Promoting Social and Criminal Justice:
Regulating Juvenile Confinement, Raising the Minimum Wage, & Fighting for Foster Youth
This week, I fought for limiting the use of juvenile isolation in correctional facilities, raising the minimum wage, and lowering the student-teacher ratios for ESL students. I am committed to promoting social and criminal justice by championing legislation that enables young people and families to make positive choices about their futures.
In other news, I am very happy to report that my bill prohibiting individuals with emergency protective orders from possessing a firearm when in the home of the alleged victim passed the Senate for the second year in a row. I am hopeful that the bill will pass the House. Also - my legislation to provide a safety net for foster youth between the ages of 18 and 21 and another bill to help relatives become foster parents passed out of committee.
Social and Criminal Justice
In Virginia, we can isolate a youth in a juvenile correctional facility up to five days, even though research shows that solitary confinement heightens the negative effects of mental illness and disproportionately affects younger and disabled detainees. My bill SB 215 works to restrict the use of solitary confinement in juvenile correctional facilities by directing the Board of Corrections to develop regulations on room segregation: including the reasons a juvenile may be isolated, the training of staff, and developing plans for improving behavioral outcomes for the juvenile. SB 215 passed out of Rehab and Social Services Committee today.
Income inequality enables a cycle of poverty that traps many of Virginia’s families. That is why I patroned a bill to raise the minimum wage over the course of three years. A full time minimum wage worker in Virginia makes $15,080 each year, which would put a family of two below the poverty line. My bill was defeated in the Commerce and Labor Committee, along with other bills that addressed income inequality.
SB 659 would shrink the student-teacher ESL ratio from 59 students per teacher to 45 students per teacher. Research shows that lower class sizes help improve scholastic performance and student engagement. ESL learners face additional challenges in mastering material not in their native language, and reducing their class sizes will help them achieve greater academic success. I’m proud that SB 659 passed the Education and Health Committee on Thursday. It will now be heard in Finance.
My clean energy bill that requires a more efficient biomass production for producers to receive renewable energy credits will be heard in Commerce and Labor on Monday. Protecting our environment, like promoting social justice, will continue to be a priority for me.
Thank you for your continued support and encouragement. It is an honor to represent you in Richmond and I always look forward to hearing from you. Together, we can move Virginia forward.