RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WAVY) — Gov. Ralph Northam has signed two criminal justice reform bills into law and proposed adding $1 million to the state budget to investigate the culture at the Virginia Military Institute after a newspaper article described allegations of racism.
The legislature is scheduled to reconvene Monday to consider Northam’s proposed budget revisions. Lawmakers also will review amendments to legislation approved during a special session focused on the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as police and criminal justice reforms.
One of the bills Northam signed will allow judges instead of juries to decide sentences in criminal cases.
On Oct. 20, state officials ordered an outside investigation into the Virginia Military Institute following a report in The Washington Post that described Black cadets and alumni facing “relentless racism.”
Northam co-wrote a letter with other state officials and lawmakers to the state-supported school’s Board of Visitors expressing “deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at VMI. The letter said the state will fund an independent probe into the school’s culture, policies, practices and equity in disciplinary procedures, the Post reported.