Happy Juneteenth Day

Happy Juneteenth Day!

The US House of Representatives has taken up H.40, a bill that would create a commission to develop proposals to address the lingering effects of slavery and consider a “national apology” for the harm it has caused.

Any discussion about money only distracts us from the lakes of blood and mountains of bodies that continue to mount to this day, as some would have us believe that this all ended 150 years ago and it has nothing to do with us. The discussion is futile because our treasuries do not contain enough to make right what has been made wrong. Vermont policy makers, the best that you can do is to pass H.478 so we can get on with the work.

Vermont H.478 (modeled after H.40) was taken up in House Government Operations on March 21st, 2019. No testimony has been taken. This debate is about addressing the social, emotional, spiritual and economic impacts caused by a nation that has to this day used slavery to build and sustain political and economic power.

It is about acknowledging the self correcting nature of this oppression with the Constitutionalization of prison slavery through the 13th amendment; Commissioning convict leasing; Instituting sharecropping; legalizing segregation, promoting Jim Crow, codifying redlining, limiting the New Deal and GI Bill to whites; criminalizing the Civil Rights movement; policing and incarcerating of black folks disproportionately, deconstructing the Voting Rights Act and much, much more.

And please, don’t ask another black person if we think that you should give us money.

Important Updates and Upcoming Events

Summer in Vermont
It’s almost summer and we’re not checking out – We’re checking in.  We’re checking in to wish you an amazing summer.  With such a long winter and spring almost behind us, it’s time to enjoy the sun.  We hope you have plans to do so.

We’re proud to update you on some of the work that we have accomplished the first half of the year.  We have hosted a number of racial equity forums, community events (including an emergency response to excessive use of force) and film viewings in Burlington. We contributed significantly to a City Council’s Resolution to form a Special Committee to review Burlington Community Policing Practices. We recently recommended that the Burlington administration revisit their approach to diversity, equity and inclusion and continue to work with officials to roll out a thoughtful approach. We have also collaborated on diversity and equity with the Snelling Institute’s Leadership Institute and a Community Leadership Action Planning Session with our friends at the Council of Rural Development.

We worked in conjunction with the Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools in passing an education bill (Act 1, 2019) this session; provided testimony on the Cannabis tax and regulate bill (S.54) and offered testimony as input to the 50-year review of Act 250!  We also provided testimony on the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (Act 41, 2019)called for a public hearing on civilian oversight of policeand testified extensively in committee and public hearing on the amendment pertaining to the prohibition of slavery (PR.2). Amongst the proposed policy produced by JFA for introduction with our partners in the Racial Justice Alliance were the reparations bill (H.478), the appropriate use of force bills (S.119 and H.464), discriminatory practices bills (S.145 and H.465), a racial equity cleanup bill (S.120) and PR.2.

We now turn our attention to the remainder of the year where exciting times lie ahead.   We will continue to contribute to the ongoing work of addressing diversity, equity and inclusion in Burlington.  This will be in community outreach, education and advocacy.  We’re looking forward to digging deeper into the work of the Racial Justice Alliance and educating our constituents in communities across the State on dismantling systemic racism and eliminating poverty.  We’re happy to be supporting community grass roots efforts in publishing an open race traffic data collection project sometime in the near future. We’re taking our work to a new level this year.  What next can only be defined as a game-changer for Vermont.  So check in with us this summer.  Here’s what’s happening at a glance:

Details of all of the events are listed below.
 But first, please stop here.

Can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on the vitality of this important work.  Support this work because the proven results that Justice For All consistently delivers affects YOU!  Provide a quick, secure contribution here.

We sure do appreciate it!

Would you like to be a  continuing supporter to this important work that we have ahead of us? 

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.   
Would you like to Become a member?

Thank you!
Here are the details on all JFA related events happening over the next month.  All activities will be at the First Congregational Church at 38 S. Winooski, in Burlington.

JFA Organizing Meeting

We’re kicking the summer of with an Organizing Meeting on Wednesday, June 19th form 6:30 till 8:30 pm with a JFA Organizing Meeting.  We want to hear more of your thoughts on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resolution that is being discussed in the Burlington City Council.   We’ll also update you on our work with the Racial Justice Alliance #ChangeVermont with a focus on theConstitutional Amendment (PR.2).  You’ll want to hear about the No Taxation or Regulation without Reparations Campaign.  JFA Organizing Meetings are every third Wednesday.

