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Panel calls for ‘paradigm shift’ in Virginia school-to-prison pipeline

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Schools have become places of trauma for students of color and help reinforce centuries of systemic racism by driving students into the criminal justice system, according to speakers at a recent University of Richmond symposium.

The UR School of Law hosted a six-hour event via Zoom with four presentations, nine panelists, and over 200 attendees. The event featured UR law students, educators, social justice advocates, and activists.

 

Suspension and expulsion are used disproportionately against Black students, other students of color, and those with disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Those punishments, along with arrests at school, often lead to students having a criminal record, according to the NAACP. The trend is known as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Julie McConnell, a UR law professor, said the origins of the school-to-prison pipeline are decades old. McConnell is the director of the university’s Children’s Defense Clinic, a program where law students represent indigent children in court.



The school-to-prison pipeline has been an issue for many years, but it began to take hold during the “super-predator era” in the 1990s, following incidents such as the Columbine High School shooting, McConnell said. The super-predator theory centered around fear there was going to be a wave of violent kids threatening communities and schools. The theory popularized strict zero-tolerance policies in schools.

“We would automatically suspend and expel kids who got in trouble in school for very minor offenses in many cases,” McConnell said.

She referenced a 2015 incident in South Carolina when a school resource officer tossed a student across a classroom after she refused to surrender her cellphone.

Zero tolerance policies mandate predetermined punishments for certain offenses in schools, including the possession of a weapon, alcohol, or drugs, according to Shared Justice. Minor offenses often punishable by suspension or expulsion include disorderly conduct and insubordination.

McConnell and other speakers discussed how punitive policies often drive students into incarceration, as some offenses previously handled within schools are now dealt with by juvenile courts. McConnell said suspending minors results in higher rates of dropout, mental health problems, delinquency, and substance abuse issues.

Virginia lawmakers have worked to return punishment back to the schools. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, sponsored two measures that passed the Virginia General Assembly last year. Students cannot be charged with disorderly conduct during school, on buses, or at school-sponsored events. School principals no longer have to report student acts that constitute a misdemeanor to law enforcement, such as an assault on school property, including on a bus or at a school-sponsored event.

Valerie Slater, executive director for the RISE for Youth Coalition, said there are disproportionate rates of suspension in Virginia. RISE for Youth is a campaign focused on dismantling the youth prison model.

Black youths from ages 15 to 17 made up 21% of the state’s overall population during the 2016-2017 school year, but they accounted for 57% of youths suspended statewide, according to a 2019 Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis and RISE for Youth report. Black teens also made up 49% of Virginia minors reported to juvenile courts by school authorities and 54% of minors detained in local jails, according to the same report.

The country’s history of racial bias and discriminatory practices have enabled the school-to-prison pipeline, speakers said.

One panel focused on Richmond’s history of segregated housing trends, such as the illegal practice of redlining. That is when creditworthy applicants are denied housing loans based on the applicants’ race or neighborhood where they lived. White students as a result were concentrated in wealthier suburban areas and Black students in underprivileged urban centers, said panelist Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, an associate professor of educational leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“We can easily see the vestiges of this history just in the way that we assign students to schools,” said panelist Kathy Mendes, a research assistant at the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

Mendes said children of color from under-resourced areas often attend schools with insufficient resources.

Panelist Rachael Deane, legal director of Legal Aid Justice Center’s JustChildren program, said communities of color are “incredibly over-policed.” Community policing of these areas spills into schools, exposing children of color to constant surveillance by school resource officers, Deane said.

Heavy policing in schools does not effectively prevent juvenile delinquency, speakers said. Zero tolerance policies fail to consider the mental well-being of disadvantaged children. Children with behavioral problems may experience external stressors such as high rates of neighborhood crime, domestic violence, and extreme poverty.

“If you never got into the issue of why a student was fighting, then you are doing nothing but delaying another fight after suspending them,” said Rodney Robinson, winner of the 2019 National Teacher of the Year award. Robinson is a 19-year teaching veteran of Richmond Public Schools.

Schools need to replace school resource officers with mental health counselors, and teach students how to cope with trauma rather than driving them out of schools, Robinson said.

