criminal and civil, immigration consequences. Most people are not even aware that they are in these databases. Often, the first time someone learns they are in the database is when they are in immigration court or at sentencing for even the most minor of offenses. Similar bills have been successful in California and Rhode Island. After enactment, California police reduced designations by 56%, due to overinclusion. Prince George’s County, Maryland is currently considering the same. We strongly urge to you to please support HB 2226, the Transparency in Policing Bill, amending the criminal street gang reporting statute.

Last Name: Kent Organization: ACLU People Power Fairfax Locality: Great Falls

Support Who we are: ACLU People Power Fairfax is an independent grassroots organization that advocates for equal justice for all members of the community, including undocumented immigrants, regardless of race or ethnicity. Our primary goals are to end local and state government’s voluntary cooperation with ICE and to correct practices and policies that support systemic racism in our law enforcement. There are over 4,000 People Power volunteers in Fairfax. Our efforts reflect the views of our members, not necessarily those of the ACLU Virginia affiliate. We urge you to support HB 2226, a bill that will amend Code of Virginia § 52-8.6 Criminal Street Gang Reporting, so that all Virginia Residents will have transparency in policing. These gang databases over-included minority populations: 49.2% African Americans, 27.2% Latinx, 20.2% White, and 0.9% Asian. In blunt contrast, according to the U.S. Census, Virginia (in order of greatest percentage) is comprised of 61.2% White, 19.9% Black, 9.8% Hispanic or Latinx, and 6.9% Asian. HB2226 will cut racial bias in the law, its practical application, and address the overinclusion of Black and Brown communities, while also ensuring organized information and accountability. Currently, there is no notification requirement when someone is placed in any database, and in particular, GangNet, nor is there a manner to remove one’s name. This highly subjective designation ends up perpetuating in databases and court files around the nation. What we are asking for is: Notification, to allow for challenges and accurate information requirement Annual reporting-out to increase transparency Tightening of criteria Having the ability of Due Process, response required or flag that being reviewed Cross identification amongst systems As of January 2020, there are over 77,000 people in the GangNet database used by Virginia law enforcement and at least 7,000 from the Washington metro area. In blunt contrast to the population demographics, this designation then self-perpetuates into national records, including Immigration. We want to see more transparency and for all Virginians to have the ability to access their right to Due Process; therefore we are in support of House Bill 2226.

Last Name: Emanuel Locality: Suffolk

Correctional Officers deserve to paid fairly for the strenuous work that we do.

Last Name: Peters Organization: Northern Virginia Equity Agenda Coalition Locality: Arlington

In my capacity as Chair of the Northern Virginia Equity Agenda Coalition and on behalf of the coalition, I would like to support House Bill 2226, the “Criminal street gang reporting; notice & process for contesting entry of information into databases” legislation. The GangNet database “over-includes” nonwhite Virginians without them being cognizant that they have been included, much less without them having the means to dispute their inclusion. This amounts to the racial profiling of nonwhites by law enforcement: yet another facet of systemic racism and white supremacy. HB 2226 serves to mitigate this “over-inclusion.”

HB2291 - Law-enforcement civilian oversight bodies; deputy sheriffs.
Last Name: Williams Locality: Henrico, VA. USA

I would ask that you totally support this bill!

Last Name: Pannabecker Organization: VA NAACP Locality: Montgomery County, Blacksburg

