Testimony on H.492 Continues


 Tabitha Pohl-Moore Testifies Racial Justice Reform Bill (H.492)

Thanks to EVERYONE who attended the testimony yesterday.  It was a record turnout for the session!  It is very important that we maintain a sustained presence in the statehouse to ensure that our voices are heard on this historic bill

We just found out this morning that testimony on H.492 will continue 15 minutes after the House leaves the floor today!   We are asking EVERYONE to descend on the statehouse at 1:30 TODAY and join us in the House Judiciary for testimony.

Also go to racialjusticereformomnibusbillvt.wordpress.com and do all the things!

1) Sign the petitions that call for the adoption of these bills.  Your signature alerts all members of the legislature:

Petition for H.492
Petition for S.116

Also, we know many of you have already done so but if not please disseminate the following to your networks:

2)  Testify!  Here is a form where you can submit your testimony. H.492 Testimony Submission Form
3)  Call the Sergeant at Arms and leave a message for your legislative delegation and/or the House Judiciary expressing your support for H492 and S.116:   802-828-2228
You can also send an email: jmiller@leg.state.vt.us

4)  Send a message to the Judiciary Committee of each chamber expressing your support.

House Judiciary (H.492) – vermont-house-judiciary@googlegroups.com
Senate Judiciary (S.116) – vermont-senate-judiciary@googlegroups.com

FAQs on the bill can be found here

As you consider where you are investing in social justice issues, remember the racial referendum that we just experienced in our national election.  Consider donating to Justice For All, an organically grown, Vermont-based racial justice organization that has been here doing the work over the past couple of years.

Please help us with your membership, provide organizational support or simply provide a contribution.  Help us continue this work in Vermont.

Over this past year we worked in a coalition to successfully deliver the Vermont Fair and Impartial Policing Policy for all law enforcement agencies in the state.  Our work continues with numerous community outreach activities, Vermont Justice Coalition, Coalition on Racial Justice Reform, the Law Enforcement Professional Regulation Committee and much more but we need your help to continue.

#DecisionPoints is a open source data collection initiative that is underway.  This open platform will provide the community access to our data and enable transparency and accountability.  Help us with this effort.

How you can Support Racial Justice Reform in Vermont

Help Vermont make history by passing The Racial Justice Reform Bill. This bill creates a racial justice reform oversight board. The board would manage the implementation of practices that mitigate institutionalized racism.

If you want to learn more about the bill, keep reading! If you want to know how you can support it, either in person or from your house, please jump to the bottom!

With the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and top leader of our Department of Justice, a man who has been systematically attacking civil rights across the span of his more than 30 year career, and Donald Trump instructing him to “crack down on crime” and create a plan to end violence against police officers, despite FBI data reports that crime rates have been falling consistently since the 1990’s, the time to act is NOW. Trump has vowed to turn his back on community oriented policing strategies that seek to heal divides and restore trust between communities and law enforcement in favor of unconstitutional policies such as “stop and frisk.” He additionally calls for the ceasing of federal investigations of departments that are under scrutiny for abuse of power and discrimination, once again leaving African Americans vulnerable and at risk of mistreatment.

But we say, not in Vermont. Not this time. Right now Vermont is poised to enact legislation for racial justice reform that is simply unprecedented in our state. Yes we are a small, majority white state, but racial disparities exist and they are just as real and just as toxic as anywhere else in this nation. African American drivers are stopped at 5 TIMES the rate of white drivers in Vermont and are more likely to be searched, yet are found to be in possession of contraband LESS frequently than whites. This is not a policing issue, this is an implicit bias issue resulting from a culture that we are all steeped in from the day we are born. This implicit bias is the root cause of the systemic racism that creates disparities in our systems across the board. And the only way to fix it is to see it, to call it by name, and be brave enough to stand up and say, yes this is a problem and we must meet it head on.

H.492 (S.116) seeks to do exactly that. This legislation, the very first of its kind in our brave little state, in fact the most sweeping attempt to bring racial justice out into the light in our history, will establish a Racial Justice Oversight Board to start addressing these issues. With 12 appointed members, housed under the office of Vermont’s attorney general, this board will tackle the difficult questions of disparate treatment of people of color in this state and make recommendations using the most cutting edge and proven tools and strategies of our time. Vermont has always led the forward march to recognition and equality for all, we can get on the right side of history and we can do it now.

