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Our ‘unjust’ justice system

To the editor:

This oxymoron describes the truth behind our justice system across America and even more so in Virginia. Whether a person is Caucasian or a person of color, it is unequal across the board. There is a double standard, a class system, in the justice system. Those of affluence and notoriety (actors, song artists, politicians, etc.) never face the consequences of crimes that middle- to low-income people face.

I have witnessed this locally and from TV coverage of those in high places. Our governor took a laid-back view of a politician caught smoking marijuana in a parking lot, saying he would lose a good number of his staff if he fired someone caught with marijuana. A former president spoke publicly of having used cocaine and could do so without consequences.

For over a decade, I have worked for expungement for non-repeat, ex-offenders of non-violent, non-sexual crimes in Virginia. Over half of the states in the United States offer this. In Virginia, it doesn’t matter if it is the 18-year-old who gets caught with marijuana and is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, this is never erased from his/her record.

Hiring policy in every professional career prohibits hiring of anyone with a drug conviction. Ex-offenders are denied rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for a lifetime in Virginia. Earning a high degree will not open doors to gainful employment, housing, etc. Is this not “cruel and unusual punishment”? Every bill that I have gotten introduced into the General Assembly is tabled yearly in the Courts of Justice Committee. I want help to get a referendum on our ballot for citizens to get expungement legislation passed in Virginia.

Those who represent us fail to exemplify Christ with their “no forgiveness” stance. Let’s take action now.

Judy Smith

Abingdon