I urge the Public Safety Committee Chair and Members to fully support all of the following: HB 1941 - Rasoul HB 2226 - Kory HB 2291 - Williams Graves HB 2325 - Hope HB 1941 - Rasoul would require that, whenever a law-enforcement officer discharges a firearm or weapon on a person resulting in death or serious bodily injury, any video or audio recording that relates to such incident produced or obtained by a law-enforcement officer be open to inspection and posted on a website that is available to the public or that clearly describes how the public may access such data. This legislation provides new protections for victims of police brutality, specifically Black and Brown victims. Accountability must be present in law enforcement if better relationships are to be fostered between them and Black communities, which is why I join the Virginia NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. HB 2226 - Kory establishes a process that allows a person to contest the determination that they are a member of a criminal street gang, request information about whether their information has been entered any systems, request removal of their information from said systems, and petition a general district court for review of an agency's decision to enter his information into the systems. This legislation will provide a modern and advanced demonstration of Virginia attempting to combat its discriminatory past. Virginians deserve a chance to address any allegations that have been made about them, especially criminal affiliation, which is why I join the Virginia NAACP in supporting this important legislation. HB 2291 - William-Graves would add a sheriff's office to those law-enforcement agencies that may be overseen by a law-enforcement civilian oversight body created by a locality and adds a non probationary deputy sheriff to those law-enforcement officers who are subject to such body if created by a locality. This legislation provides new protections to prevent police brutality and hold law enforcement accountable. Permitting civilians to be included in the conversation of law enforcement allows for the fostering of better relationships in Virginia communities, specifically Black, which is why I join the VA NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. HB 2325 - Hope would create the Office of the Department of Corrections Ombudsman. The bill enumerates the duties and powers of the Office to protect the livelihood of inmates such as providing information, as appropriate, to inmates, family members, representatives of inmates, Department of Corrections employees and contractors, and others regarding the rights of inmates. Legislation such as this provides new protections for inmates and their well being. Correctional facilities and officers must be held accountable now more than ever, which is why I join the VA NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. Thank you for your time, consideration, and work on behalf of equity for Virginians.

Last Name: Kanoyton Locality: Hampton

VSC NAACP are in strong support of all checked bills

Last Name: Fox Organization: NAACP member Locality: Alexandria

Please vote Yes on HB2291: If a locality creates a civilian review board, this legislation would add Sheriff's Office to the list of law enforcement agencies that these boards can oversee. Thank you.

Last Name: Hobbs Organization: Goochland NAACP Locality: Goochland County

Good morning Mr. Chairman and Delegates Committee Members, I am Wendy Hobbs, president of the Goochland County NAACP. I am speaking in support of proposed HB2291 to include local sheriff departments in the statue to require Civilian Oversight Boards. Although sheriff departments vary in size and level of misbehavior it is important to have a diverse citizens review board appointed by the local board of supervisors, town council or city councils. There are different types of Citizens Review Boards, therefore leaving it to the governing body to decide which option would best meet the needs of the county or town. Review boards serve a role of ensuring citizens encounters of alleged misconduct is reviewed independently of an internal affairs unit within the same police system. Also, review boards provide transparency to citizens by the police department.The boards would also confirm the actions of the sheriff departments when they have taken proper actions to the public. The boards should be independent, diverse and with roles clearly defined, by best practices and the governing body. The board SHOULD NOT consist of active members of the police department to avoid intimidation or mistrust of the department by board members. The board should be a transparent body that works hand in hand with community citizens and the sheriff department. Although many sheriff departments have progressed to a more professional and ethical level of performance and accountability, there are still departments where unethical and misconduct occurs. Therefore, it is imperative to support HB2291 to ensure citizens' comments and transparency, since sheriffs are elected by the people. Otherwise, there is no oversight on actions taken by the sheriff departments. Thank you for supporting this proposed legislation.

Last Name: Williams Locality: Richmond

After the summer of racial tensions and COVID, many who had never had contact with the criminal legal systems were arrested and placed in jail. There was public outcry for a change in the deplorable conditions inside of certain facilities because of the COVID crisis, the inedible food, the use of solitary confinement for punitive measures, and the lack of communication with concerned residents of those facilities. COVID is stressful for everyone and there is nowhere to quarantine inside of a jail cell. When families reached out for information, they were stonewalled and disregarded. When asked how to file complaints or speak with someone, there was no relief in sight. When there was supposed to be transparency around early releases and the conditions inside, people were essentially ignored and disregarded. Residents inside of the facilities were punished for speaking out. One incident in particular occurred at the Richmond City Jail - there is no justice in the center. It's just a shiny new object that lets us in the community know that we will invest more in incarceration than upward mobility. Residents of the city jail were tear gassed for asking for clarity about the COVID situation. Cells were locked and tray slots were opened and tear gas was thrown inside 4 man cells. The water supply and ventilation system was cut off and residents were forced to lay in their own vomit for over 24 hours. Sheets were changed; showers weren't allowed. People had to use toilet water for relief. Deputies still ignored their cries for help. The persons who were the most vocal; whether by starting the petitions or reaching out to family members to complain, were placed in solitary confinement to keep them quiet. When media reached out to the jail, the Sheriff simply refused to respond to questions. When the Commonwealth Attorney was notified, she said she had no ability to do anything about it; the same answer from the Mayor. When concerned citizens protested, they were met with violent resistance and arrested. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the residents but that doesn't remove the problem. There was no measure of relief; there was no one who would reprimand, or at the very least, investigate the claims of the residents of the jail facilities. There must be oversight. The only measure to do something for deputy sheriffs cannot be to rely on a Sheriff that will only be removed by election. Please, I beg of you, put these systems of checks and balances in place to protect the people who are forced to be in these jails; especially in the middle of a pandemic. Families should be communicated with; people who are incarcerated deserve dignity and should have some level of transparency around their health and safety. I support this bill wholeheartedly.

