THREAD: This is an astounding number that makes a clear case for why we need to #endmandatoryminimums. Prosecutors & police make choices about what to charge and what plea offers to make. Those choices are affected by structural and historical racism, and this is the result. 1/10
Mandatory minimums were intended to bring "uniformity" to sentencing, reducing discretion. But in practice, they create a two-tier system: one group of people gets a break, but the other group gets mandatory minimums. Empirically, Black people are less likely to get a break. 2/10
Keep in mind, decision makers don't *need* to be racist, or to mean any harm at all, for systemic racism to skew numbers like this. The criteria that prosecutors use to decide who deserves a break and who deserves a prison sentence are often biased along racial lines. 3/10
Prior criminal record? That's dependent on which neighborhoods get policed and which cars police decide to pull over. Also depends on whether a prosecutor decided to cut you a break on your previous cases, or if a judge believed you. None of those factors are race-neutral. 4/10
Looking at the economic status of the accused (what kind of job they have, whether they're "an upstanding member of society") is of course closely tied to historical discrimination. It's basically a privilege-check, which Black people accused of crimes rarely pass. 5/10
Asking the complainant or the investigating officer what they want? Personal judgments about whether others deserve punishment are deeply linked to whether we view the accused as being "like us," whether we understand their struggles. That perception is closely tied to race. 6/10
Harsh punishments get applied to people deemed to "need to learn a lesson" or "be separated from society." Black people have historically been placed into these categories, and never in a way that benefits them. The solution is always the same, and it always involves chains. 7/10
So we shouldn't be surprised that mandatory minimums are applied to Black people more than others. And *always* keep in mind that many people charged with man mins plead to other offenses to reduce their risk. So man mins affect even more people than these numbers suggest. 8/10
And through this lens, it also becomes clearer that we can't just eliminate minimums for minor offenses. Sentencing policy doesn't just affect sentencing; it echoes throughout the system. Racial justice requires that we #endmandatoryminimums for everyone in Virginia. 9/10
@JusticeFwdVa and I appreciate the work being done on this issue by @SenEdwardsVA, @C_Herring, @ssurovell, @mikemullin4VA, @VaBlackCaucus, @FAMMFoundation, @AttyStepMorales & VPPFJ, @ACLUVA, @afphq, and so many others. Virginia's going to abolish mandatory minimums in 2021. 10/10

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More from @AndyElders

15 Oct 20
THREAD: I want to share a story about SB 5007, which ends mandatory jury sentencing in Virginia. Mandatory jury sentencing denies ~80% of those accused of crimes in Virginia a jury trial by coercing them into unfavorable plea agreements. But not everyone gives up that right. 1/x
I had a client about seven years ago who was charged with a robbery, which carries a five-year jury minimum in Virginia. He didn't do it, but an eyewitness identified him. Despite there being no other evidence that he had done this, he was arrested and held pretrial. 2/x
Multiple witnesses confirmed that he was home at the time of the robbery. He had been home with his family watching President Obama's second inauguration. It was a memorable moment for a Black family. But that defense didn't get his charges dropped - he had to go to trial. 3/x
Read 16 tweets
15 Sep 20
THREAD: Extremely disappointing to hear @mikemullin4VA call for the House to send SB 5007 for further study. This bill ends mandatory jury sentencing, which prosecutors use to deny 80% of defendants their right to a jury trial. We say that practice needs to end immediately. 1/11
Mullin argues that changing criminal procedure is like building a bridge. "We don’t build a bridge without finding out how much it’s going to cost," he says. But this analogy doesn't hold. Building a bridge costs something up front. Changing criminal procedure costs nothing. 2/11
Mullin argues that SB 5007 will increase trials, which requires more court personnel, lawyers, etc. The first part is true - SB 5007 will give more people their day in court, which is what makes it an essential criminal justice reform. The second part is VACA's speculation. 3/11
Read 11 tweets

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