Please, lets get this bill crossed over into the next phase of the legislation session. We have LESS THAN ONE WEEK to make this happen. Sign the petitions, call your legislators, send e-mails, attend the press conference, RALLY with us! Black LivesMatter! #racialjusticereformvt

DIRECT ACTION IN PERSON

1) Come to the press conference on Wednesday March 15th @ 10 AM in the Cedar Creek Room at the Statehouse in Montpelier. Get more information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1211312735654917/

2) Come to the Racial Justice Rally on Thursday March 16th @ 6pm on the Statehouse steps. Get more information at:
 https://www.facebook.com/events/1877620885849487/

3) Come to a Conversation with Bernie Sanders about Racial Justice in Vermont Friday March 17th @ 5pm at Vermont Technical College. Get more information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1877620885849487/

DIRECT ACTION FROM HOME

1) Sign the petition that calls for the adoption of these bills. Your signature alerts all members of the legislature:Petition for H.492
Petition for S.116

2) Call the Sergeant at Arms and leave a message for your legislative delegation and/or the House Judiciary expressing your support for H492 and S116 at 802-828-2228        *see the paragraph above to guide what you could say to her
 
3) Send a message to the Judiciary Committee of each chamber expressing your support
House Judiciary (H.492) – vermont-house-judiciary@googlegroups.com
Senate Judiciary (S.116) – vermont-senate-judiciary@googlegroups.com

4)  Mail a postcard to your legislator. Find them here:
http://legislature.vermont.gov/people

5) Forward the email to your networks and share this information on Facebook and by word of mouth!

Racial Justice Reform Resources H.492 and S.116

We will be housing a collection of resources here to assist in communicating the importance of this unprecedented racial justice Vermont bill.

We thought you might want to have all of the weeks activities in one place– Cross Over Week Event Flyer 

Here is flyer discussing actions that can be taken on H.492

Take a look at this pamphlet with background and discussion on legislation – JFA FIP Handout

This document provides some analysis of the bill – Racial Justice Reform Bill – Analysis

If you have questions, here are some of the answers – Racial justice Reform Bill – FAQs

Example of a Front Porch Forum Posting

It is now more important than ever that Vermonters stand up for Black Lives! H.492 (S.116) seeks to do exactly that. This legislation, the very first of its kind in our brave little state, in fact the most sweeping attempt to bring racial justice out into the light in our history, will establish a Racial Justice Oversight Board to start addressing issues of implicit bias and racial disparities in our system. With 12 appointed members, housed under the office of Vermont’s attorney general, this board will tackle the difficult questions of disparate treatment of racial minorities in this state and make recommendations using the most cutting edge and proven tools and strategies of our time. Vermont has always led the forward march to recognition and equality for all, we can get on the right side of history and we can do it now.

Please, lets get this bill crossed over into the next phase of the legislation session. We have just ONE WEEK to make this happen. Sign the petitions, call your legislators, send e-mails, attend the press conference, RALLY with us!

Monday March 13: H.492 celebration and phone bank https://www.facebook.com/events/209842729497047/

Wednesday March 15: Press Conference https://www.facebook.com/events/1211312735654917/

Thursday March 16: Rally for Racial Justice NOW! https://www.facebook.com/events/1877620885849487/

Friday March 17: Racial Justice Discussion after Bernie Sanders talk https://www.facebook.com/events/181126995722798/

Thank you all!

Justice For All Introduces Bills Proposing Racial Justice Oversight Board

 

March 7, 2017
PRESS RELEASE:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: Mark Hughes
Organization: Justice For All
Number: (401) 480-8222
Email: mark@justiceforallvt.org
Website: Justiceforallvt.org

Justice For All Announces Introduction of Racial Oversight Committee Bills

Montpelier, March 7, 2017 – Today Justice For All announced the introduction of two bills aimed at creating a racial justice oversight committee. H.492, sponsored by Rep. Ruqaiyah Morris (D-Bennington), Rep. Kevin Christie (D-White River Junction), and Rep. Diana Gonzalez (D-Winooski) was introduced on February 24, and referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. On Friday, a bill that mirrors H.492 was introduced to the Senate and referred to Senate Committee on Judiciary. S.116 is sponsored by Sen. Anthony Pollina, (P/D-Washington) Sen. Francis Brooks (D-Washington) Sen. Debbie Ingram (D-Chittenden) and Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham).

The bills propose to establish a twelve member board under the office of the Attorney General to address institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system.
“In light of the challenges that we face in Vermont with racial disparities in the criminal justice system, we must make a commitment to do the right thing,” said Justice For All’s co-founder Mark Hughes.

The bills state that “The Board shall conduct management and oversight of the implementation of racial justice reform across the State, including within the criminal justice system, by managing and overseeing the collection of race- based data, ensuring such data are publicly available, and developing policies and trainings to address systemic implicit bias.”

Justice For All will hold a press briefing next week to answer questions regarding both bills. Details to follow.