Last Name: Edwards Locality: Harrisonburg

I do not support HB1992 as written as allows for a ban on possession for life based on a misdemeanor conviction and allows no opportunity for redress, even decades later. This is stricter than how felony convictions are treated. I do not support HB2128 as it penalizes residents, especially those with common surnames, for the lack of resources provided to VSP. I instead encourage you to support additional funding to the VSP so through background checks can be completed within the current three day window. I do not support HB2276 as it is contrary to current ATF practice for serializing hobbyist firearms and effectively creates a unique definition of firearms that doesn't match the federal definition. This will lead to lawsuits and associated costs with seemingly little benefit to gun violence reduction. Secondly it may effectively ban most modern polymer framed firearms. As for HB2285 this is only supportable if sufficient resources are provided to VSP to guarantee a 15min background check process for all applicants. It is clear this bill is intended to limit access to renting firearms at ranges by non gun owners. I cannot support this bill with it's current language and without matching budget support. Thank you for your time, Richard Edwards

HB2325 - Corrections Ombudsman, Office of the Department of; created, report.
Last Name: Shinholser Organization: The McShin Foundation Locality: Mechanicsville

WE support this bill,this HB2325 will increase public saftey,reduce recidivism and help with increasing healthy communities,all of which will save a lot of tax dollars.

Last Name: Peterson Locality: Fairfax County

Virginia needs an independent method to determine the status of state prisons. The history of solitary confinement shows that DOC portrays itself in the best possible light and sometimes in misleading ways. The Senate and House of Delegates need an unvarnished account of what happens in order to better provide for the public safety and make sure prisoners are rehabilitated before release and not damaged into further crime by solitary confinement, lack of programs or other deficiencies that easily happen with restricted budgets and priorities set mostly to security. We need an ombudsman office

Last Name: Turner Locality: Harrisonburg

Hello, Delegates; Please Vote YES for HB2325 Creation of Office of the Department of Corrections Ombudsman to bring accountability and oversight to the Virginia Department of Corrections. A fully-funded Ombudsman would prevent future costs to taxpayers by identifying problems in the DOC early, before they require major, expensive lawsuits like those just recently sited in the Richmond Times Dispatch: Jan 2021. A Second recent settlement in solitary confinement suits against Virginia Department of Corrections was settled for $150,000. It was reached in the case of a mentally ill Virginia inmate allegedly held in solitary confinement for 600 days leading to his mental and physical collapse. It is the second recent settlement reached in a case of the alleged misuse of solitary confinement by the state. Earlier this month, there was a $115,000 settlement in a suit filed by Nicolas Reyes, 55, an inmate who cannot speak English and who was allegedly held in solitary confinement for 12 years. By Frank Green of the Richmond Times Dispatch Please hold DOC accountable for its abuse of power and mismanagement of Virginia taxpayer's money. Vote YES for SB2325. Thank you. Gary and Debra Turner

Last Name: Carter Organization: The Humanization Project Locality: Moneta

Thank you, Chairman Krizek and members of this subcommittee for considering our written testimony. As co-founder of the Humanization Project I am in touch with people behind bars on a daily basis and can assure you that oversight of DOC is desperately needed. I would get into details of the appalling things we have heard of, especially during this pandemic, but I know that is not your focus. Your focus is to consider the costs of this bill. We believe that the projected costs are overinflated and know that similar oversight boards in other states cost between one and two million dollars per year. You should have written testimony from other experts attesting to this as well. I would also like to encourage you not to just consider the costs of the bill, but to consider the costs of NOT having oversight for DOC. In the past week alone, I have seen two articles citing DOC lawsuit settlements that together cost over $250,000. In the first six months of 2020, DOC spent over a million dollars to settle just two lawsuits. At the moment, lawsuits are one of the only ways that people behind bars have any recourse for wrong doing against them. This bill would create a different avenue for them, one that should be more effective for all involved and avoid escalation into the courts. It is incomprehensible that an entity with over a billion dollar budget and responsible for the lives of almost 30,000 people has no real oversight. Please vote to report this bill out and help change that. Thank you, again.