Game On

On Wednesday, June 23rd from 3:00 till 6:00 pm it’s Game On!  Grab the kids, some board games and snacks and meet us for some fun.  Sometimes you just have to put fun on calendar.  Let’s get together for some mindless fun and talk about nothing. There will be a brief update and discussion on the Burlington Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resolution.   JFA hosts Game On” Monthly on the 4th Sunday.

Racial Justice Alliance People of Color Steering Group Meeting

Calling all folks self-identifying as people of color, we’re looking for you.  On Wednesday, June 26th, from 6:30 till 8:30 pm we are continuing to organize the Racial Justice Alliance POC Steering Committee. The Racial Justice Alliance is the former Racial Justice Reform Coalition, which successfully moved landmark legislation forming the Racial Disparity (Act 54, 2017) and Racial Equity (Act 9, 2018) Panels.  This meeting will provide space for Introductions and an Overview and provide an opportunity to Review, Update and Revise the Strategy.  The Racial Justice Alliance People Of Color Steering Committee meets Monthly on the 4th Wednesday.


It is imperative that civilian oversight be implemented to ensure appropriate law enforcement transparency and accountability. History has taught us that in the absence of law enforcement transparency and accountability the general public has more times than not questioned law enforcement legitimacy. We have all witnessed numerous instances where the resulting loss of public trust has stood as an obstacle to the crucial working relationship required between law enforcement and the community.  Joint the nearly 400 people who agree that we need civilian oversight of law enforcement in Vermont.  Click on this link and sign the petition.

JFA Community Meeting

On Wednesday, July 3rd from 6:30 till 8:30 pm, we will host “What Equity Looks Like in Burlington.”   Who are we, as City?  Who do we hope to be?  How will we get there?  These are some of the questions that many are asking.  This strategic session will give us an opportunity to wrestle with some of these questions and discuss some solutions.   This will be a forum to hear from the community on matters of equity, diversity and inclusion.  This is your opportunity to be heard.  Bring your voice. JFA Community Meetingshappen Monthly on the 1st Wednesday.

Racial Justice Alliance (Full Meeting)

Come out for the full meeting of the Racial Justice Alliance on July 9th, from 6:30 till 8:30 pm.  It has been over six months since the transit and the he Racial Justice Alliance is still very much in the formative phases.  This is a time of organizing, outreach, education and planning.  We’ll review the first half of the legislative session and reset our priorities.  We will conclude with strategic planning on our collaborative work beyond the #ChangeVermont, our legislative agenda.  This meeting is for members or those considering joining the Alliance.  The Racial Justice Alliance meets Monthly on the 2nd Tuesday. 

Film Viewing – Slavery by Another Name

On Sunday, July 14th, at 3:00 pm we will be viewing Slavery by Another Name.”  Slavery By Another Name is a 90-minute documentary that challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film tells how even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. It was a system in which men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. Tolerated by both the North and South, forced labor lasted well into the 20th century.

For most Americans this is entirely new history. Slavery by Another Name gives voice to the largely forgotten victims and perpetrators of forced labor and features their descendants living today.  There will be a brief overview of PR.2, the current proposal addressing slavery in the Vermont constitution.  JFA provides community film viewings monthly on the 2nd Sunday. 

All activities will be at the First Congregational Church at 38 S. Winooski in Burlington.

Help us get the work done here:

CLICK here and help us do the work


Have a great summer!


Mark Hughes,
Executive Director, Justice For All

Open Letter to the Burlington City Council and Mayor Weinberger

Members of Burlington City Council

Response to Burlington Police Department Excessive Use of Force

20 May 2019

The latest tragedy in the pattern of racially disparate practices of the Burlington Police Department (BPD) is a symptom of a larger problem – the inability or unwillingness to effectively address overt and systemic racism in Burlington, across the state and the nation. African Americans are still engaged, arrested, convicted and incarcerated at disproportionate rates in Vermont and the data tells us that BPD and the Chittenden County States Attorney are leading contributors to this unfair truth.

