H.492 Racial Justice Reform Bill Update

 

All,

This week has been both productive and frustrating in the statehouse. We have made multiple changes to H.492 in response to law enforcement’s concerns surrounding “language in the bill”. Today we returned to House Judiciary to provide a version of the bill that we thought was acceptable to law enforcement. No one from law enforcement showed up.   They have not suggested any alternative language and they are suggesting that this bill be referred to a summer study. As a result, the Chair is reluctant to bring the bill to a vote so the bill is at an impasse.

Law enforcement has high-jacked the first racial justice bill in Vermont history. This is not a law enforcement issue; it is a racial justice issue. The purpose of this bill is to provide transparency and accountability to the processes currently mandated by statute to address implicit bias and to continue the deployment of these processes across the remainder of the criminal justice system. Only then can we begin the process of addressing similar challenges in the employment, housing, education, health services systems.

Article 5 of the Vermont Constitution states that “the people of this state by their legal representatives have the sole, inherent, and exclusive right of governing and regulating the internal police of the same.” Article 7 of the Vermont Constitution states that “government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community, and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single person, family, or set of persons, who are a part only of that community; and that the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right, to reform or alter government, in such manner as shall be, by that community, judged most conducive to the public weal”

Vermont started some of the legislative work to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system in 2012. In spite of the implementation of data collection, training and policy, the data indicate that the problem has worsened in Vermont and in some ways we are the worst in the nation! President Trump’s selection of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and his issuance of three “tough-on-crime” Executive Orders add even more of a sense of urgency to address racial disparities in Vermont.

The Racial Justice Reform Coalition is comprised of 30 organizations that stand in unity in support of racial justice reform in Vermont.   Hundreds of people have signed petitions and called and emailed our legislature in support of racial justice reform. Dozens of supporters have taken time off from work and showed up in spite of the fluid and unpredictable House Floor schedule. Leadership from both the House and Senate has publicly expressed their support for the Racial Justice Oversight Board called for in H.492. The Attorney General has supported H.492 from the beginning of this process. Racial Justice in Vermont must be undertaken with the same moral compass and sense of urgency as that of immigrant justice (S.79), at a minimum to ensure Justice For All in Vermont.

The Racial Justice Reform Coalition will conduct a meeting at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier at 1:00 on Thursday, March 30th to evaluate our position and consider action moving forward. The next day we will be engaging the wider community at the Halftime Community Round-up Potluck in the same location (5:30 Friday, March 31st) and getting everybody up to speed on where we go from here.

 

Mark A. Hughes, Executive Director
Justice For All

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.
###

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.