We’ve been hearing a lot about criminal justice reform, a movement with support from both republicans and democrats who acknowledge the myriad problems with the huge numbers of people we spend to jail and prison each year, why we send them there, and how we send them there. However, this is a movement that has apparently not reached Virginia, a state whose legislative body seems to be intent on doubling down on costly (in financial and human terms), ineffective, and harmful “tough on crime” bills that undercut government accountability and transparency and attack our civil liberties.
One of the worst examples of this is Senate Bill 552, which aims to exempt the “names, positions, job classifications, and other identifying personal information” from being released under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. This bill has already been approved by the Virginia Senate, and if the Virginia House of Delegates passes it, it’s likely Governor McAuliffe will happily sign it into law, based on his previous actions regarding law enforcement and release of information.
The Virginian-Pilot newspaper reports that this “Secret Police” law would be the first of its kind in the nation. What an ignoble distinction for a state that so proudly refers to itself as a commonwealth, “a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people,” and boasts “Sic Semper Tyrannis (Thus Always to Tyrants)” for a state motto.