The Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program fights to decrease our clients’ contact with the criminal legal system, protect people who are incarcerated, and end mass incarceration.
More than 60,000 Virginians live behind bars, forcibly isolated from their communities and families. Thousands who are held in jails have not yet been convicted of any crime. Many of these human beings are sick or elderly, and the poor conditions and lack of adequate medical care in these facilities can turn a short stay into a death sentence for some. As part of the fight against mass incarceration, LAJC promotes reform of Virginia’s outdated and racist release mechanisms, including Virginia’s extraordinarily restrictive parole and medical clemency schemes. At the same time, LAJC works to protect some of Virginia’s most vulnerable incarcerated people through ongoing enforcement of the Scott v. Clarke settlement agreement, designed to ensure constitutionally-adequate medical care for Virginia’s sickest prisoners, the vast majority of whom are women.
Further, during the COVID-19 pandemic, LAJC has called on public officials to protect people incarcerated in Virginia’s jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers. We understand that prisons and jails are known amplifiers of infectious diseases, and measures to prevent their spread—such as social distancing—are nearly impossible in those conditions. We launched our Voices of the Incarcerated project to amplify the stories of people on the inside and their families. As members of the People’s Coalition, Richmond #FreeOurPeople Coalition, and COVID-19 Justice Coalition, we planned direct actions to demand release from and test at the Richmond City Jail, requested comprehensive COVID-19 response policies from public officials, and are supporting legislation to increase the number of people eligible for release during the pandemic.