In addition to the destruction of lives, the breakdown of trust and a diminishing public safety posture, unconstitutional policing distracts us from the problem of which it is only part. The Vermont Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission Task Force, Act 54, (2017) Racial Disparities in State Systems Report (Act 54 State Systems Report) indicated that “In addition, and likely related to the income disparities, racial disparities have been documented in each of the areas identified in Act 54 (education, labor and employment, housing, healthcare and economic development).”

Last year Vermont adopted Act 9 (2018, special session) a law creating a Racial Equity Director (and Panel) with cabinet level authority.  The stated legislative intent of the General Assembly is “to promote racial justice reform throughout the State by mitigating systemic racism in all systems of State government and creating a culture of inclusiveness.” Burlington, the largest city in Vermont with the largest number of African Americans is faced with a unique responsibility.  Burlington must take decisive steps to dismantle systemic racism and aggressively respond to ALL forms of overt racism – not distract us with petty defenses of what we all know to be one of many symptoms of this nation’s original sin.

The Weinberger administration’s efforts towards equity and diversity seem largely perfunctory and have been relegated to “initiatives” buried under the Community Economic Development Office with no individual accountability.  The 2018 “EquityReport”, with no mention of the Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan fails to communicate vitally important disaggregated race demographics data required to measure progress towards equity and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee has disbanded. 

It is now time for the “conspicuously courageous leadership” referred to in the Strategic Plan five years ago. It is time for elected officials to give consideration to expending the “hard earned political capitol” spoke of in the report to bring about change through meaningful community engagement.  As the report suggested, this engagement must encompass “residents from historically marginalized communities who see themselves – and are seen as – full partners in the decision-making, program-planning, and policy-making processes that impact their lives in significant and sustained ways”.

The Act 54 State Systems Report explains, “Addressing these issues also furthers other state goals. To the extent that People of Color are the fastest growing demographic in the state, taking steps to be more inclusive in all aspects of our state systems will further economic growth in a time when our workforce is rapidly aging. In other words, equality of opportunity is good for everyone, White, Black and Brown.” A little over a year later Governor Scott pointed out in his 2019 Budget Address that “we need more tax payers, not more taxes”. 

Maybe the Governor was trying to tell us something when it was within this context that he reminded us to be mindful of “how we treat each other” in our communities; to “reject hate and anger” in our interactions; and to have the “courage to do what is right as opposed to what is easy”.  Now it is the time for Burlington to do our part.  History has taught us that racism doesn’t just go away and privilege always finds safety in silence.

Today, we need a concerted effort of community, elected and appointed officials and organizations to bring about the change to enable us to dismantle systemic in Burlington.  We call on the Weinberger administration to bring the full bear of city’s resources in addressing these efforts:

·      Establish the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee as a standing committee of the city council, charged with oversight of the implementation of the Equity Strategic Plan.  

·      Create an Office of Racial Equity and Civil Rights, charged with addressing matters surrounding systemic racism mitigation and civil rights.

·      Create an Inclusion and Racial Equity Commission comprised of impacted community members appointed by the city council to ensure stakeholder ownership.

Governor Scott concluded his 2019 budget speech with these words: “The best comes when we are guided by our core beliefs.”  It is our hope that our collective core beliefs enable us to make Burlington a place where African Americans are not just safe.  Burlington, Vermont must be a place where African Americans, just as all people thrive and prosper and there is justice for all. 

Mark A. Hughes
Executive Director
Justice For All
e: mark@justiceforallvt.org
t: @Mark_A_Hughes

Testimony on PR.2 Concludes in House Government Operations Committee

Chairwoman Copland-Hannzas, House Government Operations

Government Operations Committee is poised to vote on PR.2;  Declaration of rights; clarifying the prohibition on slavery and indentured servitude today. Final testimony submitted is below:

Mark Hughes
Executive Director, Justice For All
Coordinator, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance
PR.2 Testimony
House Government Operations Committee
Room 11, Vermont Statehouse
May 9, 2019 9:30

Good morning Madam Chair and House Government Operations Committee. I am Mark Hughes, Director of Justice For All and Coordinator for the Racial Justice Reform Alliance.  We are the proponents of the Proposal.

