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On the Issues: Criminal Justice Reform

Rehabilitation

Qasim Rashid believes that criminal justice should be built on rehabilitation, not revenge. He has invested much of his career as a lawyer towards this goal.

  • Today, Virginia spends over $29,000 a year per inmate, but only about $11,000 per student. This harms our students, strengthens a school to prison pipeline, and grows the prison industrial complex. This must change.
  • Qasim served as a Virginia state prison chaplain for four years, during which time he mentored inmates on self-reform, peaceful conflict resolution, and on how to remain as positive and productive members of society upon release.
  • Published articles written by Qasim Rashid address the racial and economic biases in our criminal justice system, including the need to abolish the private prison industry.
  • Qasim supports voter re-enfranchisement, especially for those who have served their time in prison, because a higher number of voters results in a stronger Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Qasim supports reforming the bail system. We must make sure that those who pose major safety threats cannot simply pay to walk free while those who have committed nonviolent offenses sit in jail because they don’t have the money. 
  • Companies should not be allowed to exploit prison labor. As long as there are those that benefit from workers that can be paid below minimum wage, policies that lead to mass incarceration will continue to be incentivized.

As Congressman, Qasim will work hard for the safety and security of all Virginians through a criminal justice system built on rehabilitation, reduced recidivism, and voter re-enfranchisement.

 

Second Amendment

Qasim Rashid’s experience with guns began in his childhood when his parents taught him responsible gun ownership. He believes in protecting the Second Amendment but ensuring violent felons, domestic abusers, and otherwise dangerous individuals do not have easy access to guns.

Gun violence is an epidemic in America, causing over 40,000 annual deaths, far surpassing every other developed nation and western democracy. Meaningful gun laws work, ensuring responsible citizens have access to firearms for self-defense and hunting needs, while keeping our citizens and schoolchildren protected from mass shooters and terrorists.

We can look to the rest of the world for evidence that responsible gun laws work:

  • After the 1987 Hungerford mass shooting left 16 dead, England enacted meaningful gun reform. England has experienced one mass shooting since.
  • After the 1995 Port Arther mass shooting left 35 dead, Australia enacted responsible gun legislation. Australia has experienced zero mass shootings since.
  • After the Dunblane Primary School mass shooting left 18 dead, Scotland enacted meaningful gun reform. Scotland has experienced zero mass shootings since.
  • After the 2009 Winnenden school shooting left 16 dead, Germany enacted responsible gun legislation. Germany has experienced only one mass shooting since.
  • Data from GunViolenceArchive.org, which documents every shooting and mass shooting in America, shows that, since the 1999 Columbine shooting that left 14 dead, America has enacted insufficient meaningful pieces of gun reform legislation. America has since experienced over 5,000 mass shootings, including hundreds of school shootings in which innocent school children were killed.

Responsible gun laws don’t curtail freedom, happiness, safety, and/or national peace — they support freedom, happiness, safety, and national peace. We can see how by looking at  just four representative democracies as examples—Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, and New Zealand. Each are developed western societies with comparable economies, living standards, and demographics to the United States. Here’s what we learn by looking at these nations:

  • Each of these countries rank well ahead of America in the freedoms, happiness, safety, and peace that its citizens enjoy.
  • The conservative leaning Cato Institute’s annual human freedom index reports that on personal freedoms, New Zealand ranks 1st, Australia ranks 4th, the United Kingdom ranks 8th, Germany ranks 13th, and the United States is 17th.
  • The World Happiness Report states that New Zealand ranks 8th, Australians rank 10th in happiness, Germans rank 15th, Americans rank 18th, and the British rank 19th.
  • When it comes to the World Safety Index, New Zealand ranks 3rd, Australians are the 12th safest worldwide, Germans are 13th safest, the British are 35th safest, and Americans are only 49th safest.
  • Finally, looking at the Global Peace Index, New Zealand ranks 2nd, Australia ranks 13th, Germany ranks 17th, the British rank 57th, and the United States ranks an astounding 121st — ahead of only 42 countries.

If more unregulated guns truly meant more freedom, safety, happiness, and peace, America would lead each of these categories. Instead we lag far behind. Each of these vital components to a thriving democracy are stifled when guns fall into the hands of terrorists and extremists. However, democracy, freedom, safety, happiness, and peace thrive when people petition their governments to enact responsible gun laws.

Qasim supports:

  • Universal background checks.
  • Ban on automatic and military style semi-automatic weapons.
  • Ban on possession or production of high capacity magazines.
  • Close the Charleston loophole which allows the sale of a firearm if a background check is not completed within three days.
  • Instituting a seven day waiting period for gun purchases.
  • Red Flag Laws (extreme risk protection orders) that, when approved by a judge, grant law enforcement the ability to temporarily confiscate someone’s firearms. These laws have bipartisan support across the country. As Indiana Governor, Mike Pence passed a red flag law to protect Indiana’s residents. As Vice President Mike Pence praised Indiana’s red flag law as a “blueprint for the entire nation.”

As Congressman, Qasim will work to assure the empowerment of Virginians to use guns responsibly, while enjoying the freedoms, happiness, safety, and peace that comes with that ownership.

 

Decriminalizing Marijuana

After years of experimentation in several states we now know that legalization generates tax revenue, reduces crime, limits use by minors, and creates economic activity without the harms predicted by opponents. Cannabis prohibition laws target Black and Brown communities and support the for-profit prison industry. It’s time to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis use at the Federal level.

  • Legalization will reduce dependence on more dangerous drugs like opioids and alcohol.
  • Legalization will help keep cannabis out of the hands of minors.
  • The additional tax revenue will help struggling schools and pay for infrastructure repair and maintenance.
  • Creating a legal market for cannabis will shrink the black market for drugs and reduce drug crime.

Legalization of cannabis must come with broader criminal justice reform surrounding the history of prosecuting drug crimes disproportionately against Black and Brown communities.

  • Expunge any criminal records for people convicted of simple possession of cannabis.
  • Make sure no drug conviction makes people ineligible for social services of any kind.

 

Domestic Violence

Qasim believes in the indisputable truth that women’s rights are human rights. Qasim has spent his career as a human rights attorney fighting for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, which are disproportionately women. When in office Qasim will continue to fight for women, and for equality and justice for all genders.

Though domestic violence affects people of all genders including men, it disproportionately affects women. Qasim will take actions to end this epidemic such as: closing the “Boyfriend Loophole” of the Lautenberg Amendment which allows for stalkers and current or former dating partners to still buy and own a gun even if they’ve been convicted of a domestic violence crime; passing Relinquishment Laws which not only prohibit a domestic abuser from purchasing firearms, but also require abusers to turn over the guns they already own and provide proof of compliance.