Criminal Legal System – Legal Aid Justice Center

<br /> Criminal Legal System – Legal Aid Justice Center<br />

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Our team works to end the criminalization of poverty in Virginia by exposing and addressing criminal legal system policies that target people because of poverty and race. Through a mix of community organizing, local and statewide policy advocacy, and litigation, our program intervenes at many points in the criminal legal system. Our campaigns range from initial law enforcement contact in the community, through the courts, to individuals’ confinement in Virginia’s jails and prisons, and finally to their reentry into the community. 

We fight to:

  • Eliminate unjustified law enforcement contact with people of color in the community;
  • Ensure courts are fair for low-income people and people of color;
  • Protect against harsh fines and fees levied by courts on poor people;
  • Protect vulnerable people held in our jails and prisons; and
  • Eliminate barriers to housing, jobs, and other sources of stability for low-income and people of color returning home from jail and prison. 


Building community power and ending police misconduct.

Our police accountability initiatives seek to equip communities with the tools to influence how their neighborhoods are policed, address officer misconduct on individual and systemic levels, and make budgetary recommendations. 

Our Rights Matter was a collaboration with RISE for Youth, Peter Paul, and the Legal Aid Justice Center. The mission of the project is to educate, engage and empower youth and young adults on what to do when they interact with law enforcement. 

Pretrial Justice

Ending bail practices that harm low-income communities and communities of color.

Virginia’s pretrial system, in which bail decisions are made, produces unnecessary pretrial detention rife with racial and economic disparities. We advocate for comprehensive reform across the entire pretrial system to ensure just outcomes for all people. 

Fines and Fees

Ending burdensome court costs.

Assisting low-income Virginians, many of whom are people of color, trapped by Virginia’s burdensome court costs because of their inability to pay criminal and traffic court fines and fees.  We collaborate with community members and stakeholders to dismantle predatory court debt policies and practices that punish people for their poverty and cause hardship for their families. 


Removing the barrier of criminal records.

Helping low-income Virginians, many of whom are people of color, access employment, housing, and educational opportunities by expunging their criminal records. Although Virginia law currently limits the types of cases that can be expunged, even the removal of a dismissed criminal case from a background check can help a person land a job or apartment that wasn’t previously available to them. 

Fighting Mass Incarceration

and supporting those affected.

We are fighting against mass incarceration while also seeking to protect incarcerated Virginians.  We continue to enforce a settlement agreement with the Virginia Department of Corrections over unconstitutional medical care at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, as well as promote reforms to shrink Virginia’s bloated prison and jail populations. 

Need Help with a Criminal Legal System issue?

Please visit our GET HELP page for information on how we may be able to provide assistance.

Explore the sections above for information on your rights and other self-help materials.

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