I am offering additional testimony for your consideration as you move into your committee discussion and possible vote today.    

We are in support of the amendment as passed by the Senate.  Please pass it unanimously.

2018 introduced new hope as Racial Justice Reform Coalition advanced Act 9 into law.  In it, for the first time in history was legislation creating a panel and an Executive Director to “promote racial justice reform throughout the State by mitigating systemic racism in all systems of State government…” 

Our research with Act 54, 2017 (Racial disparities), Act 9, 2018 (Racial Equity) and the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy led us to understand that state laws and institutions inherently create and sustain racial disparities. The constitutional amendment is a continuation of our work to dismantle this systemic racism. We successfully convinced the Vermont Democratic Party to adopt a platform statement to address slavery in the constitution and lobbied the legislature for a resolution, resulting in H.R.25 (2018) (not taken up in House Government Operations). Recently the League of Cities and Towns passed a resolution and the Bishop and Episcopal Diocesan Council of Vermont issued a letter of support for the Proposal.   

As indicated in the Proposal, as introduced in the Senate, PR.2 has always been about “addressing systemic racism in our state laws and institutions.”  Despite this fact, much attention in testimony has been given to words “removing all reference to slavery”.  As indicated in our original request last year, that has never been the Alliances primary goal.  The Vermont Constitution in its current state is unclear on slavery prohibition.   

To be clear, this discussion goes beyond slavery.  To constitutionalize slavery (or form of servitude) because a person is “bound by the law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like” is tantamount to criminalization of poverty which always has a greater impact on black people.  Clearly repercussions on criminalization manifest in all aspects of life and impact our posterity.  Clarification of Article I of the constitution enables us to take a major step in the right direction in addressing systemic racism in Vermont.  This amendment will serve to nullify any statute supported by this clause and call into question any institution created to sustain the premise of it into perpetuity. 

Though the Senate’s decision to remove “addressing systemic racism in our state laws and institutions” in the “Purpose” section of the Proposal has created some confusion surrounding our intent, the current proposed language satisfies our objective of providing clarification on slavery prohibition.

Many have asked why this is important. This is about our racist national and State history of criminalization and disproportionate incarceration of black (and poor) people. It expands in concentric circles beyond this, adversely impacting African American’s fair and equal access to housing, education, health services, employment and economic development. 

You have heard testimony that the US constitution makes the language of slavery in our constitution “academic” and it suggests that it has “no practical consequence”. But we have come to know that the 13th amendment constitutionalized slavery for the punishment of a crime, when duly convicted. Vermont State laws permit  “Imprisonment In Lieu Of Payment of Fines And Costs”.  Article I of the Vermont constitution provides an exception that permits slavery when “bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like”.  Collectively, this is the literal criminalization of poverty, the new slavery!

In closing, our work on addressing systemic racism has been ongoing for nearly five years.  Our analysis of the necessity to address the constitution is rooted in data driven research.  Those challenges, which are systemic in Vermont, must be addressed at the root – the constitution.

Please pass PR.2 unanimously.

Thank you for your service

Public Hearing PR.2; Constitutional Amendment Prohibiting Slavery


Yesterday morning we found out that the House Committee on Government Operations was planning on holding a Public Hearing TONIGHT on PR.2;  a Proposal to amend the Constitution, to clarify that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.  We requested the Hearing be moved to enable us the ability to effectively notify our constituents. The House leadership’s responded with a narrative of time constraints, citing the approaching end of session.  We informed the Committee that ” [as per]… § 72 of the Constitution and House Rule51a, the Senate and House have the entire biennium to complete their respective votes…”.  As a result, the Public Hearing date has been changed to May 8th!  You can find out more about the Public Hearing here.  Please come to the Public Hearing.

  • If you need accommodations for the Public Hearing, please call 828.2228
  • If you’d like to provide written testimony, you can send it to testimony@leg.state.vt.us.
  • If you want more details on the Proposal or the Public Hearing, please call the assistant at (802) 828-2267 or email: kobrien@leg.state.vt.us

Let’s do all we can to ensure a turnout at this historic Public Hearing for the constitutional amendment that clarifies that slavery and indentured servitude of any type are prohibited. Some would have us believe that this is largely symbolic.  There could be nothing further form the truth.  Slavery is at the root of the criminalization, punishment and oppression of black and poor people. Our constitution reflects our values and underpins our laws and institutions. Please show up and stand with us in solidarity.