Last Name: Weneta Organization: The Humanization Project Locality: Fairfax

We support HB2325 and ask that you support the bill. VADOC is the largest employer in the Commonwealth and demands a $1.4B budget line. They also are charges with the safety and care of over 30,000 Virginian who are unable to advocate for themselves and are considered legally disabled for the purposes of litigation. This is by definition a vulnerable population. We go to great lengths to protect children and senior citizens, as we should, through oversight because they are also vulnerable and often unable to advocate for themselves. We should do the same for not just the population of those incarcerated in VADOC, but also for the staff, contractors, and volunteers at these facilities. This bill does that. While the VAODC will submit an inflated Fiscal Impact Statement, we have submitted documents and testimony that illustrate that this office and oversight is viable with lees than $2M in funding as it has been operating in other states with similar budgets, population, and prison population. You may recall in the Special Session VADOC actually proffered a fiscal impact statement asserting that it would cost more to reduce their prison population by several thousand than it would to keep more people incarcerated. If that was the case we should have put up fences around the Commonwealth to realize savings. The fact is that the assertions that VADOC makes regarding the fiscal impact of this, and any other bill that is undesirable to them, are simply an underhanded and obvious attempt to undermine and kill this bill which only further bolsters the argument and need for independent oversight.

Last Name: Agraharkar Organization: ACLU of Virginia Locality: Richmond, VA

On behalf of the ACLU of Virginia and its 200,000 members and supporters, we write to strongly support HB 2325. We submitted a written letter to the members of the appropriations committee via email last night, and I would refer you to that letter for our full statement, but we urge this committee to appropriate the money needed to provide meaningful and independent civilian oversight over the Virginia Department of Corrections. H.B. 2325 will create a new Office of the Ombudsman that will be entrusted to monitor VDOC facilities, resolve concerns of incarcerated people and their loved ones, and ultimately ensure that external stakeholders, including members of the Virginia general assembly, have the information necessary to bring much-needed transparency and accountability to an agency with a $1.4 billion annual budget. Although we understand that VDOC has estimated such an office will cost between $9 and $11 million, annually, the experience of other states strongly suggests this figure is overblown and that approximately $1.5-$2 million is all that is necessary to fully fund an agency that will enable greater transparency and improved stewardship over a major component of the Commonwealth’s annual budget.

Last Name: Gebriel Organization: FAMM Locality: Montgomery County

My name is Tinsae Gebriel, and I’m submitting written comments on behalf of FAMM. FAMM strongly supports this bill because we believe prisons should be safe, humane, and conducive to rehabilitation. An agency like the DOC that is responsible for the care and safety of nearly 30,000 people needs transparency and oversight. All prison systems should be subject to oversight by a body that is independent, able to access and inspect prisons, offer recommendations to the DOC to ensure that prisons are well-managed, and help resolve concerns that are flagged by family members, prisoners, and staff. An independent oversight body can help prevent costly future problems, improve prison conditions for both the incarcerated and staff, and help the General Assembly identify systemic changes. It is essential that the Ombudsman Office receive funding. Creating an Ombudsman without adequate funding ensures that no oversight will actually be done. The Washington State Office of Corrections Ombuds, which has similar oversight powers as those established in HB 2325 has an annual budget of less than $1.5 million. I urge the committee to advance this bill and appropriate the proper money needed to enact HB 2325. Thank you.