Robinson said he witnessed the severity of the school-to-prison pipeline issue while teaching convicted juveniles at Virgie Binford Education Center. He said there is a need for reformative school programs.

“To me, it wasn’t about the school-to-prison pipeline, it’s a school-to-cemetery pipeline,” Robinson said. “Because if you’re failing these kids, and they’re not graduating, and they’re ending up in such horrible conditions, then eventually they will end up a victim of street violence.”

Educator bias against students of color needs to be eliminated, Robinson said. He said teachers should understand how their privilege may affect how they view students.

Valerie L’Herrou, a Virginia Poverty Law Center staff attorney, said she feels “hopeful” about recent racial justice protests. L’Herrou said the protests showed more people are open to reexamining their privilege and role in maintaining racist structures.

Siegel-Hawley and other speakers proposed altering schools’ rezoning criteria in order to fully desegregate Richmond communities.

Slater encouraged leaders to focus on the “roots” over the “symptoms” of the school-to-prison pipeline and to create programs to permanently rehabilitate children and communities.

Educational funding needs to be equally distributed throughout the commonwealth, Slater said. She also proposed expanding the definition of school resource officers to include other forms of support such as credible messengers. Credible messengers are individuals who have passed through the justice system, transformed their lives, and provide preventative support to at-risk youth, according to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

“It is time for a paradigm shift in Virginia,” Slater said. “It is time to realize that a healthy, thriving community is the greatest deterrent to justice system involvement.”

By Christina Amano Dolan
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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Thanksgiving holiday weekend crashes claim four lives

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Over the 2021 Thanksgiving statistical counting period, preliminary data shows that there were four fatal traffic crashes in Virginia. This is the lowest number of traffic fatalities during Thanksgiving in more than a decade.

“Although even one life lost is a tragedy, this Thanksgiving has given us something to truly be thankful for,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Patience, keeping your attention on the road and buckling up are the anecdote to the record number of traffic fatalities we have seen the past two years. This Thanksgiving, the number of people issued summons for reckless driving and seatbelts were down compared to last year, even though we know more people were on the roads. This brings home the point, that if we all do our part on the road everyone can have a safe holiday.”

In total, during the five-day period, which began at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 24, 2021 and concluded at midnight Nov. 28, 2021, four people lost their lives to traffic crashes in Virginia. The fatal crashes occurred in the counties of Albemarle, Chesterfield, Fairfax and Spotsylvania. Of those crashes, one involved a pedestrian and one was not wearing a seatbelt.

This is a decrease from 2020 when there were 12 traffic fatalities during the five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period. This is also the lowest number of traffic fatalities during the counting period in more than a decade. *


In an effort to prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police participated in Operation C.A.R.E. – Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is an annual, state-sponsored, national program during which state police increases its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period.

The 2021 Thanksgiving Holiday CARE initiative resulted in troopers citing 5,127 speeders and 1,565 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia troopers arrested 65 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 477 drivers for failing to buckle up themselves and/or juvenile passengers.

State police responded to 1,273 traffic crashes across the Commonwealth, with 139 of those resulting in injuries. State police also assisted 1,151 disabled/stranded motorists during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Funds generated from summonses issued by Virginia State Police go directly to court fees and the state’s Literary Fund, which benefits public school construction, technology funding and teacher retirement.

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Governor Northam: ‘These Four Years Mean One Thing for Transportation’

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Governor Ralph Northam today told transportation industry leaders that he will turn over to Virginia’s new governor a comprehensive multi-modal transportation system that is dramatically stronger and more forward-looking than ever before.

“These four years mean one thing for transportation—you’ll be able to get to work, back home, and travel around Virginia faster, safer, and easier,” said Governor Northam. “We have put in place once-in-a-generation investments that are making the Commonwealth better for people, goods, and the environment. I am proud of our strong partnerships and the hard work our agencies are doing to deliver these crucial improvements on time and on budget.”

Northam spoke at the three-day annual Governor’s Transportation Conference that brings together transportation industry leaders and policymakers to discuss major issues facing the industry. The Governor and Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine reviewed the major progress made over the past four years.