About Justice For All

Justice For All is a Vermont-based, racial justice non-profit organization that identifies and dismantles institutionalized racism and facilitates healing and empowerment in Vermont communities. They ensure justice for all through community organizing, research, education, community policing, legislative reform and judicial monitoring. To this end they address systemic issues such as racially biased policing and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
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Supporting Racial Justice Reform – H492

 

Here are five things that you can do now to assist in moving this unprecedented legislation forward:

1) sign the petition that calls for the adoption of this bill. Your signature alerts all members of the legislature: https://www.change.org/p/establish-a-the-racial-justice-oversight-board-in-vermont-adopt-h492

2) Call the Sergeant at Arms and leave a message for your legislative delegation and/or the House Judiciary expressing your support for H492:

802-828-2228.  You can also send an email: jmiller@leg.state.vt.us

3) Send a message to the House Judiciary Committee expressing your support for H492. This address will inform all 11 members:

vermont-house-judiciary@googlegroups.com

4) Come out and support us at the “Push for Racial Justice Reform” at Sweet Melissa’s on Thursday and Friday evening (March 2nd and 3rd).  Here are the Facebook events:

Push For Racial Justice Reform Part I
Push For Racial Justice Reform Part II

5)  Get the information to your network

Thanks for getting the word out.

 

H492 Calls for Racial Justice Oversight Board

The Racial Justice Reform Bill was released late this afternoon.  The bill states that “The Board shall conduct management and oversight of the implementation of racial justice reform across the State, including within the criminal justice system, by managing and overseeing the collection of race- based data, ensuring such data are publicly available, and developing policies and trainings to address systemic implicit bias.”

We’ll be keeping you posted on the coalition site  and the Facebook page.

Here is a petition that we created that maps directly to the bill.

The Bill

BILL AS INTRODUCED H.492

Introduced by Representatives Morris of Bennington, Christie of Hartford, and Gonzalez of Winooski

Subject: Law enforcement; fair and impartial policing; Racial Justice Oversight Board

Statement of purpose of bill as introduced: This bill proposes to establish the  Racial Justice Oversight Board to manage and oversee the implementation of racial justice reform across the State.

An act relating to the Racial Justice Oversight Board

Sec. 1. 3 V.S.A. § 168 is added to read:

§ 168. RACIAL JUSTICE OVERSIGHT BOARD  

(a) The Racial Justice Oversight Board is established. The Board shall be 16 organized and have the duties and responsibilities as provided in this section. 17 The Board shall be organized within the Office of the Attorney General, and 18 members of the Board shall be drawn from throughout the State and from 19 diverse racial, ethnic, religious, age, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and shall have had experience working to implement racial 2 justice reform.

(b) The Board shall comprise the following 12 members: (1) four members to represent the interests of communities of color throughout the State, appointed by the Attorney General; (2) the Executive Director of the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council or designee; (3) the Attorney General or designee; (4) the Defender General or designee; (5) the Executive Director of the State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs or 11 designee; (6) the Chief Administrative Judge or designee; (7) the Commissioner of Corrections or designee; (8) the Executive Director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission or designee; and (9) the Executive Director of the Vermont chapter of the ACLU or designee.

(c) The terms of members shall be four years. As terms of currently serving members expire, appointments of successors shall be in accord with the provisions of subsection (b) of this section. Appointments of members to fill vacancies or expired terms shall be made by the authority that made the initial appointment to the vacated or expired term. Members of the Board shall 2 be eligible for reappointment.

(d) Members of the Board shall elect biennially by majority vote the Chair of the Board. Members of the Board shall receive no compensation for their services, but shall be entitled to reimbursement for expenses in the manner and amount provided to employees of the State.

(e) Seven members shall constitute a quorum of the Board. Once a quorum has been established, the vote of a majority of the members present at the time of the vote shall be an act of the Board.

(f) The Board shall conduct management and oversight of the implementation of racial justice reform across the State, including within the criminal justice system, by managing and overseeing the collection of race- based data, ensuring such data are publicly available, and developing policies and trainings to address systemic implicit bias. In furtherance of that responsibility, the Board shall have the authority to:

