The Virginia Holistic Justice Initiative is a 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization

     

    11 South 12th Street, First Floor

    Richmond, VA 23219

    Email:  info@vahji.com
    Office:  (804) 944-2425 | Fax:  (804) 256-2868    

    About Us

    Co-founded by a prosecutor and a public defender, the Initiative is launching in 2020 to create an effective and compassionate criminal justice system for a Safer Virginia.  Discover our Holistic History, Our Story, the 2020 Launch, Media Coverage, and Meet Our Founding Board Members.  Then, Get Involved!

     
    Holistic History

    Inspired by the work of public defenders from around the country, the Virginia Holistic Justice Initiative is developing a holistic, supportive intervention model of public safety for adoption by the entire criminal justice system.  The purpose of this holistic model is to keep us safer by ending the incarceration of non-violent people, with the goal of reducing crime and the significant human and financial costs of incarceration. 

    Holistic criminal defense first emerged in the 1990s as a new paradigm of public defense, pioneered by the Bronx Defenders in New York.  Since then, holistic models of criminal defense have been implemented successfully in other parts of the country by other public defenders, including the Knox County Community Law Office.

     
    Our Story

    Co-founded by a prosecutor and a public defender, the Initiative formed to forge a data-driven path through competing ideologies in criminal justice reform – by asking a single, innovative question:

     

    Can we create a safer Virginia by reducing incarceration? 

     

    In the courtroom, the Initiative's co founders – Tom, a prosecutor – and J., a public defender – found themselves on adversarial sides of their criminal cases, but with the same answer to this question:

     

    Yes, we can – by connecting non-violent people to local services addressing the circumstances bringing them into the criminal justice system, we can move them out of it.  We can reduce crime and the significant human and financial costs of incarceration.

     

    In October, 2018, Tom resigned as a prosecutor to co-found the Initiative with J., and the pair led the organization through a significant developmental year in 2019:  forming as a Virginia Nonstock Corporation, creating a founding board, obtaining 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, and running a pilot program that served (15) non-violent people and confirmed the potential public safety value of the Initiative's holistic, supportive intervention model.

    Can we create a safer Virginia by reducing incarceration? 

    Yes, we can – by connecting non-violent people to local services addressing the circumstances bringing them into the criminal justice system, we can move them out of it. 

     

    We can reduce crime and the significant human and financial costs of incarceration.

     
    2020 Launch

    In 2020, the Initiative is launching with charitable, financial support contributed graciously from Richmond’s public defenders, private defense attorneys, and many of our family members and friends. 

     

    Early this year, the Initiative expects to hire its first caseworker to serve clients full-time within our holistic, supportive intervention model of public safety. 

    As a criminal justice innovator, the Initiative was recently accepted into Capital One’s 1717 Innovation Center as a member of StartUp Virginia.  From 1717, we expect to fundraise for growth, organize an operating and advisory board, and advocate publicly for the adoption of a holistic, supportive intervention model of public safety that would end the incarceration of non-violent people and create an effective and compassionate criminal justice system for a Safer Virginia.

     
    Media Coverage

    Coverage of the Initiative’s development in 2019 does much to tell the story of where we’ve come from and where we’re going in 2020:

     
    Founding Board Members
    Tom Barbour
    Co-Founder & Executive Director

    Tom is a former prosecutor from Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, where he served as a policy advisor on prosecutorial innovation and criminal justice reform.  Grounded in this work and in his security experiences as a former Captain of Marines and foreign military advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tom brings a unique public safety perspective to the Initiative's holistic, supportive intervention model.  A graduate of the University of Virginia’s CLAS, School of Law, and the Darden School of Business with concentrations in criminal law and corporate innovation, Tom manages the Initiative’s mission with a focus on systemic reforms.

    Co-Founder & Chairman of the Founding Board
    Jerald "J." Hess

    J. is a Senior Public Defender in Richmond’s Public Defender’s Office, where he litigates complex criminal cases while managing several attorneys in public defense operations.  After graduating from American University’s Washington College of Law, and as a senior associate with DLA Piper in Washington, D.C., J. was instrumental in the formation of the DC Affordable Law Firm, whose mission is to close the justice gap for clients in need of civil legal services.  A seasoned litigator, J. brings crucial insight to the intersection of criminal, civil, and practical advocacy strategies on behalf of non-violent people in the criminal justice system.

    Barbie Burfoot
    Founding Board Member

    Barbie is the Senior Mitigation Specialist in the Richmond Public Defender’s Office, where she has been serving indigent clients since 2004 with a holistic approach to services and sentencing honed over fifteen additional years as a Probation & Parole Officer, including two as an Intensive PO with Richmond’s Drug Court.  By her extensive experience, Barbie brings holistic expertise to the Initiative’s development.

    Mackenzie Clements
    Founding Board Member

    Mackenzie is a founding partner of Bowen, Clements, Favret & Budny and a former Deputy Public Defender for the Richmond Public Defender’s Office.  Having tried hundreds of bench and jury trials in these capacities, Mackenzie brings specialized knowledge and wisdom to the Initiative’s practical advocacy on behalf of indigent non-violent people in the criminal justice system.

    David Coogan
    Founding Board Member

    Dave is an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and the lead author of Writing Our Way Out: Memoirs From Jail, a work detailing the transformative stories of ten men to whom Dave taught creative writing at the Richmond City Jail.  Having started an incarceration diversion program by the same name, Dave contributes significant organizing and storytelling capacities to the Initiative’s work.

    Alexandra Griffin
    Founding Board Member

    Alexandra is an Assistant City Attorney in Richmond and a former Assistant Public Defender for the City.  Specializing in family and juvenile justice issues, Alexandra offers the Initiative a unique perspective of the intersection of non-violent criminal defense and governmental services.  Incredibly active in the Richmond community, Alexandra instills a passion for progress in the Initiative's governance.

    Sarah Scarbrough
    Founding Board Member

    Sarah is the Founder and Director of REAL LIFE, a non-profit serving recently incarcerated people by overcoming barriers to their Recovery from Everyday Addictive Lifestyles.  Holding a doctorate in Public Policy and having built REAL LIFE from onsite programming in the Richmond City Jail to an independent charity, Sarah brings significant organizational development experience for the Initiative's growth.