“Virginia’s historic transportation achievements have revolutionized travel, and it was my honor to discuss our progress at the Governor’s Transportation Conference today,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “We are using every asset available to provide Virginians with improvements in rail, roads, bridges, and more. The Commonwealth’s forward-thinking approach is creating safe and efficient infrastructure that will meet the demand of many generations to come.”



These groundbreaking improvements in transportation infrastructure were largely made possible by the passage of the Omnibus Transportation Bill. The bill addressed the sustainability of transportation revenues, providing the largest transportation funding increase in a generation. It also established the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and authorized bonds to improve Interstate 81.

Transforming Rail in Virginia
The Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative is the Commonwealth’s answer to growing traffic congestion. The population of Virginia is expected to grow from 8.5 million to 10 million over the next 25 years, with 20 percent of that growth expected in Northern Virginia, only compounding congestion problems and putting more pressure on the transportation network. Increases in passenger rail service are meeting the growing demand, not only among Virginians but throughout the eastern seaboard as an alternative to traveling the heavily congested I-95 corridor.

As part of the initiative, Governor Northam announced agreements with Amtrak, CSX, and Virginia Railway Express, launching a $3.7 billion investment to expand and improve passenger, commuter, and freight rail in Virginia and create a vital connection in America’s national rail network between the Northeast and Southeast corridors.

The agreement includes plans for the construction of a new $1.9 billion “Long Bridge” over the Potomac River dedicated to passenger rail, acquisition of 386 miles of the railroad right-of-way and 223 miles of track from CSX, and an investment of more than $1 billion in additional infrastructure improvements by the Commonwealth. These investments are allowing Virginia to expand Amtrak and VRE services, create a pathway for the separation of freight and passenger rail in Virginia, and preserve future rail corridors.

Governor Northam also announced an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway this spring to extend passenger rail service to the New River Valley for the first time since 1979. This agreement is increasing intercity passenger rail service from Roanoke to the Northeast Corridor. The agreement includes both an increase of existing service and expansion of service to the New River Valley.

Investing in Metro’s State of Good Repair
Governor Northam negotiated a landmark bipartisan agreement that is providing Metro with a dedicated source of revenue for the first time in the system’s history. The Metro system is vitally important to the economy and commuters, and this funding ensures that Metro can continue to provide necessary services to the people who rely on it every day. Virginia secured $500 million annual funding dedicated to rebuilding the aging system. Metro must provide annual reports on performance and safety to continue receiving these funds.

Expanding the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel
Significant improvements along major road corridors are being implemented across the Commonwealth, including one of the largest transportation investments in the Commonwealth’s history—the expansion of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. The $3.8 billion project is increasing tunnel and interstate capacity along 9.9 miles of Interstate 64 between Hampton and Norfolk, reducing congestion and easing access to the Port of Virginia and the world’s largest Naval base. This work also aligns with efforts to implement a 44-mile Hampton Roads Express Lanes Network.

Addressing the Worst Highway Bottleneck in Virginia
Governor Northam announced a bipartisan agreement with Maryland that is creating a unified Capital Beltway, replacing the aging American Legion Bridge, and relieving congestion at one of the country’s worst traffic chokepoints. The project is expected to cut commuting time in half for many travelers, create a reliable transit option, reduce congestion in the regular lanes by 25 percent, provide 40 percent more lane capacity over the old bridge, and include bicycle and pedestrian paths across the Potomac River. The collaboration with Maryland allows for uninterrupted improved travel between and around the two states.

Expanding the Port of Virginia
Virginia is now home to one of the most modern and technologically advanced ports in North America. The $670 million expansion of the Port of Virginia has positioned the Commonwealth as a gateway to global markets. Virginia secured a federal permit and authorized state funding to dredge the Port of Virginia to 55 feet—the deepest Port on the East Coast, allowing access for larger ships.

The expansion of the Port has increased the capacity of ships we are able to process, with record-setting volumes. Because of these strategic investments in advanced technology, Virginia has been able to avoid the shipping backlog that is affecting ports around the world.

Improving Highways
Interstate 81 is a significant highway in Virginia, connecting western and Southwest Virginia residents. The interstate is also a major corridor for trucking and freight, carrying $300 billion in commerce and goods each year. In recent years, Virginians raised concerns about safety and reliability, so Governor Northam dedicated billions to make improvements and secure a steady source of funding for I-81. The Interstate 81 Improvement Plan will reduce crashes and alleviate points of congestion. The funding also included additional funding to support improvement projects along I-95 and I-64.

