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Progressive-minded Prosecutors Mark Victory Tuesday

Sandy Hausman/Radio IQ

People who want criminal justice reform have reason to celebrate, after five candidates for Commonwealth’s Attorney won election Tuesday. 

A jubilant crowd chanted his name as long-time public defender Jim Hingeley arrived at a downtown brewery to celebrate his victory over incumbent Robert Tracci.  Hingely had campaigned on a platform of doing away with cash bonds and sending more convicted criminals to treatment programs rather than prison.  He spent more than a year campaigning and raised a quarter of a million dollars, but the win caught him by surprise.  "You know I never ran for political office before, so am I surprised?  Yeah," Hingeley admitted.

Four other so-called progressive prosecutors will take office in Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William and Arlington Counties.  Candidate Steve Descano vowed to end prosecution of marijuana possession and use of the death penalty. Amy Ashworth thinks defendants should be told what evidence the prosecution has against them, and she doesn’t want sheriff’s deputies acting as agents for ICE.  Buta Biberaj wants juries to know how much it will cost to lock people up before they decide on a sentence, and Parisa Tafti wants more alternatives to jail time for low-level offenders.

Hingeley is excited to have so many allies. “We need to keep the pressure on the legislature, and now we’ve got the nucleus of a progressive group that can go down to Richmond, and we’re starting to end mass incarceration.”

There was, however, a sobering report for reformers from Chesterfield County where Democrat Scott Miles was unseated by a conservative challenger Stacey Davenport.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief