The following statement in relation to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's recent announcement about cash bail may be attributed to ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga:
“We are encouraged that the Virginia Attorney General has joined those of us calling for serious bail reform as we recommended in our recent report on women in the criminal justice system, and we welcome his leadership on this important issue. We agree that the current bail system threatens the constitutional rights of innocent Virginians in several ways. We also agree with the Attorney General’s recommendation that the Crime Commission support a presumption in favor of release for all low-risk offenders rather than focus greater emphasis on ability to pay as Maryland did.
“We definitely support taking action to ensure that all persons have access to counsel at bail hearings and continue to urge Commonwealth’s Attorneys to forego asking for cash bail as a first step toward reform. We urge the Crime Commission to investigate thoroughly whether the Virginia Pre-trial Risk Assessment Instrument is truly non-discriminatory in its effect on women and minorities, and we recommend that the Attorney General and the Crime Commission consider whether the current rules and policies governing both risk assessment and participation in pre-trial programs take adequate account of the special circumstances of many women identified in our report on women in the criminal justice system as single heads of household and sole care givers for children and others which can affect their ability to satisfactorily complete these programs and comply with the requirements of pre-trial release.”