Last Name: Kennedy Organization: Justice Forward Virginia Locality: Fairfax

We support the bill, and we believe the FIS is completely overstated. DPB did a FIS for SB1442, which would create a 33 position Public Defender Office in Chesterfield. They estimated it would cost $3,060,354 per year to fund the office. The Ombudsman's office would be substantially smaller than a public defender's office. Assuming that creating an 11 person office would be about half the cost, this would put the cost estimate in line with the fiscal impact of this type of office from other states, including Washington, upon which this bill is modeled. That is if you even need 11 people in this office. DOC currently has a budget of approximately 1 billion dollars, and changes to the earned sentence credit system will result in DOC having fewer people in their care in the coming years. Therefore, there will be savings within the DOC budget that can be used to fund this office. This office will also help save the Commonwealth money from attorney's fees, OAG resources, and settlement payments form lawsuits as it will help to reduce the number of lawsuits filed against DOC over time.

Last Name: Fitz Organization: VADOC Locality: Richmond

VADOC has no position on this bill. However, if I am needed for any technical questions, I can be reached at 804.840.6449. Thank you

Last Name: Pannabecker Organization: VA NAACP Locality: Montgomery County, Blacksburg

I urge the Public Safety Committee Chair and Members to fully support all of the following: HB 1941 - Rasoul HB 2226 - Kory HB 2291 - Williams Graves HB 2325 - Hope HB 1941 - Rasoul would require that, whenever a law-enforcement officer discharges a firearm or weapon on a person resulting in death or serious bodily injury, any video or audio recording that relates to such incident produced or obtained by a law-enforcement officer be open to inspection and posted on a website that is available to the public or that clearly describes how the public may access such data. This legislation provides new protections for victims of police brutality, specifically Black and Brown victims. Accountability must be present in law enforcement if better relationships are to be fostered between them and Black communities, which is why I join the Virginia NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. HB 2226 - Kory establishes a process that allows a person to contest the determination that they are a member of a criminal street gang, request information about whether their information has been entered any systems, request removal of their information from said systems, and petition a general district court for review of an agency's decision to enter his information into the systems. This legislation will provide a modern and advanced demonstration of Virginia attempting to combat its discriminatory past. Virginians deserve a chance to address any allegations that have been made about them, especially criminal affiliation, which is why I join the Virginia NAACP in supporting this important legislation. HB 2291 - William-Graves would add a sheriff's office to those law-enforcement agencies that may be overseen by a law-enforcement civilian oversight body created by a locality and adds a non probationary deputy sheriff to those law-enforcement officers who are subject to such body if created by a locality. This legislation provides new protections to prevent police brutality and hold law enforcement accountable. Permitting civilians to be included in the conversation of law enforcement allows for the fostering of better relationships in Virginia communities, specifically Black, which is why I join the VA NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. HB 2325 - Hope would create the Office of the Department of Corrections Ombudsman. The bill enumerates the duties and powers of the Office to protect the livelihood of inmates such as providing information, as appropriate, to inmates, family members, representatives of inmates, Department of Corrections employees and contractors, and others regarding the rights of inmates. Legislation such as this provides new protections for inmates and their well being. Correctional facilities and officers must be held accountable now more than ever, which is why I join the VA NAACP in supporting this crucial legislation. Thank you for your time, consideration, and work on behalf of equity for Virginians.

Last Name: Kenneke Locality: Oakton

Please vote YES on 2325!

Last Name: Kanoyton Locality: Hampton

VSC NAACP are in strong support of all checked bills

Last Name: Fox Organization: NAACP member Locality: Alexandria

Please vote for HB2325. Inmates’ needs are often not attended to and their family’s concerns are not heard because there is not currently an Ombudsman position in place in the VA Department of Corrections whose mission is to look out for them. Inmates need access to resources and a professional person (with an oversight committee) to provide those resources. Thank you.

Last Name: O'Neil Locality: RESTON

I urge you to vote YES!

Last Name: Lins Locality: Reston

Please vote YES on this bill HB 2325 to provide transparent justice to the imprisoned.