 

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AG Herring files amicus brief to support Biden-Harris Administration rule broadening the scope of Title X family planning grants

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RICHMOND (November 30, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed an amicus brief in Ohio v. Becerra in support of the new Title X rule promulgated in 2021 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that removes harmful restrictions put in place by the Trump Administration. The new rule will result in the distribution of Title X funds to a greater number of family planning and related preventive health service providers that deliver care to millions of low-income or uninsured individuals and others. Attorney General Herring has joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in filing the amicus brief.

Title X is the only federal grant program that funds family planning and counseling programs to help patients access contraception, as well as breast and cervical cancer screenings, screenings and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, and other related health services.

“Title X has been instrumental in giving women in low-income communities access to family planning programs, and preventative and reproductive healthcare, but unfortunately, with its ‘gag rule’ the Trump Administration worked hard to limit a woman’s ability to make her own choices about her body,” said Attorney General Herring. “The Biden-Harris Administration’s new Title X rule will remove those harmful Trump-era restrictions and distribute Title X funding to a greater number of healthcare providers, in turn helping more families across the country. I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting this new Title X rule that will give low-income and uninsured individuals in Virginia and around the country better access to healthcare.”

Attorney General Herring’s brief supports the new HHS rule, issued in 2021, that broadens the scope of federal grants under Title X, in part, by eliminating the harmful provisions of the 2019 Trump Administration rule — also known as the “gag rule.” The 2019 rule 1) imposed onerous requirements for physical separation between abortion and non-abortion services at clinics that provided abortion services and 2) prohibited clinicians from providing referrals to abortion providers, even when directly requested by the patient. By contrast, under HHS’s new 2021 rule, Title X funds can, once again, go to clinics that do not physically separate non-abortion and abortion services, and that provide referrals to abortion providers at a patient’s request. The coalition’s brief argues for the court to reject a request by a group of plaintiff states for a preliminary injunction of the 2021 rule.


Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the plaintiffs’ proposed injunction would put patients and providers in harm’s way by returning to the 2019 Trump Administration rule, which caused dramatic loss of Title X providers and a substantial decrease in patient visits and health care services provided. Underserved communities were especially impacted by the loss of essential care, particularly low-income individuals, minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, individuals living with disabilities, minors, and those living in rural areas.

The 2021 HHS rule allows lost providers to reenter the Title X program and improves client outcomes by providing greater access to and a wider range of health care services and promotes health equity by emphasizing efforts to reach underserved communities.

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues have fought hard to protect Title X funding. In March 2019, Attorney General Herring sued the Trump Administration challenging the constitutionality of its Title X “Gag Rule” that restricted healthcare providers that receive certain federal funds from counseling or making referrals for abortion. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the new “gag rule”, Attorney General Herring filed a petition that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. Separately, Attorney General Herring filed an amicus brief in a different lawsuit brought by the city of Baltimore against the Trump Administration’s Title X rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down the rule – enjoining it in Maryland while it remained in place across the rest of the nation – after which the Trump Administration filed its own petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. In March 2021, the coalitions in both cases joined with the Biden-Harris Administration to ask the Supreme Court to dismiss both cases, while the Biden-Harris Administration acted to rescind and replace the rule. In May 2021, the Supreme Court entered the order to dismiss both cases and denied efforts by additional parties to step in and defend the gag rule. At the same time, Attorney General Herring sent a comment letter to HHS applauding the agency’s proposed rule to undo the harmful, Trump-era Title X “gag rule.”

Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

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Governor Northam celebrates major advances to clean Chesapeake Bay

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Governor Ralph Northam announced on November 30, 2021, the completion of the largest oyster restoration project in the country, in Virginia’s Piankatank and the Great Wicomico rivers. Oysters are a critical natural component of Virginia’s work to clean the Chesapeake Bay, as one oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. The Bay is the largest estuary in the United States with a watershed that encompasses six states that are home to more than 18 million people.

