Senate Passes McClellan Invoice to Reform the Felony Justice System for Virginians with Mental/Developmental Disabilities and Psychological Well being Circumstances


From Senator Jennifer McClellan’s office:

Senate Passes McClellan’s Law Reforming Criminal Justice System for Virginians with Mental / Developmental Disabilities and Mental Illness

The bill would allow individuals to provide evidence of mental illness or mental / developmental disabilities

RICHMOND, VA – Today the Virginia Senate passed SB 1315 from Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), a bill designed to improve the way the Virginia criminal justice system deals with cases involving individuals with mental illness and developmental / mental disabilities treated.

The bill would:

  • End a 1980s law prohibiting defendants from providing evidence of their mental health or mental / developmental disability, and how it might have affected their mental status at the time of the alleged crime.
  • Ask a judge to consider such conditions in bail and sentencing.
  • Add training for court-appointed attorneys to help them understand the unique considerations of representing people with such conditions and disabilities.

“Virginia needs to modernize our approach to combating people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental illnesses in our criminal justice system,” said Senator McClellan. “This law reforms our criminal justice system to be fairer and to address the unique challenges of mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities. I look forward to working with the House to pass this critical criminal justice reform bill. “

Delegate Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond) bears the accompanying invoice in the house.

“Too often people enter the justice system with the odds that already exist against them. This legislation ensures that people in the courtroom can tell their full stories and is an important step in ending the criminalization of people with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities, ”said Delegate Bourne. “I am proud to have sponsored this legislation in the House, and I would like to thank Senator McClellan for her dedicated work on this important issue.”

“Too often, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental illnesses – especially blacks, indigenous people and other people of color – get trapped in the system because of guidelines that fail to understand how intellectual and developmental disabilities or mental illnesses can affect many aspects of the system This person’s interaction with the judicial system, ”said Tonya Milling, executive director of The Arc of Virginia. “This new legislation ensures that people with intellectual and / or developmental disabilities involved in the criminal justice system are recognized and considered to ensure that their rights are protected and that they can receive fair treatment, including reasonable accommodation, when needed . The Arc of Virginia thanks Senator McClellan and Delegate Bourne for their work in bringing fairness and justice into the judicial system. “

“Senator McClellan’s Bill SB 1315 and Delegate Bourne’s HB 2047 are a major reform of the criminal justice system for people with mental health and intellectual / developmental disabilities such as autism,” said Brian Kelmar, Chair of the Legal Reform for the Mentally and Developmentally Disabled (LRIDD) ). “It provides fairness and just justice under the law to enable evidence of recognition of disabilities and mental health problems throughout the trial, not just the conviction stage. A common comment I regularly hear from parents and relatives with family members with mental and / or intellectual / developmental issues involved in the criminal justice system is, “The courts will clearly take into account my son’s mental or developmental condition and this nightmare becomes disappear. ‘Instead, they are terribly shocked and in unimaginable pain when they find out that clues about the mental state or a developmental disorder can only be considered during the judgment phase. This legislation is a great opportunity to ensure equality under the law for our most vulnerable populations and the first step in educating employees in court. “

Senator McClellan worked with students at the University of Virginia School of Law’s new State and Local Government Policy Clinic to help draft the legislative proposal. One of the students who worked with the Senator, Lukus Freeman, said, “While this law is new in Virginia, it reflects common practice in a number of other states. It also reflects recommendations from the American Bar Association. ”

Kyle McGoey, who also worked on the legislation, added, “SB 1315 will bring Virginia into line with best practice when it comes to people with disabilities or mental illnesses involved in the criminal justice system.”


Jennifer McClellan was elected to the Virginia Senate in 2017 after serving 11 years in the House of Delegates. She has been a leader in fighting climate change, strengthening public education and dismantling the school-prison pipeline, protecting voting rights, reforming the criminal justice system, combating domestic and sexual violence, and combating all forms of discrimination.

Twitter: @JennMcClellanVA; Facebook: @Senjennifermcclellan; IG: @JennMcClellanVA; Website:

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