Last Name: Gardner Organization: Interfaith Action for Human Rights Locality: Springfield

Please vote yes on HB 2325, which would establish an independent oversight mechanism for the Department of Corrections (VADOC). From my work with incarcerated people in Virginia through Interfaith Action for Human Rights, I can vouch for the need for this legislation. Over the last 5 years, we and other advocates and family members have brought many allegations of abusive treatment in prisons to the attention of the leadership of the VADOC. In every instance, we have been told we have been misinformed and that the allegations have been investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. Yet no report of an investigation is ever provided to the prisoner, the prisoner's family, or outside advocates. There is currently no independent entity charged with overseeing the VADOC that can seek the truth regarding these allegations and provide accountability. If the VADOC has no concerns about transparency and accountability and is confident about being vindicated against allegations of staff misconduct, it should welcome independent oversight. Please do not allow this bill to be killed by an inflated financial impact statement. We know that Washington State implemented a very similar oversight mechanism at a cost of $1.5 million. There is no reason to think that it would cost more than this for Virginia to adopt a similar approach, and $1.5 million represents one-tenth of one percent of the VADOC’s annual budget. This money would be well spent if it could prevent costly future problems and lawsuits. Gay Gardner, Interfaith Action for Human Rights

Last Name: Stewart Organization: SOCIAL ACTION LINKING TOGETHER Locality: Fairfax County

As the Social Action Linking Together (SALT) Coordinator of Public Affairs, a Virginia voter, and a Virginia taxpayer, I urge you to support HB 2325, legislation that will provide protections for the incarcerated and staff, and encouraging them to report problems and seek the Ombudsman’s help. The legislation will: - Provide greater transparency and accountability to taxpayers - Help lawmakers get information they need to enact informed budgets and legislation - Prevent costly future problems and lawsuits - Encourage good behavior and improved performance at the DOC - Improve prison conditions and facilities for both staff and incarcerated people - Improve the DOC’s relationships with incarcerated people and their families by creating more help for receiving and resolving complaints. Submitted by Robert Stewart on 01.28.2021

Last Name: Duggan Organization: St. John Neumann Catholic Community Locality: Fairfax County

Please vote 'YES" on this bill.

Last Name: Belton Organization: SISTAS in PRISON REFORM Locality: Brockton

Covid has exposed the inhumane treatment of those incarcerated in VADOC. The sad part is the situation was already bad before Covid and no one cared. Since Harold Clarke and Sec Brian Moran have no plans to make a difference then someone independent of the VADOC needs to come in and monitor the situation. The incarcerated are people and deserve to be treated like people. It is time for accountability. Please pass this bill.

Last Name: Ross Organization: Inmate Support Virginia Locality: Virginia

Good morning, Just wanted to send a written statement also in Hopes to help you all understand how much HB2325 is needed! Thos bill will help the worker at the different facilities, the residents and the family members on the outside! It is heartbreaking they way they are treated at times , and as a family member you struggling to help help! I also want you to know that I personally appreciate you reading this and hope you voted YES if you didn’t I think it would be helpful for your constituents if you explain why!! Thank you again Frances Ross

Last Name: Williams Locality: Richmond

Department of Corrections has managed to shut off communication with family members and individuals who are incarcerated and have no one to answer to other than Harold Clark - who will respond IF he feels like it. We were told that Department of Corrections received no additional funding to facilitate the early release of individuals who were eligible for early release. COVID numbers rose, people were dying, staff was contracting and carrying the virus and no one would give any measure of transparency to the public. The same email would be sent out to families inquiring about their loved ones. I lost a close family friend due to COVID last year. He should've come home; he was elderly, he had cancer and he had less than a year left on his sentence. He had been moved to Deerfield Correctional Center, where he would never walk the streets as a free man again. He was not sentenced to die. His name was Teddy Bear to us; but to the state, he was just another number. Data was said to be inaccurate as put out to the public. Re-entry organizations were not given appropriate notice of how many people would be released into the community. The burden of providing services fell on grassroots organizations. People who are incarcerated have not been able to touch or see their loved ones for near a year and tensions are steadily increasing inside of the facilities across the state and we are still shut out. There is little to no communication; there is no one to keep track or report on health and safety issues or concerns inside of the facilities. They need someone who will oversee conditions and be a liaison between the DOC and the community. I support this bill and hope that this position can be created and maintained, even after this pandemic is over. Thank you for your time.