(1) ensure law enforcement compliance with the requirements of 20 V.S.A. § 2366
(2) continually review the data collected pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 2366 to measure State progress toward a fair and impartial system of law enforcement;
(3) provide recommendations to the Criminal Justice Training Council and the Vermont Bar Association,based on the latest social science research and best practices in law enforcement and criminal justice, on a model training and policy for law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders, judges, and correctional officers to recognize and address implicit bias, and conduct oversight of the statewide adoption and implementation of such policies and trainings;
(4) provide recommendations to the Criminal Justice Training Council, based on the latest social science research and best practices in law enforcement, on a model training and policy on the use of force in policing;
(5) in collaboration with the Criminal Justice Training Council:
(A) oversee the incorporation of implicit bias training into the requirements of basic training pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 2358; and
(B) oversee the implementation of the refresher trainings as required by 20 V.S.A. § 2358(e);
(6) educate and inform businesses, educational institutions, State and local governments, and the general public about the nature and scope of racial discrimination and the systemic and institutionalized nature of race-based bias
(7) advise and consult with the Executive and Legislative Branches of State government on the assessment of racial impact of policies and legislation; and
(8) on or before January 15, 2018, and annually thereafter, report to the General Assembly, and provide as a part of that report recommendations on:
(A) methods of oversight and professional regulation of the criminal justice system, including a statewide program for civilian oversight of law enforcement;
(B) processes and methodologies to achieve an independent prosecutorial body for investigating and prosecuting law enforcement misconduct;
(C) instituting a public complaint process to address misconduct in the criminal justice system;
(D) expanding jurisdiction of the Board to address institutionalized racism in education, health services access, employment, and housing policy;
(E) prohibiting racial profiling, including any associated penalties;
(F) requiring law enforcement to expand its race data collection practices to include data on law enforcement stops based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause and law enforcement use of force during interactions with civilians; and
(G) amending the Vermont Constitution to clarify that slavery in any form is prohibited.

g) No part of any funds appropriated to the Board by the General Assembly shall, in the absence of express authorization by the General Assembly, be used directly or indirectly for legislative or administrative advocacy. The Board shall review and amend as necessary all existing contracts and grants to ensure compliance with this subsection. As used in this subsection, legislative or administrative advocacy means employment of a lobbyist as defined in 2 V.S.A. chapter 11, or employment of, or establishment of, or maintenance of, a lobbyist position whose primary function is to influence legislators or State officials with respect to pending legislation or regulations.

Sec. 2. 20 V.S.A. § 2358(e) is amended to read:

(1) The criteria for all minimum training standards under this section shall include anti-bias, appropriate use of force, and deescalation training approved by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council and training on the State, county, or municipal law enforcement agency’s fair and impartial policing policy, adopted pursuant to subsection 2366(a) of this title.
(2) On or before December 31, 2018, law enforcement officers shall receive a minimum of four hours of training as required by this subsection.
(3) In order to remain certified, law enforcement officers shall receive a refresher course on the training required by this subsection during every odd- numbered year in a program approved by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council.
(4) All training completed by law enforcement officers shall be reported to the Criminal Justice Training Council and the Racial Justice Oversight Board on or before April 1, 2018, and annually thereafter, and shall be made publicly available.

Sec. 4. 20 V.S.A. § 2366 is amended to read:

4 § 2366. LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES; FAIR AND IMPARTIAL 5 POLICING POLICY; RACE DATA COLLECTION

(a)

(1) On or before January 1, 2016, the Criminal Justice Training Council, in consultation with stakeholders, including the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Vermont Human Rights Commission, and Migrant Justice, shall create a model fair and impartial policing policy. On or before July 1, 2016, every State, local, county, and municipal law enforcement agency and every constable who exercises law enforcement authority pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 1936a and who is trained in compliance with section 2358 of this title shall adopt a fair and impartial policing policy that includes, at a minimum, the elements of the Criminal Justice Training Council model fair and impartial policing policy in its entirety.

(2) On or before July 1, 2017 and annually thereafter, the Criminal Justice Training Council, in consultation with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Vermont Human Rights Commission, the Vermont chapter of the ACLU, Migrant Justice, Justice for All, the Racial Justice Oversight Board, and law enforcement shall review and update the model fair and impartial policing policy.

(b) If a law enforcement agency or constable that is required to adopt a policy pursuant to subsection (a) of this section fails to do so on or before July 1, 2016, that agency or constable shall be deemed to have adopted, and shall follow and enforce, the model policy issued by the Criminal Justice Training Council.

(c) On or before September 15, 2014, and annually thereafter as part of their annual training report to the Council, every State, county, and municipal law enforcement agency and every constable who exercises law enforcement authority pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 1936a and who is trained in compliance with section 2358 of this title shall report to the Council and to the Racial Justice Oversight Board whether the agency or officer has adopted a fair and impartial policing policy in accordance with subsections (a) and (b) of this section. The Criminal Justice Training Council shall determine, as part of the Council’s annual certification of training requirements, whether current officers have received training on fair and impartial policing as required by 20 V.S.A. 16 § 2358(e).

(d) On or before October 15, 2014, and annually thereafter on April 1, the Criminal Justice Training Council shall report to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary Racial Justice Oversight Board which departments and officers have adopted a fair and impartial policing policy, and whether officers have received training on fair and impartial policing. Justice Oversight Board shall report this information to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary annually on or before May 1.

