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Poll suggests some Virginians support criminal justice reform

In general, if you are found guilty of a serious crime in Virginia, you can expect to spend some time in prison. However, are sentences of lengthy incarceration always the best way to treat those who have committed a crime? One poll suggests that Virginia residents are starting to say “no.”

The ACLU of Virginia conducted a poll assessing residents’ opinions of the commonwealth’s criminal justice system. Of those polled, 65 percent reported that the criminal justice system in Virginia fails in its treatment of drug addicts and those with mental illnesses. 59 percent of respondents reported that the commonwealth failed in rehabilitating those who are incarcerated, so they can more effectively make the transition from imprisonment to re-entering society.

In addition, 71 percent of those polled stated that they believed that those who commit marijuana possession crimes should not be penalized, as long as the amount of marijuana a person possesses is small. This is significant as, according to ACLU data, across the U.S. people of color are four times more likely to be placed under arrest for possessing marijuana. The majority of respondents reported that Virginia should make efforts to fix inequities and that the commonwealth should invest more funds in providing those found guilty of crimes with opportunities for treatment, rehabilitation and job training.

This poll reflects the opinion of some that rehabilitation is preferred to incarceration, at least in certain circumstances. However, this is just one poll and it remains to be seen whether Virginia’s criminal justice system will be changed in any significant way. Those who have been charged with a crime will still want to make sure they understand their criminal defense options, so that they can present a strong argument that protects their best interests.

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