© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bills to ease barrier crimes restrictions on counselors get bipartisan support

Many recovering addicts say they want to help others turn their lives around, but they keep hitting the same barrier -- a criminal record. Virginia law includes 176 barrier crimes that prevent people like Wahid Shabazz from helping people escape substance abuse disorder.

"I was drunk on three bottles of Cisco, and if anybody knows they used to call that liquid crack. I broke into a car dealership because somebody said they used to leave a safe open, and you could access the money. So stupidly and drunkenly that was my barrier crime," Shabazz remembered. "It was 32 years ago, and it's still giving me a problem when I apply for positions."

The bills were introduced by a Democrat in the House and a Republican in the Senate, and it has widespread bipartisan support. When a House committee debated it, Republican Delegate Mike Cherry of Colonial Heights said he wants to add his name to the bill as a chief co-patron.

"When it comes to recovery and peer recovery, there's really no one better qualified to help an addict than a recovered addict. That's just the way it is," Cherry told the committee. "And so I'm grateful that you brought this and I would make a request of the patron that if the chief co is available I'd love that."

The effort has already passed a Senate committee and will be considered on the House floor soon.

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.