Last week on Tuesday, Arlington voters saw the election of local officials in the Democratic party race. Perhaps most notably, defense attorney Paris Dehagani-Tafti defeated incumbent Theo Stamos for the Commonwealth Attorney’s spot. Tafti secured 52 percent of the vote compared to Stamo’s 48 percent, and ran on a platform of criminal justice reform.
Her win was more or less an upset, as Stamos had held the seat of Commonwealth Attorney for the past seven years.
A lot of people, like me, like Tafti’s reformist take on the criminal justice system: if elected in November, she will work to eliminate cash bail, stop the prosecution of simple marijuana possession, and raise the felony threshold in Virginia. She will also prohibit the death penalty for people with serious mental illness and restore voting rights for felons at the end of their sentence.
Tafti brings diversity to criminal justice and will ensure that people with less privilege are given fair treatment.
Moving forward, I hope that Tafti will advocate for the rights of transgender individuals in jail, especially transgender women of color. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender people in prison are 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted by their fellow inmates and five times as likely to be sexually assaulted by staff. Transgender prisoners also face denial of crucial health care and lengthy stays in solitary confinement.
Tafti should make clear in her platform that she will advocate for transgender prisoners through a variety of means: offering hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery to transitioning inmates, preventing solitary confinement, advocating for correct pronoun usage, and placing transgender women in women’s jails.
The transgender community counts on defenders like Tafti to work on our behalf. We trust that her campaign will pick up our message. A lot of us are thrilled that she won the primary, and will be crossing out fingers come November 2019.