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For all Virginians

Gillespie Announces Criminal Justice Plan

Pledges Tough, Fair, AND Smart Reforms for Virginia

2017 Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie today announced a detailed plan designed to bring tough, fair, and smart reforms to Virginia’s criminal justice system. As governor, Gillespie will work to ensure that law-abiding Virginians are protected from criminals and all forms of victimization. He also recognizes that most inmates will one day be released, so it is right and smart to work toward a successful reentry back into society. This is Gillespie’s fifteenth major policy announcement in his campaign, and eleventh since becoming his party’s nominee.

Speaking about the plan Ed Gillespie said, “Virginia’s criminal justice system should be just, fair and redeeming. Law enforcement and justice should be administered fairly, and when Virginians exit the criminal justice system they should leave more prepared to live a full and contributing life in society.”

“Expanding safe, legal access to CBD oil and medical marijuana for seriously ill patients gives doctors another option and ensures patients aren’t forced to choose between receiving treatment and following the law,” added Republican Nominee for Lieutenant Governor Senator Jill Vogel. “I’m proud to have taken the lead in introducing legislation in Virginia’s Senate helping expand safe, legal access for patients in need and look forward to working with my party as an advocate for this much-needed policy reform.”

“As a former federal prosecutor I have seen first hand the importance of our judicial system, as well as the impact committing a crime has on someone’s life,” said Republican Nominee for Attorney General John Adams. “Job one of the attorney general is keeping Virginians safe. That includes getting serious about the dramatic rise in violent crime and gang activity we are seeing in communities around Virginia. But we also must be proactive to keep people from committing crimes in the first place and ensuring that those who have are ready to be productive members of society after they have served their time. Ed’s plan is a smart approach to keeping people out of jail and preparing those who are being released to reenter our communities and not be repeat offenders.”

“Ed Gillespie’s thoughtful and detailed approach to criminal justice reform is important to Virginians across the Commonwealth,” said Speaker Bill Howell. “Ed’s policy approach is specific, fair, and smart. He will a strong governor for all Virginians.”

Congressman Tom Garrett said, “Ed has crafted a well-rounded approach to addressing three vital stages of our criminal justice system. As a former Commonwealth’s Attorney, I have seen the negative impact that drug addiction and crime have on a community, but I’ve also recognized the need for reforms to a system that oftentimes proves to be antiquated and unforgiving. Ed’s willingness to embrace the medicinal use of Cannabis is a sign of hope to thousands of patients and parents throughout the Commonwealth who are faced with limited options for treatment. These men, women, and children shouldnt be made to feel like criminals for merely wanting the freedom to choose what’s best for them or their children without government interference. I am proud to support his agenda for opening access to these proven methods and hope our Republican General Assembly and my colleagues in the 115th Congress will join our cause.”

Over the last several months, Gillespie has hosted roundtable discussions and criminal justice listening sessions across the Commonwealth. Today’s roundtable discussion was held at Ronn Cutts Barber Shop in Downtown Richmond. In June, Gillespie participated in a barbershop talk about the opioid epidemic at the same small business.

Gillespie’s Criminal Justice Reform: Tough, Fair, AND Smart: 

Marijuana Possession: Three Strikes and You’re In

Ed opposes legalizing marijuana, and believes we should continue to treat marijuana use seriously, particularly for children and teens.  The Virginia State Crime Commission is currently studying decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana. Ed will direct his cabinet to examine the Commission’s findings.

As governor, Ed will support legislation to reform Virginia’s simple marijuana possession laws. Under “Three Strikes and You’re In,” a person arrested for simple possession of marijuana would not be criminally charged with possession until the third instance. This policy will reduce the number of Virginians who enter the criminal justice system and help to get treatment to more people. Data show significant racial disparities in marijuana charges, this policy will help address them by providing opportunities to avoid entry into the criminal justice system and encouraging people to get help and reconsider their choices.

Reassessing our priorities must not become a pretext for reducing law enforcement resources or abandoning the fight against drug abuse. Rather, we should measure our success by the number of quality felony cases brought against drug traffickers and violent criminals, not by how many non-violent people we can burden with the cost and stigma of a misdemeanor possession charge. This innovative approach will align the penalty with the offense.

