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Poll: Virginians feel just as safe after criminal justice reforms

A majority of voters in Virginia say they feel safe, even after all the criminal-justice reform efforts in recent years. That's the conclusion of a new poll from Data for Progress, which asked about decriminalizing marijuana, prohibiting racial profiling in traffic stops and ending the death penalty.

"Virginia was on this tough on crime path from 1994 to 2019, and then suddenly we had this big course correction in 2020 and 2021," notes Rob Poggenklass, executive director of Justice Forward Virginia. "And when you look at the poll results it seems like folks were just fine with that and they want to continue to see it happen."

Data for Progress

Some Republicans have been talking about rolling back some of the reforms, especially one that prevents police officers from stopping drivers based on a hunch or a pretext for things like an air freshener hanging from a rearview mirror.

Valerie Slater at RISE for Youth says rolling back that reform would be a mistake. "No one wants to be in fear of having an air freshener hanging from their rearview mirror potentially land them with engagement with police. And so for the police to have the ability to pull folks over for very minor and non-criminal reasons, no one is excited about going back to those days."

More poll results

The poll shows two-thirds of voters say they'd rather see funding for crime prevention programs than more money for prisons and jails.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.