Former Chair and Vice Chair Response to Open Letter From Partners for Fairness and Diversity

Download the Report here:

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A report was released by the former Chair and Vice Chair of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel on March 2nd, 2018. This is an open letter exchange with the former Chairs and Partners for Fairness and Diversity.

March 9, 2018

An Open Letter in response to:

An Open From Partners For Fairness and Diversity to Vermont’s Social/Racial Justice Activists and Act 54 Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel Members Regarding the Act 54 Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel Report

Mr. Reed

We do not acknowledge any authority that you seem to think that you possess whereby we should even dignify this letter.  It is only as a courtesy to you  and everyone included in the email you sent, I offer this review of the process.

The report, as discussed with Office of the Attorney General prior to its release, is the report of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel.  Those who have read the report will understand that this was by design.

This was done after investing countless (unpaid) hours into this work including education and engagement with the statewide community, committee work, panel meetings and individual consultation with stakeholders.   In preparing to release the report, we began receiving pushback from the panel. At that point we invited all panel members to submit their contributions, concerns and additions in order for us to incorporate them into the final report. A few members of the panel actually honored that request.  We modified the process when it became clear that unless we stepped outside of this systemically racist process, it would just be more of the same.  It is not the responsibility of the community of color to pander after the trust of those who have political and economic power.  History has taught us that this does not move us forward. We are unapologetic in our decision.

We are not surprised but once again disappointed that Mr. Reed has emerged to be the only person of color to speak out about this report in this manner.   As he has derailed numerous efforts lead by people of color in the past, stood in the way of the creation of Act 54 and currently serves as an obstacle to S.281, he has proven once again that he does not represent the people of color of this state.  We can only assume that it is likely because his lucrative contracts with the state (including post academy anti-bias training of state troopers) that he consistently chooses such path. Being clear, this adversely reflects upon the system that employs him more so than anything.

We have no intention of entertaining Mr. Reed’s ridiculous suggestion that we should somehow un-ring this bell by withdrawing the report as submitted.   We will be discussing the report at our regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday at 6:00 PM, at the Sally Fox Conference Center.   For those in the community who are interested in hearing more on the report and engaging in what is sure to be lively discussions, there will be a community meeting at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier at 6:00 PM on Sunday (3/11) evening as well as at Channel 17, (294 N. Winooski Ave) in Burlington on Monday (3/12), at 6:00 PM.  Additional community meetings will follow.

Mr. Reed, If you have any additional concerns in moving forward, please feel free to reach out to us first, instead of resorting to these types of divisive approaches.

Christine Longmore
Constitutional Council of Accountability
with Law Enforcement Officials

Mark Hughes
ED, Justice For All
Racial Justice Reform Coalition,
Founding Organization

09 March 2018

An Open Letter to Vermont’s Social/Racial Justice Activists and Act 54 Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel Members Regarding the Act 54 Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel Report

Dear Social/Racial Justice Activists,

The manner of the release of the Act 54 Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel (Panel) Report by Ms. Longmore of CCALEO-VTand Mr. Hughes of Justice for All causes us great concern. Without regard to the content of the report, we are greatly concerned with the breach of democratic practice and principles.

Our understanding is that the recommendations in the report were neither debated nor voted on by the entire Panel in spite of repeated requests by Panel members. In fact the majority of Panel members voiced to the Office of the Attorney General their frustration with the lack of transparent process.

Two such dissenters, Matthew F. Valerio, Defender General and Rebecca Turner, the Defender General’s Designee to the Panel wrote, “We do not support the report because it fails to incorporate the input of the Panel’s members and it has never been subject to a vote of approval in direct contravention to the requirements of 3 V.S.A. $ 168(e): Neither have the recommendations contained in the report been reviewed to confirm they are consistent with the Panel’s statutory mandate or compatible with other laws passed by the Legislature.”

An e-mail from the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Thomas Anderson, to Attorney General TJ Donovan, Speaker Mitzi Johnson and President Pro Tempore Tim Ash, states, “The report submitted today by Ms. Longmore and Mr. Hughes ostensibly on behalf of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel (Panel) does not represent the views, positions or recommendations of the Department of Public Safety or the consensus of the Panel established under Act 54,” and “I would request that any public dissemination of this document by the General Assembly include this email.”

Our democracy thrives best when ideas are debated in the public square and recommendations for further action, as well as the indicators and means by which progress is measured, are jointly agreed upon. The manner with which the report was issued severely erodes democratic practice and the good faith efforts of Panel members with differing viewpoints to work collaboratively. The Vermont legislature created the Panel with the explicit expectation that proposed recommendations be debated and voted on by Panel members consistent with the Panel’s statutory mandate.

When Ms. Longmore and Mr. Hughes, as representatives of the social/racial justice movement, willfully ignore or hijack democratic principles and practices all of us in the movement suffer because leadership in the institutions we seek to change look upon us collectively with greater suspicion and distrust.

Of note, Ms. Longmore and Mr. Hughes cite reports issued by the Vermont Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 1999 and 2003 regarding racial discrimination in Vermont schools and in 2009 regarding racial profiling by law enforcement. As a member and Chair of the Advisory Committee for the two most recent reports I can attest to the fact that we did not abandon basic democratic principles and practices—debate was robust, points of view often divergent, and faith in ourselves abundant in the crafting and approval of recommendations. We at Vermont Partnership for Fairness & Diversity expect nothing less from the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel.

For these reasons we request by copy of this communiqué to Ms. Longmore and Mr. Hughes that they withdraw their Act 54 Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel Report and resume work within the context of established democratic practice and principles. This would include an open debate to build consensus towards and vote by all Panel members on a series of recommendations to mitigate systemic racism.

In partnership,

Curtiss Reed, Jr.
Executive Director
Vermont Partnership for Fairness & Diversity

3 V.S.A. § 168 established the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel in the Office of the Attorney General.  This report was provided to the Attorney General, the Human Rights Commission Executive Director, the House Speaker and the President Pro Tempe.

You can download the report, released 2 March, 2018 here.

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