Here’s a list of things that cost more than $200: iPhones, Beats by Dre headphones and various name brand sunglasses and handbags. Stealing any one of these things could brand someone as a felon in the state of Virginia, which holds one of the lowest grand larceny thresholds in the country.
Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and the rest of the members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus thinks it’s about time Virginia has raised the threshold.
“Felonies should be reserved for some of the most egregious crimes in the Commonwealth. That’s what rapists, robbers, and murders are charged with, but also 13-year-olds who steal a pair of sunglasses,” said Foy. “That’s what I find myself defending on a daily basis. We need the punishment to fit the crime, and right now in Virginia, it does not.”
As a newcomer to the House of Delegates, Foy is carrying ten criminal justice reform bills ranging from raising the grand larceny threshold to closing the school to prison pipeline.
Virginia is a leader in the nation for sending students from schools to the police or courts, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity. Bills like House Bill 445, introduced by Foy, would eliminate the requirement for school principals to report certain incidents that may constitute as misdemeanor offenses to law enforcement.
“In Virginia, we lock them up early and we lock them up at large, and that has to end,” said Foy. “A child should not suffer the consequences for minor infractions for the rest of their life.”
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus outlined its agenda to the public on Wednesday to help underprivileged Virginians. In addition to criminal justice reform, the caucus has introduced a wealth of bills dedicated to making improvements in education, healthcare and economic opportunity.
Legislators called for bipartisan support in creating grocery stores to eliminate food deserts, expanding healthcare to the poor and creating a study for funding the expansion of the Virginia Pre-School Initiative. Sen. Jennifer McClellan specifically called for increasing the budget for K-12 education as well as creating better access to higher education.
“Let me be clear, we will fight any effort to undermine the public education system by diverting funds to private schools in any form or fashion,” said McClellan.
The caucus officially has 20 members, but Del. Lamont Bagby said at a press conference the caucus truly has 21 members with the addition of Lt. Governor-elect Justin Fairfax.
Fairfax, whose first day presiding over the Senate will be Monday, said there is no better time to fight for issues that matter to all Virginians. With the new makeup of the House of Delegates and the closely divided Senate. Fairfax, who will cast the tiebreaking vote during split decisions in the Senate, said he will be “breaking ties in favor of progress.”