(e)

(1) On or before September 1, 2014, every State, county, and municipal law enforcement agency shall collect roadside stop data consisting of the following:

(A) the age, gender, and race of the driver;
(B) the reason for the stop; (
(C) the type of search conducted, if any;
(D) the evidence located, if any; and
(E) the outcome of the stop, including whether:
(i) a written warning was issued;
(ii) a citation for a civil violation was issued;
(iii) a citation or arrest for a misdemeanor or a felony occurred; or
(iv) no subsequent action was taken.

(2) Law enforcement agencies shall work with the Criminal Justice Training Council Racial Justice Oversight Board and a vendor chosen by the Council Board with the goals of collecting uniform data, adopting uniform storage methods and periods, and ensuring that data can be analyzed. Roadside stop data, as well as reports and analysis of roadside stop data, shall be public.

(3) On or before September 1, 2016 and annually thereafter, law enforcement agencies shall provide the data collected under this subsection to the Racial Justice Oversight Board or a vendor chosen by the Criminal Justice Training Council Board under subdivision (2) of this subsection or, in the event the vendor is unable to continue receiving data under this section, to the Council Board. Law enforcement agencies shall provide the data collected under this subsection in an electronic format specified by the receiving entity. (4) The data provided pursuant to subdivision (3) of this subsection shall be posted electronically in a manner that is analyzable and accessible to the public on the receiving agency’s website.

Sec. 5. EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on passage.

Justice For All Testimony to Vermont House Judiciary Committee

Justice For All

Testimony to Vermont House Judiciary Committee – 8 February, 2017 9:00 AM

Statehouse Room 11

Recognizing the chair and members of the committee who are charged with the responsibility of creating a framework that keeps us all safe, thank you for an opportunity to appear before you today.

I appear before you questioning where we are focusing our attention today. I ask that the committee consider the origin of Fair and Impartial Policing, which was Act 134 ,2012; “Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System” (Later Act 193, 2014) The legislative research of Act 2012 introduced empirical data outlining the existence of these disparities in the criminal justice system here in Vermont.   Reports from Dr. Stephanie Sequino of UVM, Dr. Jack McDevett of North Eastern University and Ashley Nellis (The Color of Justice) of the Sentencing Project further support this fact while suggesting that the problem in Vermont has worsened over the past five years.

Much progress has been made with addressing racial disparities in the law enforcement system and advancements can be made with funding and oversight. I respectfully implore the committee to return to the focus of addressing racial disparities across the entire criminal justice system. Further, we must acknowledge the work that must be done to address institutionalized racism in employment, education, housing, health services and the political process.

Echoing the testimony of Migrant Justice, Vermont ACLU, The Peace and Justice Center and the Human Rights Commission, we feel strongly that funding and oversight are required for effective implementation of a systematic approach that seeks to mitigate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. As the Racial Justice Reform Omnibus Bill is introduced this session, we ask that strong consideration be given to the Racial Justice Oversight Board to carry out this work.

Justice For All further submits the following observations and recommendations for the Committee’s consideration:

Refine legislative impact review process to protect marginalized communities. Legislative Racial Impact Assessment Process (existing and emerging legislation).

  • Require racial impact review of legislation
  • Establish commission to review current statutes for racial impact
  • Appoint/fund Human Rights commission to direct
  • Identify applicable statutes

Enhance policy and training requirements for increased public safety and accountability

  • Policy
    • Establish authority responsible for determining policy compliance and updating and maintaining model police
      • Amend Act 147, 2016 and Title 20, Ch 151, 2336
      • Implement “Model Use of Force Policy” for all law enforcement
    • Implement “Model Implicit Bias Policy” for all justice system workers
    • Require public posting by each law enforcement agencies policies
  • Training
    • Expedite implementation of FIPs training as per Act 147, 2016
    • Implement Use of Force and De-escalation in-service training requirements for all law enforcement personnel
      • Amend Act 147, 2016 and Title 20, Ch 151, 2336
      • Amend 20 V.S.A. § 2358
    • Include FIPs, Use of Force and De-escalation as requirements for annual in-service training VCJTC Rule 13
    • Require annual public posting on the progress of law enforcement training.
    • Implement recurring Implicit Bias training for all who work in the justice system.
      • Funding
      • Promulgation, reporting and monitoring
      • Identify statutes that pertain to all justice workers training.
    • Require annual public posting of training of all justice system personnel reporting, by department.

