U.S.: Faith Leaders Join Criminal Justice, Drug Policy Orgs To Call For End To War On Drugs


Central Virginia Clergy and Community Advocates to Convene for Annual Legislative Day to Highlight Issues of Social Injustice on February 5

As part of its 2015 Virginia General Assembly Legislative Day, Baptist Minister's Conference of Richmond & Vicinity (BMCRV), Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration and its partners the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference and the Drug Policy Alliance will spend Thursday in dialog with Virginia Senators, House of Delegates members, top McAuliffe Administration officials and others on the myriad of social justice issues affecting Virginians.

Ministers and advocates will share stories on the many ways Virginians are impacted by the ongoing failure of Virginia Legislators to seriously consider the needs of all Virginians – in particular, the needs of the poor and the marginalized.

BMCRV is comprised of over 80 Baptist churches located in Central Virginia representing about 50,000 members, family and friends.

What: Press Conference

Where: The first floor Press Room of the General Assembly building

Date: Thursday, February 5, 2015

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Rev. Dr. Marlon Haskell, President, Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Richmond and Vicinity
Jesse Frierson, Executive Director, Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration
Rev. Dr. Marcus Small, Board Member, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Lindsey Lawson Battaglia, JD, Policy Manager, National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance

During the day's activities, BMCRV members and others will share their legislative priorities with lawmakers that include: increasing Virginia’s Felony Grand Larceny Threshold up to $1,500; increasing the $7.25 minimum wage (over a 3 – 5 year period) up to a Living Wage of $15 per hour; prioritization of body camera requirements for all law enforcement personnel and tracking surplus military equipment donated to Virginia localities by the Pentagon via its 1033 Program.

"Generally, the lack of police accountability in Black and poor neighborhoods in Virginia is a major concern and should be prioritized during this and all future legislative sessions," the BMCRV said in a prepared statement.

“Church leaders are increasingly concerned about the welfare of their members, family, friends and neighbors in our communities,” said Rev. Dr. Marlon Haskell, president of BMCRV. "The plight of African Americans in our churches and communities is being damaged by the war on drugs and mass incarceration."

After a series of proposed reforms were killed in the Virginia General Assembly earlier this session, advocates are disappointed the Legislature has done nothing to alleviate the burdens of the criminal justice system that have disproportionately affect the state’s African Americans.

“We are particularly dismayed that our lawmakers again failed to recognize the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on poor and Black Virginians,” said Jesse Frierson, executive director of Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration.

The Chicago-based Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference is among the leading organizations for Baptist clergy and churches across America. Proctor will host its 2015 Clergy & Lay Leadership Conference in Norfolk, Va., on February 9-12. The event will bring to Virginia more than 700 nationally noted theologians, church leaders and laypersons from across America for discussions about issues that are of utmost importance to African Americans and churches.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) will be holding its biennial International Drug Policy Reform conference November 18-21 in Crystal City, Virginia. This conference is one of the largest gathering of policymakers, advocates and public health practitioners in the world.

Reformers will look at the state of drug policy and criminal justice in Virginia, the United States, and the world, and will analyze and strategize a way out of the failed global Drug War and will re-imagine an equitable criminal justice system.

BMCRV is partnering with the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference of Chicago and the Drug Policy Alliance in this effort to call for a new direction and a renewed sense of urgency to protect and uplift all Virginians. The theme for this year’s conference is, “Reclaiming Our Moral Authority.”

"We believe that the faith community in Virginia is morally obligated to stand on the side of the 'least of these' in our State," the BMCRVA said in a prepared statement.