Medical Marijuana 

Research proves that Virginians can benefit from certain uses of marijuana to help the treatment, pain management, and healing of certain severe conditions. We owe our fellow Virginians every chance of treating and managing certain significant conditions such as cancer and epilepsy. Ed supports appropriate, limited, tightly regulated use of marijuana for medicinal purposes based in science and on medical trials.

This year Senator Jill Vogel, Ed’s running mate for Lt. Governor, introduced SB 1298, to expand the legal use of CBD oil for patients suffering twelve serious, qualifying conditions. Ed supports passage of legislation such as SB 1298 to allow the use of medical marijuana and CBD oil when scientific research has demonstrated the benefit of this as an effective treatment for serious conditions.

Raise the Felony Larceny Threshold 

Virginia has the lowest felony larceny threshold in the country. Every state classifies crimes of theft as either misdemeanors or felonies based on the monetary value of what was stolen. Virginia’s threshold for classifying a larceny as a felony is $200. This threshold was first set in 1980, almost 40 years ago. What one could buy with $200 in 1980 now costs over $500. The reality that a Virginian could face one to five years in jail for stealing a smartphone is disproportionate to the crime committed. However, many small businesses and retailers have big losses to shoplifting and theft. This cannot be discounted as insignificant.

As governor, Ed will work with the General Assembly to raise the felony larceny threshold from $200 to $500. An item purchased in July 1980 for $200 would be equivalent to the purchasing power of $592 in today’s dollars.

Provide Leadership to Functionally End the Suspension of  Driver’s License 

Thousands of Virginians cannot drive because they cannot afford to pay their legal fees and court costs. One problem in the current system is that courts do not have a uniform, income-based payment plan system that reasonably allows people pay off their fines. As a result, judges often set up a “payment plan” that no low-income individual can meet. Their driver’s license has been suspended because of inability to pay. Without a driver’s license, many Virginians are unable to get to their job and therefore unable to make wages to pay the court fees. This vicious cycle must end.

Last year, legislation sponsored by Delegate Manoli Loupassi and Senator Bill Stanley took an important step forward in reforming state driver’s license suspensions. As governor, Ed will build upon this successful effort.

If elected, Ed will work with the legislative and judicial branches toward functionally ending the practice of suspending someone’s driver’s license due to their inability to pay through the implementation of the Loupassi-Stanley bill. Ed will work to ensure low-income Virginians have access to reasonable, income-based payment plans to pay off their court costs and fines to avoid driver’s license suspension. Ed will direct his Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security and Secretary of Transportation to provide a July 1, 2018 report on the implementation of the legislation and every six months thereafter with recommendations for ongoing reforms.


Performance-based Funding for Drug Testing

Some citizens exiting our prisons and jails battle drug addiction before or after incarceration. Many employers are hesitant to hire someone with a criminal record due to concerns about ongoing drug addiction and ability to do the job at hand. Employers may be willing to hire someone with a criminal record if they know that regular drug testing will ensure their employee’s drug use has not returned. In order to help advance employment opportunities during the reentry process, Ed will develop and propose a performance-based funding model to fund quarterly drug testing to provide potential employers additional confidence in their employees. This funding program will be based on evidence-based interventions and high-quality program evaluation to be sure that the program is working.

The annual cost of holding a prisoner in Virginia was $28,977 in FY 2016. Consider that quarterly drug testing is available at approximately $500 per year, per person. Regular drug testing can provide confidence for an employer to hire a person they might not otherwise hire. The return on investment to avoid the true cost of recidivism is a is a worthy effort to protect taxpayers and help convicted felons stay out of jail. This performance-based funding model will be held accountable by third-party evaluators to consider the effectiveness and cost avoidance realized through gainful employment.

Restoration of Rights Policy 

Ed believes in reconciliation and redemption. Virginia’s Restoration of Rights process restores certain rights to convicted felons including the right to run for public office, serve on a jury and vote. Virginians should be in favor of advancing restoration of rights once a felon has paid his debt to society, including restitution to victims. We cannot move forward in fairness to anyone involved – victims or felons – without a more permanent solution. In order to provide consistency and fairness, we must provide greater stability to the process to avoid swings from one administration to another.