Expand Data Collection and reporting and provide appropriate accountability and oversight to provide accurate, meaningful and timely metrics. – Amend Act 147, 2016 and Title 20, Ch 151, 2336

  • Expand Data Collection and reporting by law enforcement from “traffic stops” to “all police community responses” (VSA 20 2366 (e) 1)
  • Define specific agency responsible for collecting, and making data available ALL law enforcement data (VSA 20 2366 (e) 2)
  • Expand reporting on training and policy to the remainder of the justice agencies
    • Oversight organization should be funded to collect, analyze and report
    • Expand continuous sentencing and incarceration data collection to other the justice agencies with the intent on identifying bias and measuring progress in the following areas:
      • the initial investigation by law enforcement;
      • the decision to lodge or release on citation
      • the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation;
      • the defendant’s decision whether to exercise the right to a trial by jury;
      • the plea negotiation process;
      • the judge’s bail decision
      • the prosecutor’s bail recommendation
      • the decision by prosecutors to file a particular charge
      • the judge’s sentencing decision as to a jail or probationary sentence;
      • the department of corrections’ programming decision, supervision practices, and its recommendation to release on parole; and
      • the parole board’s decision whether to grant parole

Extend enhanced citizens oversight to all law enforcement agencies to enable transparency and legitimacy.

  • Reorganize the State Police Advisory Commission 20 VSA, Ch 113§ 1922§ 1923. Internal Investigation
    • Re: Presidents Commission on 21st Century Policing (Pillar 2)
    • National Association for Civilian Oversight
    • Progress in other states
  • Establish a standing Independent Prosecutor assist the States Attorneys and the Attorney General in creating transparency, maintaining accountability and eliminating perceptions of bias
    • Identify Statutes that pertain
    • Consider one office
  • Expedite addressing the professional regulation of all law enforcement in the state as soon as possible.
    • Prioritize the emerging legislation
    • Review SPAC composition and IA statutes
  • Clarify citizen-reporting processes – Law Enforcement Advisory Board (Act 134, 2012) – “The board shall examine how individuals make complaints to law enforcement and suggest, on or before December 15, 2012, to the senate and house committees on judiciary what procedures should exist to file a complaint with law enforcement and the human rights commission”.
    • Board responded that they did not have sufficient time to address
    • Recommend that this be revisited to ensure a statewide process exists

Justice For All is confident that this committee will act swiftly and decisively on ensuring the safety of all Vermonters. We are grateful for your willingness to partner on this vitally important matter and appreciate your leadership.

Please accept the following supporting documentation:

  • Memo submitted to various legislators January 15, 2016 last year surrounding implementation of Fair and Impartial Policing
  • Legislative Findings – Act 134, 2012
  • Chiefs Statements on Race Data Collection, May, 2012
  • Statement on Race Data Collection from Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center & VT Multi-cultural Alliance for Democracy
  • Report from Ashley Nellis of The Sentencing Project – “The Color of Justice

 

Respectfully,

Mark A. Hughes,

Co-founder and Executive Director

Justice For All

Racial Disparities in Vermont Prisons

Racial Disparities in Vermont’ Prisons

6/28/2016

By Mark Hughes and Ashley Nellis, Ph. D.

A new report on racial disparities in state prisons underscores the need for policymakers and state administrators in Montpelier to take a hard look at the policies, practices and prejudices that are playing out in our state’s criminal justice system.

By disaggregating and analyzing U.S. Justice Department data the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization The Sentencing Project found that nationally, African Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites across the nation. In Vermont the ratio is even higher at 10 times the rate of whites across the nation. In fact, Vermont is the highest in the nation with one in 14 of all African American adult males in state prison.

The findings come in a period when many states, including Vermont, have responded to assertions of unfairness in the justice system in the aftermath of the highly reported Trayvon Martin shooting four years ago in Florida and the shooting and racial protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere more recently.

Policymakers and administrators in Vermont are aware of the disparities. Several states have legislated sentencing reforms or re-categorized drug cases in particular, which account for many of the convictions that lead to racial and ethnic disparities, so that possession and use of drugs is more likely today to lead to treatment rather than extended imprisonment. State officials know that in the aggregate African Americans are not disproportionately likely to commit certain drug crimes, but they nevertheless are more likely to wind up in prison where whites convicted of similar offenses may get alternative outcomes.

