Virginia House Passes Mental Health, Earned Sentence Credit Reforms

by Tyler Arnold


The Virginia House passed four more pieces of criminal justice reform legislation that will be sent to the Senate, including mandatory local mental health teams, more restrictions on police acquiring military surplus weapons and an expansion of the earned sentence credit program.

House Bill 5043 would require every local government to have a trained mental health response team to respond to relevant situations. The teams would be armed with only nonlethal weapons, but police also would be dispatched to the scene for backup, if necessary. Teams would need to be established by July 1, 2021.

Another bill, House Bill 5049, would prohibit police departments from acquiring military surplus property unless provided a waiver by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. The prohibition includes military rifles, grenades and other explosives, aircrafts designed for combat and weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles. The bill would not apply to the National Guard or Virginia Defense Force.

The chamber also passed House Bill 5148, which would expand the state’s earned sentence credit program, and House Bill 5090, which would make criminal investigative files accessible to the public unless a judge finds reason to not allow their release.

All four bills cleared the House on Thursday. The House and Senate have advanced a series of criminal justice reform bills over the special session and sent them to the other chamber. The chambers will have to work out differences on minor legislation before they can send the bills to the governor.

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Tyler Arnold is a reporter for The Center Square
Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Mike Fonseca CC2.0








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