Thanks to investments made under Governor Northam, Virginia now provides more funding for the Bay than under any previous Governor, investing more than $756 million in funding to help farmers, localities, and wastewater treatment operations reduce pollution from nutrients and sediment.

Virginia has been working to restore the native oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay with one of the largest and most elaborate plans in the nation. Virginia has fully restored four tributaries: the Lafayette, the Eastern branch of the Elizabeth, the Piankatank, and the Great Wicomico. Oyster populations are restored by constructing new reefs and planting young oysters to create new ecosystems.

“As someone who grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, I could not be more proud of the progress Virginia has made,” said Governor Northam. “This administration has invested $10 million for oyster restoration during the past four years. Several years ago, Virginia joined other states on the Chesapeake Bay watershed and agreed to conduct a series of clean-up measures by a deadline of 2025. Today’s announcement is a major step in achieving the goals in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The investments we make in our natural resources—and our environmental stewardship—are paying off.”


Over the past two years, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission deployed more than 50,000 tons of rock and nearly 100,000 bushels of shell to restore 127 acres of oyster habitat in the Piankatank. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission also deployed more than 12,000 tons of rock and 14,000 bushels of shell to restore 24 acres of oyster habitat in the Great Wicomico River.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission set a record this year with 100 acres for the most oyster reef acres restored in a single year. The Piankatank River oyster restoration effort is the largest restoration project that has been completed in the country.

“We can all be grateful for Governor Northam’s historic investment in oyster restoration efforts across the Chesapeake Bay,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Ann Jennings. “Thanks to his leadership and committed partners, our goal to restore native oyster habitat in the Bay is a reality. This success also stems from a diligent, science-based plan and a coalition of dedicated partners. The continuing improvement in water quality and an increasing number of oysters in these rivers shows what we can do when we all work together as partners.”

The Commonwealth worked collaboratively on oyster restoration with federal, non-profit, and shellfish industry partners including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Elizabeth River Project, Lynnhaven River Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Nature Conservancy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and W.E. Kellum Seafood.

“These restored rivers will provide hundreds of acres of habitat for not just oysters but various other commercially and recreationally important fish and wildlife that depend on a thriving Chesapeake Bay including Virginia’s striped bass and blue crabs,” said Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner Steve Bowman. “What we have been able to accomplish will benefit Virginia for future generations to come.”

“The success of the Piankatank River oyster restoration project is a great testament to the positive benefits of environmental interest, Commonwealth of Virginia, and Federal partners working side by side with the Virginia oyster industry to enhance the sustainability of the oyster resource,” said Kellum Seafood Vice President Tommy Kellum. “The Virginia oyster industry is very proud to have been a part of this important effort.”

“Oysters are a keystone species in the Bay,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner. “Restoring oysters in Virginia’s rivers is an investment in clean water and healthy fisheries that will benefit our children and future generations. This dramatic progress is an important example of what can be achieved with successful partnerships among local, state, and federal agencies and other stakeholders. We are grateful for the leadership of Governor Northam and for the General Assembly’s long-standing bipartisan commitment to the Chesapeake Bay, which has made the success of oyster restoration on these rivers possible.”

“The Nature Conservancy engages in shellfish restoration around the world,” said The Nature Conservancy State Director Locke Ogens. “From Australia to Europe, our global shellfish restoration colleagues and partners look to the Chesapeake Bay as the model for how to get the large-scale restoration done, and done right.”

This milestone marks the third and fourth Chesapeake Bay tributaries in Virginia to reach the goal for full restoration of the oyster habitat as part of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Under the agreement, Virginia committed to restoring five tributaries. Recently Governor Northam added a sixth Bay tributary, the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth, so Virginia will exceed its restoration agreement.

Governor Northam’s term has also seen improvements in striped bass numbers through tough limits on recreational and commercial fishing and a shift in the management of menhaden to the state’s fishery experts. In addition, Governor Northam’s leadership has ensured that climate change will be taken into consideration by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s Tidal Wetlands Protection Program and that living shorelines are now mandated as the preferred shoreline protection method.

Governor Northam is the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council. The Council will meet next on December 15.