As governor, Ed will adopt the McDonnell Administration’s accelerated process of restoring rights for those who stayed out of trouble. Further, he will ask Governor Doug Wilder and Governor Bob McDonnell to examine our current policies with the goal of putting forward legislation for consideration by the General Assembly.

Ban-the-Box on State Government Job Applications

Many job applications include a box inquiring about felony crime convictions. This has turned into a de facto screening tool that well-meaning hiring officials use to find the best and most qualified candidates. An unintended consequence has made it very difficult for returning citizens who have committed felonies to find employment. The ‘Ban the Box’ policy movement calls on employers to eliminate the screening question at the first stage of hiring, with the exception of those who have sexually abused children or those convicted of sexual battery. A hiring manager may still inquire about criminal history following the initial screening and, in some cases, should be required to given the specifics of the position in question.

As governor, Ed would continue the policy to “Ban the Box” in state government hiring. Private employers should and will continue to be permitted to do what is in the best interest of their business and organizations.


In July 2017, Ed unveiled a detailed plan to address the mental health crisis and opioid epidemic facing Virginia. Ed’s policy is rooted in the following principles:

Principle 1: Addiction is a disease – not a moral failing
Principle 2: Focus on Intervention
Principle 3: We cannot arrest our way out of the current epidemic of addiction.
Principle 4: Recognize multiple pathways to recovery
Principle 5: Help must be immediate

The full plan can be found HERE. Gillespie has released fourteen other major policy proposals including:

  • The “Cutting Taxes for ALL Virginians” Plan cuts individual income tax rates by ten percent across-the-board, putting nearly $1,300 more in the pocket of a family of four and creating more than 50,000 new full-time private sector jobs.
  • The “FAITH In Our Government for ALL Virginians” Plan will close loopholes and give Virginians a better opportunity to hold elected leaders accountable for their actions.
  • The “Efficiency + Effectiveness: A Government that Works for ALL Virginians” Plan will reorient government to more successfully address Virginia’s problems, demand evidence-based solutions, right-size our government to better steward taxpayer dollars, and incentivize our state government workforce to be more responsive to the needs of all Virginians.
  • The “Removing Barriers to Job Creation for ALL Virginians” Plan will bring meaningful reform to remove barriers to job creation, making it easier for businesses to grow and thrive in the Commonwealth. It focuses on standing up for Virginia’s job creators, reforming Virginia’s regulatory climate, reforming occupational licensing and streamlining business formation.
  • The Mental Health, Addiction, and Recovery Agenda will improve Virginia’s behavioral health system and address all facets of the opioid and heroin addiction crisis, including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
  • The Veterans and Military Affairs Agenda will improve career opportunities for veterans, give veterans a greater voice in our government, support our military and their families, and care for our veterans and their families.
  • The “Job One: Keeping Virginia Safe” Plan will improve public safety in Virginia by eradicating gangs, reforming the system, and rewarding those who serve and protect.
  • The Agriculture and Forestry Agenda shows exactly how Gillespie will champion Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries, prioritizing efforts to expand exports and open new markets for Virginia products.
  • “An Excellent Education for ALL Virginians” Plan will strengthen Virginia’s education system, ensure that every child, in every community, has access to a high quality, safe and student-focused public education, and better align our workforce development system with the demands of the marketplace of today and the future.
  • The Six Point Sea Level Rise Action Plan will take proactive steps to enhance infrastructure, empower cities and regions to lead, flood proof our military installations and fight for more affordable flood insurance for Virginia families and businesses.
  • The Plan to Expand Access to High Speed Internet will remove regulatory barriers and finance broadband deployment to provide more reliable internet access to Virginians in every corner of the Commonwealth.
  • The “Outdoor Dominion” Initiative to make Virginia the outdoor recreation leader of the East Coast.
  • “The Energy to Power Families, Jobs and Investment” Plan to secure abundant energy resources and competitive energy prices that protect citizens from high energy costs, and attract the businesses that provide new jobs.
  • Higher Education Plan for ALL Virginians to forge three types of strategic partnerships related to higher education: a major new business-education partnership, a new spirit of partnership between the Commonwealth and our colleges, and a consumer-focused partnership between higher education institutions and the students and families they serve.

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