Last Name: Carter Organization: The Humanization Project Locality: Moneta, VA

I apologize that I cannot be there to speak in person in the morning. I am writing in support of HB 2325, and knowing this subcommittee, I trust that it should report to the full committee easily. Very simply, an entity that has dominion over the well-being and lives of tens of thousands of people should not be without some sort of oversight. That VADOC currently has no oversight is appalling. As the Humanization Project we are in touch with many people behind bars on a daily basis. For years we have seen the need for oversight, but as the current pandemic has progressed that need has become increasingly urgent. In 2020 we bore witness to so many appalling situations, from men being literally saran-wrapped into their cells and denied water to clandestine transfers and floods. We know, currently, if someone behind bars has a complaint, those complaints just remain within the department of corrections, often being submitted to the exact person who caused the complaint in the first place. Something more must be done. This isn't rocket science, nor do we need to reinvent the wheel. Other states have oversight for DOC and so should we. Issues surrounding costs are exaggerated. This should be simple and easy. Please vote to report HB 2325. Thank you!

Last Name: Gusman Organization: Virginia Justice Democrats Locality: Loudoun

HB 2325 would create much-needed independent oversight over the prison system by creating an office whose responsibility it is to inspect prisons, recommend and monitor improvements to prison conditions, and help resolve concerns of those who are incarcerated and employees. Virginia’s prison system, especially with conditions deteriorating as COVID continues to spread throughout its facilities, is long overdue for an accountibility mechanism. Prisons perpetuate a system of injustice. Decades of STRUCTURAL RACISM in criminal justice policies have created tremendous disparities in who gets imprisoned and for what. At minimum, racial and economic justice require stringent oversight for a system that disproportionately targets Black, Brown, and poor people. Monitoring conditions of confinement and providing assistance for self-advocacy for people behind bars is bare minimum in protecting prisoner’s rights—because prisoner’s rights are human rights and that cannot be forgotten. Pass this bill and then continue with efforts to END mass incarceration.

Last Name: Valerie Slater Organization: RISE for Youth, The Activated People Locality: Richmond

My name is Valerie Slater and I am the Executive Director of RISE for Youth and a Board member of The Activated People. I am writing in support HB 2325 which provides numerous protections for incarcerated people and staff. These protections encourage staff and incarcerated individuals alike to report problems and seek the Ombudsman’s help. Some protections provided in this bill are : - The creation of a confidential hotline and electronic complaint form that allows incarcerated people, families, and staff to submit complaints directly to the Ombudsman - IT bans retaliation by DOC officials against people who file complaints or report issues - It sets reasonable and prompt timelines for the Ombudsman to respond to complaints and - It allows the Ombudsman to work with DOC officials to resolve complaints. This bill provides responsible oversight and protection for the human rights of incarcerated individuals and DOC staff. For these reasons, RISE for Youth and The Activated People support this bill and ask that you committee members vote Yes on HB2325.

Last Name: Turner Locality: Harrisonburg

Early May of 2020 I got a phone call from my shocked son telling me he had been moved from a level 2 to a more dangerous level 4 facility. No explanation was given nor were any charges placed against him. When the transfer occurred, he was alone in a cell under quarantine as he was one of the first to be diagnosed with COVID 19. At the time I was the administrator of a Facebook page for his facility. The wife of the other man involved had sent a letter to state officials demanding changes. Criticism was growing on the page as time passed. They weren’t following CDC guidelines and families panicked when COVID cases increased. Phone calls and emails to wardens and those in higher command were ignored. In desperation we contacted Elliott Harding, a lawyer in Charlottesville who was willing to find out why the transfer was made. Courteney Stuart of CBS 19 News in Charlottesville did a series of 4 interviews that aired weekly in May. They described the story of the unusual transfer made during a pandemic. Our goal was to have our loved ones returned to a level 2 facility. By the end of May, Mr. Harding received the transfer papers from DOC. The documents showed 2 men were transferred who were in buildings where there were no alleged security violations. I believe the transfer was retaliation for criticism on Facebook of the prison’s conditions. They used the alleged safety violations by others as an excuse for the retaliation. They violated their own operating procedures by transferring during the pandemic to silence criticism of their handling of the COVID 19 outbreak. The second transfer came just days after the final documents arrived. On June 1st the DOC honored our only request and transferred our loved ones back to Level 2 facilities. Unfortunately, our story is not unique for DOC. If the Department of Corrections had had an independent oversight committee and ombudsman, we wouldn’t have needed a lawyer and the news media to help us. Please support this bill. Thank you.

HB2338 - Veterans; alerts for those missing who have a service-related health condition.
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