Virginians Finally Recognizing The Idiocy Of Creating A Felon State

police handcuffing a man

On March 18, the Richmond Times Dispatch held a public Square forum to address the high number of convicted felons in the commonwealth.

At this seminar, Richmond's top prosecutor Mike Herring voiced frustration with the current legal system. He indicated frustration by state law making minor theft and small drug possessions punishable with felony convictions. Herring has given frontline prosecutors discretion to reduce certain felony charges. As a result, of those charged with ridiculous felony offenses must often hope that their attorney can convince a prosecutor to impose a "legal fiction." A good prosecutor has a moral compass that allows him to determine whether or not specific decisions are really being made in the interests of public safety.

Some jurisdictions remain unwilling to address the lunacy of Virginia felony laws. Virginia has the fourth highest percentages of citizens that are convicted felons. This is in contrast to the state ranking 34th in crime rate. Clearly the state's penchant for permanently labeling citizens as felons is disproportionate with the state's mandate to protect its law abiding citizens.

Felons suffer a wide range of penalties. An American Bar Association study identified more than 38,000 punitive provisions that apply to people convicted of crimes. Felons lose rights associated with everything from voting, public housing benefits, to occupational licenses. More than two-thirds of the states allow hiring and professional-licensing decisions to be made on the basis of mere felony arrests. A 2010 study by the Center for Economic Policy and research concluded that the US employment economy loses $57-65 billion dollars a year in the form of lost output of goods and services from people that are denied opportunities due to their criminal history.

Generally, Virginia felony convictions cannot be erased or expunged. Some Virginia jurisdictions are gradually learning that intelligent prosecution does not mean heartless prosecution. Smart voters are becoming aware that being "tough on crime" is not incompatible with compassion and common sense. Good criminal defense attorney's make every effort to not allow their clients to be permanently branded with the life-long shackle of a felony conviction.

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