In Tuesday’s election, Chesterfield County will be voting on a new Commonwealth’s attorney (CA) in a special election. Given the immense power CAs hold, you have the opportunity to greatly impact your community. The candidates – John Childrey and Scott Miles – have expressed differing views on what they believe a CA’s role should be in the community.

Do you know where they stand on important issues for Chesterfield, like cash bail, alternative programs for low-level drug offenses, criminalizing pregnancy and racial disparities in the criminal justice system? We’ve created a Voter Guide to help you decide which candidate deserves your vote.

Racial Bias

In a recent poll, 76% of Chesterfield voters believe that the criminal justice system in Virginia works differently for different people, with the most cited reason being “racial differences.” If elected, how would you use your office to address these racial disparities in Chesterfield?

Childrey Miles
“I don’t look at the police report and look the race of the offender or the sex of the offender. I look at the record of the offender and I look at the choices that the individual made and I look at the circumstances of this crime that is on my plate right now and decide what to do.” “Racial bias is tricky in that it's hard to see in an individual case, sometimes people are doing it and don't know that that's what they're doing and if you look at a particular case and you look at the police report. It’s not going to be in the police report that the police stopped this person of color because they were a person of color...we know that it's there because the statistics tell us that it's there...that requires a policy response.”

Marijuana Decriminalization

In 2017, Chesterfield County had the third most arrests for simple possession of marijuana in the Commonwealth - all this in a county where you are twice as likely to be arrested if you are black than if you are white. If elected would you support decriminalizing marijuana - making simple possession of marijuana a civil fine rather than a criminal conviction?

Childrey Miles
“Decriminalization of marijuana is a policy decision that must be made by the General Assembly...If you don’t like the laws as currently written, elect new people. Marijuana intoxication is an issue, it's a problem and decriminalization - I think it's not my opinion or Scotts opinion that should drive that... There should be community meetings around the Commonwealth and Chesterfield to make that sort of decision not just my belief or Scotts.” “Would I support it as a policy change, yes. but...when we take this office we also take an oath to uphold the law. There's a lot of discretion in how we apply the law in service of our community. So I can't by Commonwealth's Fiat decriminalize marijuana in Chesterfield County. Would I be happy if it happened? Sure. Would I talk to legislators and tell them that I don't think it's a public safety issue? Absolutely. What I can do is agree that 3rd offense or 5th offense...we extend no jail time offers and I can agree to the general continuance for it to be dismissed. I don't care if it's the 1st offense, 5th offense or the 10th offense, possession of marijuana is not a public safety issue. We shouldn't be putting people in jail for it - that's the bottom line.”

Diversion Programs

Two thirds of voters in this election think the criminal justice system is failing in how it treats people with mental illness and those addicted to drugs. When asked if prosecutors should be pursuing treatment rather than jail, 9 out 10 voters agreed with a rehabilitative approach. If you were elected, would you support the creation and funding for more diversion programs and community based services?

Childrey Miles
“Yes, it's not only an ethical and moral investment but I think it would be a good financial investment for communities because if folks can get off the substances they're taking that are taking them down the wrong path...that's a win for everyone. It's a win for the folks in her family, coworkers,folks around her in the community -everybody benefits...upfront cost is what scares folks away. But I think the message needs to be that this is actually a wise investment fiscally and like I said - morally and ethically as well.” “Yes, there are people who find themselves substance dependent and their path to recovery is often an individual path, so we need to have a larger menu of options for treatment and recovery than we have historically had [in Chesterfield.] The model we use where are we lock people up for 3 months or six months or a year because we saw them last year and they are still addicted to the substance and well we tried treatment once and it didn't work - that's enormously harmful.”

Bail Reform

Nearly half of the people in Virginia’s jail are awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted of a crime - often held for minor offenses on a cash bail they cannot afford, disproportionately affecting people of color, women, and the poor. Will you commit to adopting a policy in your office if elected of not advocating or asking for cash bail? Why or why not?

Childrey Miles
“I would not advocate for getting rid of cash bail entirely I believe it's useful because sometimes folks that do have a high cash bail that are some risk of flight if they don't show up in court it's good to have a bail bondsman to go out and find that person so we can bring them to trial.” “Cash bail hurts poor people, that's the bottom line...once I'm elected every prosecuting attorney in that office will either find that a person is too dangerous to let out and will oppose bond or in the vast majority of cases they will agree to a recognizance bond - that’s a bond that doesn't require bringing any payment of money to a bondsman on whatever conditions are appropriate to that case. That will be policy. That will happen everyday in every courtroom.”

Transparency

Transparency was cited by 94% of voters statewide and locally as something that is very important to them as they look at who they will support for this position. Will you commit to releasing data on key points of discretion like charging decisions and plea bargains within your first term?

Childrey Miles
“Yes.” “Yes.”

Independent Prosecution into Police Use of Force

Would you commit to have another prosecutor, who has no relationship with local law enforcement investigate any fatal shooting of someone by police in your locality?

Childrey Miles
“Not in all cases.” “If the community expected it, yes.”

Prosecution of Marijuana Possession

Would you commit to not prosecuting simple marijuana possession under 1 oz in Chesterfield County?

Childrey Miles
“No.” “No.”

 

 

 

 

 

Life without Parole for Juveniles

Would you recommend that a juvenile defendant be sentenced to life without parole?

Childrey Miles
“It's unconstitutional.” “I can't imagine a scenario but I can't say no absolutely.”

Criminalization of Pregnancy

Childrey Miles
“My understanding there was a theory of innocence that couldn't be excluded by the Commonwealth’s evidence was the reason that the charge was withdrawn which in my experience is a very valid reason. We’re not in the business of seeing if we can get a criminal charge to stick but were in the business of ‘if there is provable admissible evidence and we believe a crime was committed and public safety and justice determines that a conviction would be warranted then we go forward.” “In this particular case, I wasn’t on it either what I know about it I read in the paper and I can tell you it appears to be a case of very creative prosecution and creative prosecution can be a dangerous thing. This was an instance of using the law on a set of facts in a way that had never been done before to address something that’s not a public safety issue. The short answer to your question is no, that case would not have been indicted on my watch.”

 

 

 

Stay informed

ACLU of Virginia is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National