One of many practices that contribute to racial disparities in the criminal justice system in Vermont is the disproportionate number of traffic stops and searches of African Americans by law enforcement. The Vermont Advisory Committee to United States Commission on Civil Rights provided a briefing on the challenges of Racial Profiling in 2009. Some of the recommendations have yet to be undertaken. Traffic stop data analysis in 2012 concluded that African Americans were being stopped and searched at disproportionate rates by Vermont State (VSP), Burlington, South Burlington, UVM and Winooski Police Departments. In spite of a legislative mandate to collect race-based traffic stop data issued in 2012, this data is only beginning to become publicly accessible in 2016. VSP’s initial decision (in 2012) to release their data to third parties for analysis created discussion surrounding research veracity and efficacy and did little to provide true transparency or adopt the research as a benchmark from which to move forward. This year (with VSP’s long awaited release of five years of data), VSP released the data to Northeastern University and UVM as well as posted the raw data on their site. Based upon research produced by Dr. Jack McDevitt of Northeastern University, traffic stop racial disparities have increased in Vermont over the past five years. This is clearly as a result of the lack of transparency and a culture of denial. Dr. Stephanie Seguino’s (UVM) report on this data set is due to be released this week. In moving forward it is important that we move past using the collection of data to prove (or disprove) racial disparity, to that of using it to measure our progress towards parity. The consistent public release of the data will provide the transparency required for accountability in this area.  Internal commitment to progress, analysis of this data, policy implementation, training, and corrective actions (as required) will also be necessary to move these efforts forward. It is also important that we understand that this is a very small part of a much larger challenge.

In general, the national report suggests that while overt racism may not continually come into play in the criminal justice system, there are points of discretion in the system where arresting officers, prosecutors, judges and even defense attorneys may be predisposed to view one group differently from another. Policy makers in Vermont must work to achieve the transparency required to identify these points of discretion in the system and demand similar commitment to metrics, policy, training and corrective actions as required to ensure that Vermont lives up to it’s narrative of openness and fairness.

Concerns about differential treatment is important not only because every American is constitutionally entitled to fair and equal treatment under the law, but because of the collateral consequences that are attached to criminal convictions – reduced access to housing, education and employment opportunity chief among them.

There is a growing recognition across the country that mass incarceration practices have not contributed to public safety, but have instead created a system that is inefficient, unsustainable, and unfair mass incarceration has perpetuates disadvantages that African Americans and other people of color have endured historically. Solving foundational problems through improved access to education, decent housing, prevention services focused on at-risk youth, and job training and placement is continually challenging but important.

But equally crucial, and probably more immediately manageable, is the identification and remediation of the policies and behaviors that lead to over-incarceration and racial disparities in prison in Vermont and elsewhere. State officials must fashion reforms that make the justice system smarter, fairer and less costly both in dollars and in the loss of human potential. We owe it to ourselves in this political, social and racial climate of change in 2016.

Mark Hughes is an advocate for racial justice affiliated with Justice For All in Vermont. Ashley Nellis, Ph. D., is a senior researcher for The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., and author of The Color of Justice: racial and ethnic disparity in state prisons, available at http://www.sentencingproject.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intersecionality

Here is a great piece on intersectionality by our Baseline Coordinator.

To White Vermonters: Intersectionality

Marcia Hill

I have recently returned from the Women’s March in Washington, DC. It is not a simple matter to attend an event hundreds of miles away. But like many others, I felt so strongly that the country is headed in the wrong direction, however, that I was compelled to add my voice to those protesting the policies of the new administration. I consider peaceful protest to be a responsibility of citizenship, along with voting.

The marchers had signs addressing a range of issues.
Reproductive rights: My uterus is not your property.
Racism: On an infant carrier: Babies against white supremacy.
Gay rights: Love is love.
Women’s rights: Our rights are not up for grabs. Neither are we.
Immigrants: No human is illegal.
Native concerns: Water is life.
Religious and ethnic freedom: Japanese Americans against a Muslim registry.
Disability issues: I march for someone who cannot.
And direct reactions to Trump: Dump Trump.
In fact, the march was a clear demonstration of unity across a range of human rights concerns. Many signs spoke to this: “stronger together,” and “I’m with her” (with arrows pointing in all directions). This is intersectionality, and it is at the core of today’s push toward fairness and inclusion.

Historically, civil rights movements have mostly focused on one group at a time, although allies from other groups often supported a group’s efforts. This made sense as each group worked to create its own identity and to define its own priorities. Now, with much of that accomplished, many groups are recognizing how critical it is to band together and to support all social justice movements. Feminism has been at the forefront of this push and has made efforts to consider intersectionality for some years now, although there is much more work to do to make feminism truly inclusive. At a recent Justice for All (a Vermont group working for racial justice, particularly in policing and incarceration) meeting, a representative from a local advocacy group for the LGBTQIA community (Rainbow Umbrella) was there. It was a small start, but an important one.

One sign carried by an African American woman read “I hope all you white ladies will be at the next Black Lives Matter march.” It was a good reminder. An inclusive perspective about justice demands that we all address our own biases and discomforts. White people should indeed be at the next Black Lives Matter march. So should queer people. So should everyone who cares about justice.

Before the last election, my town had a candidates’ forum, and we had the opportunity to ask questions of those running for Vermont House seats. I asked what the candidates thought should be done about the racial disparity in incarceration rates in Vermont, since we are one of the worst states in the country in this area. Not a single candidate was aware of this. Not surprisingly, none had a considered response. When a problem does not affect you, it is easy to be unaware of it. When a problem does not affect you, it is easy not to act.

