The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy believes in mercy and compassion. Our faith traditions recognize that we all sin and transgress from both God’s laws and human laws, and yet we believe in the fundamental power of forgiveness, redemption and restoration. VICPP recognizes that the U.S. has a crisis of mass incarceration. Instead of educating our youth, attacking poverty and eliminating racial barriers to jobs, the U.S. (and Virginia) has imprisoned and destroyed too many young people of color.
VICPP believes that those who have committed crimes should have the opportunity to redeem themselves, find work that can support them and their families and restore their access to the benefits of society. VICPP seeks a prison system that is more focused on rehabilitation than punishment.
A clear and tragic example of this are suspension of drivers’ licenses for nonpayment of court fees instead of using constructive measures which allow the individual to hold a valid license. VICPP believes that Virginia should restore drivers’ licenses for low-income people who have had them suspended primarily because they are unable to pay the court fines and fees, and we worked to get legislation approved during the 2017 session of the General Assembly that is enabling that to happen.
VICPP also is in favor of raising the Commonwealth’s threshold for felony theft from $200, where it’s been since 1980. During the 2018 session of the GA, a bill raising the nation’s lowest felony threshold from $200 to $500 was approved and signed by Governor Northam. We believe the threshold should be $1,000 or even $1,500, but this recent change was a good start. As the Governor told us at our Day for All People, things in Virginia “happen in stages.”
Finally, we are working to explore ways congregations can assist courts in developing community service programs as alternatives to jail time.