PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) is calling for an easier process to give non-violent offenders a clean slate.
Herring wants non-violent offenders, who have shown that they’ve turned things around, to have a chance to wipe the slate clean. He believes it would give people the chance to make their lives, and their communities, better.
This week is the second annual “Expungement Week,” a nationwide initiative that helps people restore their rights and expunge their records. To mark the occasion, Herring is calling for expanded “clean slate” laws in Virginia.
He said, “I’ve seen too many people who have made a mistake, maybe early in their life that resulted in a criminal conviction such as small possession of marijuana or alcohol possession charge and that conviction lasted, lasted a lifetime.”
Herring says this push is for people who have relatively minor convictions. “People who are convicted of violent offenses, sexual assault or domestic abuse, things like that, would not be eligible for it. But this is more for people who have made a mistake maybe early in their life that’s relatively minor,” Herring said.
The Attorney General says he’s spoken with his counterparts in other states where “clean slate” laws have been effective in reducing crime and recidivism. He says Virginia could model its expungement process after some of those other states.
“Most of them rely on some period of time after they’ve completed their sentence, after they’ve completed all of their probation and fines,” said Herring.”That could be 5 years, could be 10 years, could be 15 years. That’s a conversation that I think we need to have in Virginia and it’s long overdue.”
He also says people’s attitudes toward criminal justice reform are changing so now is the time to act.
“I think we could do more for people who have shown that they have in fact turned their lives around to help them achieve their potential and provide for their families,” Herring said.
Herring says the next step is for lawmakers to speak with community advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors and people who have past convictions and turned their lives around. He hopes that leads to action in the upcoming General Assembly.