Social justice of all kinds is currently under profound threat in this country. We cannot afford to splinter into small groups working only for the matters that most concern us personally. We must band together. We must step away from the familiar and support the struggles of other people. The Women’s March offered a clear opportunity to see intersectionality because “women” is such a huge category, and it includes members of most other groups seeking inclusion and fairness. Let us take this as a model for our social justice thinking and action. All forms of justice are one struggle, whether for women or people of color or people with disabilities or queer people. At this point in history, no group can accomplish its goals in isolation; we need our allies. Will you be an ally?

Here are ways to begin. Educate yourself about one or two groups that are unlike you. Read or watch a movie about the Deaf community, or about Muslims, or Jews. Then broaden your education to add other groups. Do what you can to expand your circle of friends and acquaintances to include people unlike yourself. Are any of your friends queer? Non-white? Immigrants? Listen to the voices of people unlike yourself: follow their blogs or Twitter accounts. Finally, consider joining a group working for social justice as an ally, as someone who is not a member of the demographic in question but supports their efforts. For this, I would like to issue a particular challenge to straight white men. This is the group most underrepresented, in my experience, in social justice movements.

One final slogan seen at the Women’s March: “No one is free when others are oppressed.” We are one human family. If it is acceptable to treat any group of us badly, then we are all at risk of being treated badly. One family: one struggle for justice.

Important Meeting Follow-up and Next Steps

Hello friends and supporters of Justice for All!

Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out to our general meeting Thursday evening.  It was a huge success and we were able to cover a lot of ground toward our mission of bold community action. For those of you who were not able to attend, here are some highlights:

  1. We grounded ourselves in the Justice for All mission of racial justice through the examination and deconstruction of implicit bias and identifying and addressing institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system.
  2. We addressed healing and empowerment through relationship building and education. Our goal over the next 90 days is aggressive outreach focusing on these areas.
  3. We conducted breakout sessions to focus on our key functional areas and created action plans to move those areas forward.  Here are the areas with respective contact info.  Reach out to them immediately if you are interested in joining the groups because they are meeting this week!
    1. Research – Otto Muller muller.otto@gmail.com
    2. Outreach – Erin Rose erinarose802@gmail.com
    3. Relationship Management – Kattie Stromme katie.stromme@vcfa.edu
    4. Baseline – Marcia Hill- m.hill.vt@gmail.com

Special thank you to Karen Tronsgard-Scott of VT Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence for coming last night and speaking to our members about the incredible and vital work that their organization is doing.   As we deepen our commitment to intersectionality and supporting all members of our community, we will be engaging more guest speakers to share their work with us. Please be in touch if you or someone you know from an area organization would like to come and speak at a general meeting.

Our next general meeting will be from 6:00 till 8:00 PM at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier on February 16th.

Please join us in the Vigil and speak out in support of our Muslim brother and sisters on Wednesday, February 1st at 6:00 PM at the State House in Montpelier.  Justice For All speaks out against hate and intolerance, discriminatory immigration laws, mass incarceration, over policing, the criminalization of communities of color, deportations, and border militarization

As you consider where you are investing in social justice issues, remember the racial referendum that we just experienced in our national election.  Consider donating to Justice For All, an organically grown, Vermont-based racial justice organization  that has been here doing the work over the past couple of years.

Please help us with your membership, provide organizational support or simply provide a contribution.  Help us continue this work in Vermont.

Over this past year we worked in a coalition to successfully deliver the Vermont Fair and Impartial Policing Policy for all law enforcement agencies in the state.  Our work continues with numerous community outreach activities, Vermont Justice Coalition, Coalition on Racial Justice Reform, the Law Enforcement Professional Regulation Committee and much more but we need your help to continue.

#DecisionPoints is a open source data collection initiative that is underway.  This open platform will provide the community access to our data and enable transparency and accountability.  Help us with this effort.

Please take some time to review and sign our petition on Racial Justice Reform and fundraiser.

Thanks for the outpouring of support.

Mark A. Hughes, Executive Director,
Justice For All Cooperative, Inc

Follow us on Facebook:  Justice For All on Facebook

About Justice For All

Justice for All is a racial justice organization, which identifies and dismantles institutionalized racism while facilitating healing in our communities.  Our mission is to ensure justice for ALL through community organizing, research, education, community policing, legislative reform, and judicial monitoring. We address systemic issues such as racially biased policing and inequities in the criminal justice system.

Become a supporter or a member here.

Your contributions are always welcome here.
We call for a Constitutional Amendment that eliminates all reference to slavery from the Vermont State Constitution.

Source: Important Meeting Follow-up and Next Steps