2021 Legislative Priorities

Nothing About Us Without Us! Get Involved

It's time to uplift the voices of those who are closest to the problem.

The strength of our organization depends on the community in order to thrive. We collectively work towards that needs that you determine are the most significant to you. Those with past justice involvement must lead the charge on forging change.

*UPDATE* Now that our work has gone all virtual/no contact, we understand that it is difficult for some of you to participate. Please reach out if you have concerns Monday - Friday 10am - 1pm, to speak with someone. We are working remotely but check messages frequently. We will resume in person meetings when it is safe for all of us. 

2021 Legislative Priorities

The Right to Vote Campaign is a 2-3 year initiative to amend the Constitution to disallow voter disenfranchisement based on a past conviction. Voting is a fundamental right to all citizens. Enshrining an explicit right to vote in the Constitution would guarantee the voting rights of every citizen of voting age, ensure that every vote is counted correctly, and defend against attempts to effectively disenfranchise eligible voters. The Constitution has been amended 27 times. Excluding the Bill of Rights, 7 of the last 17 constitutional amendments have dealt directly with expanding the franchise and improving the way citizens vote. Approximately 5 million Americans convicted of felonies who have already completed their sentences are permanently disenfranchised. Fourteen states do not have an automatic restoration process in place for returning citizens who have completed their sentences. Some states leave re-enfranchisement decisions to the discretion of public officials; discretion which could be exercised arbitrarily or used for political gain. However, it is not only those who have past convictions who face difficulty registering to vote. Americans living overseas have trouble registering in their home district because of voter roll purges. Many college students attempting to register at their college precinct have faced voter intimidation or were simply refused the ability to register to vote. Such obstacles are not only arbitrary, but in many cases politically motivated. The Right to Vote Amendment will guarantee all American citizens at least 18 years of age a constitutionally protected individual right to vote. Much like the rights to speech and religion, a constitutionally protected right to vote will be difficult to limit without showing a strong need for the limitation to exist.
Discretionary parole was abolished in Virginia for felonies committed in 1995 or after, requiring offenders to serve at least 85% of their sentences with the ability to earn good-time credits toward an early release date. With Virginia already incurring significant costs to incarcerate tens of thousands of individuals each year, it is well past time to reconsider whether the current one-size-fits-all approach to crime and punishment is effective—or even necessary. We hope that the Commonwealth will address the equally important issue of refocusing sentencing on rehabilitation programs, particularly for first-time and non-violent offenders and the increased; often times, undiagnosed increase in mental health and substance use disorder challenges.
Expungement is the legal process of sealing police and court records relating to a criminal charge. If you have been charged with a crime but were not convicted you may be eligible for an expungement. Unlike some other states, Virginia has a relatively strict statutory scheme for when the record of a criminal charge can be expunged. It is important to understand that if you have been found guilty, paid a fine, been on probation, participated in a first offender program, or received any other type of punishment in your criminal case, it cannot be expunged in Virginia under the current law. Even if you have been found not guilty of a crime, you are only eligible to request that the court expunge the record, but the commonwealth’s attorney could object, and a judge will need to decide. This needs to change. If we are truly a nation of second chances, then we should do what is necessary to dismiss bias and allow for expungement law to expand to those who have previously been convicted of a crime. To leave housing, employment, education and many other areas to the discretion of man means that we are not a forgiving society and that we do not accept what judge and juror deem as sufficient punishment for any crime. We don't allow double jeopardy in a case by law; but we do allow a past conviction to follow an individual forever. Expungement laws are the only true way to remove implicit bias and allow people to be penalized once for their actions. 

Nolef Turns, Inc. is a community facing organization. We are working hard to build an even stronger and more inclusive Virginia for all of our citizens. We believe wholeheartedly in the notion that those who are closest to the problem are the closest to the solution and would love your input on what legislative priorities are most important to you. Reach out if you would like to join us; your voice matters.