The REFORM Alliance has stacked another win. The latest legislative victory occurred in Virginia and is a collaborative effort with Justice Forward VA, American Conservative Union, and Faith and Freedom. With the enactment of HB 2038, the state’s probation population will be reduced significantly, recidivism curbed, wasteful spending decreased, and supervision will become more effective and efficient, all while increasing community safety and workforce stability. This win follows efforts in Michigan, Louisiana, and California.
The new law will take effect on July 1, capping probation terms by limiting adult probation sentences to a maximum of one year for misdemeanor offenses and five years for felonies. Prior to passing HB 2038, Virginia was one of only seven states with no such restrictions, resulting in endless extensions to probation terms that kept people unjustly trapped in the criminal justice system.
“This legislation is a meaningful step forward toward building better pathways for Virginians stuck in the probation trap, and sets a positive example for what can be done in other states across the country,” REFORM CEO Robert Rooks said. “We’re thankful for the support behind HB 2038 that will reunite families, prevent unnecessary incarcerations and give life back to thousands of Virginians.”
Additionally, HB 2038 will provide much-needed relief to the catastrophic consequences people on probation face as a result of technical violations (non-crimes like missing a meeting with a probation officer, failing to report a traffic ticket to the probation officer, etc. that can result in lengthy incarceration). HB2038 creates a system of graduated sanctions for technical probation violations to prevent people from being re-incarcerated for a first technical probation violation. If there are subsequent technical violations, a term of incarceration can only be imposed if the court finds that there is no other safe and less restrictive way to deter the conduct.
“When people directly impacted by probation and our broken criminal justice system, like Meek Mill and others at the REFORM Alliance, get behind those of us fighting to make a difference on these issues, we can create substantive and meaningful change,” said Delegate Don Scott.
“Over the past 12 months, Virginia has done more to reform its criminal justice system than any state in the country, and despite flying under the radar during the General Assembly session, this legislation just might be the centerpiece,” said Brad Haywood, Executive Director of Justice Forward Virginia. “It takes direct aim at mass supervision, which drives mass incarceration in Virginia — 51% of new DOC prison admissions are for probation violations, and nearly 60,000 Virginians are on probation or parole, roughly double the state’s prison population. Delegate Scott shepherded this bill through the legislature masterfully, and we were thrilled to play a role in advocating for its passage.”