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Our criminal legal system needs real reform.

The United States incarcerates at a higher rate than any other nation; states account for 90% of incarcerated people; Virginia incarcerates at a higher rate than the national average; and local prosecutors bear primary responsibility for those results. In Arlington and the City of Falls Church, the Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecuted over 3200 simple marijuana possession cases in 6 years, 57% of which in the last 2 years were of black people; though only 9% of the county population, black people are 66% of the jail population; the majority of those in jail are on being treated for mental illness; ten year old kids are charged with felonies for school infractions, immigrants are prosecuted for minor infractions with no regard for exposing them to deportation; civil asset forfeiture is used to seize private property without a conviction,and the Commonwealth’s Attorney blocksefforts to raise the felony threshold to $1000, to expunge records of people convicted of minor marijuana and alcohol offenses before they were 21, to restore voting rights to returning citizens, and to prohibit execution of the seriously mentally ill.

All of this is done in our name but out of sight because the office shares virtually no data with the public.  This is contrary to our values and does nothing to make us safer.

Parisa will adopt thoughtful reforms, consistent with evidence-based policies, that keep us safe without participating in mass incarceration, criminalizing poverty, penalizing vulnerable people, or tolerating racial disparities — a system you will be proud of and that will reflect our values.


What is a Commonwealth’s Attorney?

The Commonwealth’s Attorney is the top prosecutor for Arlington and the City of Falls Church, and is responsible for,

  1. Making policies and sets priorities as to which crimes are prosecuted.  Like most jurisdictions, Virginia’s criminal code categorizes an immense number of acts as crimes including, among other things, adultery, cursing a person in public, and defacing the flag of the Commonwealth.  The job of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is to focus on serious crimes that threaten the safety of the public and compromise the welfare of the community and its members.
  2. Managing the office and engaging with community stakeholders.   As the chief supervisor of the office, the Commonwealth’s Attorney not only determines how staff functions and how caseloads are assigned, but also decides whether and how the office collects data on charging and sentencing decisions and whether and how that data is shared with the public.
  3. Serving as an expert advocate for reform locally and in Richmond.  We have reached a turning point in criminal justice when across the political spectrum, we now get that the punitive, War on Drugs model cannot be sustained.  The Commonwealth’s Attorney possesses a powerful voice that can be used to lobby for reform in Richmond and bring stakeholders together to achieve meaningful change locally.