The Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program (CRRJ) works to end the criminalization of poverty in Virginia by exposing and addressing criminal legal system policies that target people because of poverty and race. Through a mix of community organizing, local and statewide policy advocacy, and litigation, our program intervenes at every point in the criminal legal system. Our campaigns range from initial law enforcement contact in the community, through the courts, to individuals’ confinement in Virginia’s jails and prisons, and finally to their reentry into the community.
We fight to:
- Eliminate unjustified law enforcement contact with people of color in the community;
- Ensure courts are fair for low-income people and people of color;
- Protect vulnerable people held in our jails and prisons; and
- Eliminate barriers to housing, jobs, and other sources of stability for low-income and people of color returning home from jail and prison.
Our initiatives include:
- Advocating for pretrial justice. Virginia’s pretrial system, in which bail decisions are made, produces unnecessary pretrial detention rife with racial and economic disparities. We advocate for comprehensive reform across the entire pretrial system to ensure just pretrial outcomes for all people.
- Fighting mass incarceration and seeking protections for incarcerated Virginians. We continue to enforce a settlement agreement with the Virginia Department of Corrections over unconstitutional medical care at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women as well as promote reforms to shrink Virginia’s bloated prison and jail populations.
- Building community power and ending police misconduct through civilian oversight. We support community leaders in their work for broader police accountability.
- Helping low-income Virginians, many of whom are people of color, access employment, housing, and educational opportunities by expunging their criminal records. Although Virginia law limits the types of cases that can be expunged, even the removal of a dismissed criminal case from a background check can help a person land a job or apartment that wasn’t previously available to them.
- Assisting low-income Virginians, many of whom are people of color, trapped by Virginia’s burdensome because of their inability to pay criminal and traffic court fines and costs. We collaborate with community members and stakeholders to dismantle discriminatory court debt policies and practices that punish people for their poverty and cause hardship for their families.