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Herring argues that Congress intended sentencing reform legislation to correct prior injustices, improve public safety, and save taxpayer money

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RICHMOND (November 23, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of 17 attorneys general in urging the Supreme Court not to restrict the resentencing relief that individuals serving harsh sentences can seek under the First Step Act, landmark criminal justice reform legislation passed by Congress in 2018.

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed an amicus brief in Concepcion v. United States, a case concerning what information a court may consider when deciding whether to reduce a harsh sentence for a prior crack cocaine offense under the First Step Act. Specifically, the coalition argues that courts should be able to consider intervening changes to the law since the original sentence was imposed, and intervening changes in a defendant’s factual circumstances, such as good behavior in prison or evidence of rehabilitation. The coalition points to a universal consensus that the former federal sentencing regime, which disproportionately punished crack cocaine offenders over powder cocaine offenders, was unjust and had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. The brief also explains how state-level sentencing reforms analogous to the First Step Act have improved public safety and saved billions of dollars and contends that limiting the scope of the First Step Act would deprive both states and the federal government of similar benefits.

“The passage of the First Step Act helped to create a more fair, just, and equal criminal justice system in this country, and we must ensure that those reforms remain in place,” said Attorney General Herring. “When resentencing eligible Americans under the Act, it’s so important for courts to be able to consider intervening changes in the law or in the individual’s factual circumstances to make the most accurate and fair decision. My top priority will always be to ensure justice, equality, and opportunity in Commonwealth and around the country.”

In the 1980s, states and the federal government responded to the prevalence of crack cocaine and public panic about its supposedly unique dangers with aggressive penalties and targeted criminalization. Federal sentencing laws treated crack cocaine much more harshly than powder cocaine, with 100 times as much powder cocaine as crack cocaine needed to trigger the same penalties.


Harsh penalties for crack cocaine exacerbated racial inequality in the justice system. Historically approximately 60 percent of crack users in a given year have been white, but the majority of people sentenced for crack cocaine offenses have been Black or Hispanic. For example, in 2006, around 80% of those convicted of crack offenses were Black. In part because of dramatically harsher treatment of crack cocaine offenses, the average prison time for Black people convicted of drug offenses increased by more than 77% from 1994 to 2003, compared to an increase of less than 33% for white people convicted of drug offenses.

In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act to reduce the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine. The First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill passed in 2018, included a provision that made the Fair Sentencing Act’s reforms retroactive, allowing those serving harsh sentences imposed under the former federal law to seek relief.

In their amicus brief filed in Concepcion v. United States, the attorneys general urge the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s decision dramatically limiting what courts may consider when resentencing otherwise eligible individuals under the First Step Act. Relying on their historical experience addressing the crack cocaine crisis and their unique authority as the primary enforcers of criminal law, the states argue that during First Step Act resentencing, courts should be allowed to consider intervening changes in the law and facts because:

There is consensus that applying dramatically harsher sentences for crack cocaine offenses over powder cocaine offenses was unnecessary and unjust: When Congress was drafting the First Step Act, states had uniformly concluded that the extreme differential between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine was both unwarranted and unwise. Assumptions about crack cocaine’s unique danger and addictiveness—which informed the original decisions to impose harsher sentences—have been discredited, and there is now widespread consensus that crack cocaine and powder cocaine have similar effects.

Sentencing reform has been shown to improve public safety and save tax dollars: States have experimented with sentencing reforms and reduced sentences for drug-related offenses for decades and have seen these reforms improve public safety, strengthen communities, and decrease recidivism. These reforms have also saved states billions of dollars. Congress passed the First Step Act to realize these benefits at the federal level, and the Act should be interpreted in a manner consistent with that aim.

The First Step Act was intended to right historic wrongs: Congress passed the First Step Act in part to correct fundamental injustices in federal cocaine sentencing laws and address the severe racial disparities created by the prior sentencing regime. Sentencing reform is a powerful tool to help correct the extreme over-incarceration of racial minorities for drug-related crimes and promote racial justice. So far, 96% of those granted sentence reductions under the First Step Act have been Black or Hispanic. It would make little sense to require courts to limit the factors they consider in resentencing and apply old rules no longer on the books—including rules rejected by Congress, the courts, and the Sentencing Commission—when Congress passed the First Step Act specifically to correct the unjust and racially disparate sentences brought on by the old regime.

