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.

During the 2017 General Assembly session we supported legislation to provide alternatives to the state’s suspension of drivers’ licenses for nonpayment of court fees. We’re glad to say that Del. Loupassi’s legislation to provide payment plans for fines and court fees was approved and signed into law by Governor McAuliffe.

We also are in favor of raising the Commonwealth’s threshold for felony theft from $200, where it languished since 1980. During the 2018 session of the General Assembly, VICPP worked to help get a bill passed that raised the threshold from $200 to $500, and that bill was recently signed into law by Governor Northam. We believe that the threshold should be $1,000 or even $1,500, but it’s a start. As Gov. Northam told our audience at the 2018 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. Often judges are hesitant to send those convicted of non-violent crimes to jail, but lack options for community service. Please explore our Alternative Community Service Toolkit on the website to see ways in which your community of faith could develop opportunities for judges to have available to them as alternatives to sending people to jail.