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Removing Barrier Crimes, Todd Pillion & Cia Price Cross The Aisle In Support of Civil Society

Barrier Crimes Todd Pelion Cia Price

Removing Barrier Crimes, Todd Pillion & Cia Price Cross The Aisle In Support of Civil Society celebrates Republicans and Democrats working together to transform civil society. Senator Todd Pillion and Delegate Cia Price are duly elected representatives in the State of Virginia’s General Assembly who share a common conviction. “Barrier Crimes” interfere with the common good. They are past offenses that prevent charitable organizations from employing qualified individuals who serve citizens in need.

For decades, Virginia has taken an overly punitive approach against people who find themselves affected by substance use disorders. A person caught with a small amount of drugs could face a decade in prison. But it does not end after they have served their time. That individual is then branded a criminal for life and may struggle to find suitable employment, affordable housing and access to critical services. Despite having done their time, they often continue to pay a high personal price.

It does not just impact them. An often-overlooked consequence is that someone with this kind of conviction who has completed their sentence cannot then put that experience to work serving others. Because of their record, Virginia laws have made it increasingly difficult for individuals with drug-related convictions to draw on their lived experiences to work as peer recovery specialists.
Virginia’s outdated “barrier crimes” laws prohibit anyone convicted of one of 176 different crimes from working with communities and individuals, even if that work could have a lasting, positive impact. Further, these barrier crimes laws are doing little to help Virginia fight the opioid epidemic and may be actively contributing to it by reducing the number of people qualified to serve as substance use counselors, which would give them a purpose and a job.

“Outdated ‘barrier crimes’ laws prohibit anyone convicted of one of 176 
different offenses from working with communities and individuals including
peer-to-peer counselors for substance abuse.” ~ Todd Pillion & Cia Price

Studies have shown peer-to-peer counseling is the most successful form of substance use treatment. We need people with lived experiences, who are still in recovery themselves, to help others get through some of their toughest days. They are the ones best able to meet people who are struggling right where they are and who can personally relate to their situation. In Southwest Virginia, we know that a significant impediment to expanding substance use treatment is the severe and continuing workforce shortage. The fact that many of these potential peer recovery specialists have prior convictions for drug possession does not make them any less qualified to do the job.

Removing Barrier Crimes, Todd Pillion & Cia Price Cross The Aisle In Support of Civil Society

Barrier Crimes Todd Pelion Cia Price Inside CharityIn Hampton Roads, we see the discriminatory impact of these “barrier crimes” laws playing out in real-time, disproportionately applied, and impacting people of color, especially young Black men. We may represent different constituencies, but the commonality is that these laws have negatively impacted the communities we serve. That is why we are working together on legislation that would help remove these barriers to employment and open up access to services for those who need them.

We can hold people accountable for their actions, but we also must allow them to move on with their lives and, if they wish, to help others find their way to safety and sobriety.

Jimmy LaRose, Co-Founder of the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives (NANOE) recently shared, “Charitable organizations rely on peer-to-peer counselors who possess lived experiences, who offer hope, and support those struggling with mental illness, emotional challenges, substance use, or co-occurring issues. The work of Senator Pillion & Delegate Cia Price touches the very heart of civil society. They are true nonprofit champions.”

“The work of Senator Pillion & Delegate Price touches the very heart
of civil society. They are true nonprofit champions.” ~ Jimmy LaRose

We are called to forgive. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” the Book of Matthew teaches us. We would do well to remember that.

Virginia’s General Assembly created these barriers. It’s time to take them down.


Sen. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, can be reached at [email protected].

Del. Marcia “Cia” Price, D-Newport News, can be reached at [email protected].

Removing Barrier Crimes, Todd Pillion & Cia Price Cross The Aisle In Support of Civil Society is based on an op-ed written by Senator Todd Pillion and Delegate Cia Price first published by the Richmond Times Dispatch. VISIT HERE to read the original publication.

Removing Barrier Crimes, Todd Pillion & Cia Price Cross The Aisle In Support of Civil Society was first posted at INSIDE CHARITY

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