Joining Attorney General Herring in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general from Colorado, Colorado, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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Virginia State Police urging motorists to be patient and put safety first this Thanksgiving

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For many Virginians, Thanksgiving is time to gather with friends and family, commiserate over the trials and tribulations of the previous year and to be truly thankful for blessings around us. These wonderful family moments often start with loading up the car and heading down the road. AAA predicts that 1.4 million Virginians will be traveling for the holiday, which is 11% more motorists than in 2020. With many of those travelers taking to the roadways, patience might be the most important thing to pack.

“With traffic on the roads increasing and many people anxious to get to their destination, I encourage all Virginians to be patient. Buckle up and take your time,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Your family wants you to arrive safely and in a frame of mind to enjoy all the holiday has to offer. Making sure you are driving the posted speed limit, driving for conditions and wearing your seatbelt are the best ways to stay safe on the road, so you can enjoy the holiday.”

To further prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police will once again be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. – Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. As part of the state-sponsored, national program, state police will be increasing its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period that begins at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, and concludes at midnight Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021.

The 2020 Thanksgiving Operation C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 4,930 speeders and 1,706 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia troopers charged 67 drivers for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 498 drivers for failing to buckle up themselves and/or juvenile passengers.


There were 12 traffic fatalities during the 2020 five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period and eight traffic fatalities during the same period in 2019.

This year, the Thanksgiving Holiday C.A.R.E. initiative falls within the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign. This helps to further emphasize the lifesaving value of seat belts for every person in a vehicle.

With increased patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.

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4
Sat
10:00 am Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Dec 4 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie at Strokes of Creativity. Tickets: CLICK HERE Cost: $80 for 6 weeks Dates: Thursdays – Oct 21, Oct 28, Nov 4, Nov 11, Nov 18, Dec 4 Time: 10 am[...]
1:00 pm The Nutcracker 2021 @ Skyline High School
The Nutcracker 2021 @ Skyline High School
Dec 4 @ 1:00 pm – 7:00 pm
The Nutcracker 2021 @ Skyline High School
Italia Performing Arts is pleased to announce its own student production of the seasonal ballet The Nutcracker, to be presented in Front Royal, VA, on Saturday, December 4th, 2021. 1:00 and 5:00 pm Tickets: $35[...]
4:30 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 4 @ 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meets in the Historic Area behind Mount Bleak. Discover our International Dark Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and[...]
Dec
5
Sun
4:00 pm Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ First Baptist Church of Winchester
Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ First Baptist Church of Winchester
Dec 5 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ First Baptist Church of Winchester
Sunday, December 5, 2021 4:00pm First Baptist Church of Winchester 205 West Piccadilly St. | Winchester, VA 22601 COVID-19 Guidelines: Masks are required for attendees Friday, December 10, 2021 7:30pm Front Royal United Methodist Church[...]
6:30 pm Annual Christmas Concert @ Riverton United Methodist Church
Annual Christmas Concert @ Riverton United Methodist Church
Dec 5 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Annual Christmas Concert @ Riverton United Methodist Church
Riverton Church Symphonic Winds present their Annual Christmas Concert at Riverton UMC on Sunday, December 5, 2021, at 6:30pm. Donations collected to benefit local homeless ministry.
Dec
8
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 8 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Dec
10
Fri
7:00 pm Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
Dec 10 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key @ Skyline Middle School
Dancing By His Grace Classical Ballet Ensemble presents Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key, featuring selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, at the Skyline Middle School in Front Royal, Virginia. Join us for our original[...]
7:30 pm Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Dec 10 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Friday, December 10, 2021 7:30pm Front Royal United Methodist Church 1 West Main Street | Front Royal, VA 22630 COVID-19 Guidelines: Masks are required for attendees Sunday, December 12, 2021 4:00pm Trinity Episcopal Church 9108[...]
Dec
11
Sat
2:00 pm Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
Dec 11 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key @ Skyline Middle School
Dancing By His Grace Classical Ballet Ensemble presents Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key, featuring selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, at the Skyline Middle School in Front Royal, Virginia. Join us for our original[...]