Can you help us with the work that we are doing?  Your small donation has an immediate impact on this vitally important work.  Supported the work of Justice For All and The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance because of the proven results that we consistently deliver.  We have experts behind the scene all year long doing the work that affects YOU!  Provide a quick, secure contribution here.

  Click HERE to Donate 

Thank you!

Unprecedented Public Hearings; Vermont Constitutional Amendment Completely Prohibiting Slavery

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This has never happened in Vermont.

Show up and be a part of history!

Thursday, April 4th at 5:00 pm, there will be a public hearing on a proposal (PR.2) to amend the Constitution of the State of Vermont to completely prohibit slavery (as introduced)which will “serve as a foundation for addressing systemic racism in our States’s laws and institutions”.  Testimony till now has been taken in the committee room during normal business hours.  We believe that this has resulted in the current version of the proposal where that purpose is now “to clarify that slavery in any form is prohibited” and offers confusing and unnecessary language that could be interpreted to the contrary.

What are we asking of the committee that they are not doing?

  • Take testimony at a time when working Vermont can be heard
  • Ensure that the constitution clearly and unambiguously prohibits slavery   
  • Replace language referring to “Qualifications of Freemen and Freewomen” in Vermont Constitution Chapter II
  • Comport the language to our current ideals and values, not our history; not our current laws and institutions

If you are interested in testifying on Thursday here is how you can reach the committee and inform them of your desire to do so (you can also offer written testimony):

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Slavery is still not completely abolished in Vermont

Here are the instructions for preparing testimony.

Do you need a ride?  Get on this list ASAP and we’ll help you make it to this event.Paragraph

The criminalization, punishment and oppression of black and poor people is at the root of slavery. Show up and be a part of history in our journey to dismantle the foundation of systemic racism in Vermont.  It has taken us 242 years to get to here.  Please make sure that you are in room 11 in the Statehouse on Thursday, April 4th, 2019 at 5:00 pm. 


Testify to Prohibit Slavery Constitutionally; Change Vermont

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The Senate Government Operations Committee has delayed the vote on the constitutional amendment, prohibiting slavery.  Testimony has been reopened for Thursday, February 28th at 3:15.    

1)  TESTIFY ON PR.2:  Give the Senate Government Operations Committee the Rest of the Story

We”re excited that this will give us an opportunity to tell our stories.  The Senate Government Operations Committee have concerned themselves with the task of preserving the historical significance of the fact that “Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery”.  The fact is that Vermont never abolished slavery from the constitution of 1777 or 1786 and after becoming a state the constitution of 1793 never abolished slavery.  In fact, after 242 years and 28 adopted amendments the Vermont constitution has yet to abolish slavery.  Sadly, the language that the Government Operations Committee was poised to vote on would not have abolished slavery either.  To be clear, no state in US history has held constitutional language permitting slavery longer than Vermont. 

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Why is this important?  It is language like this in the constitution that serves as the edifice of the criminalization, punishment and oppression of black and poor people. This is not the time to attempt to “preserve” aspects of this document to capture the essence of the mindset of white men at a time when black people were property.  This is not even a time to comport the new language to the statutes, rules and institutions that it now upholds.  The purpose of this proposal (PR.2) is “…to serve as a foundation for addressing systemic racism in our State’s laws and institutions. You can help change this entire system by helping to shake it at its foundation.  #EndslaveryVT


2)  Ask Senate Government Operations to Take up S.120: Give the Racial Equity Director a Chance to Succeed! 

Remember S.281, the Systemic Racism Mitigation Commission?  Well the Racial Equity Director was left reporting the Governor with an option to move the position under the Secretary of Administration.  We all know how this story ends. If there is any hope for the Racial Equity Director to be effective, me must ensure that the position is on par with his or her contemporaries.  Join us in our calls for Senate Government Operations to TAKE UP S.120.


3)  Ask Senate Judiciary to Take up S.119:  Address Use of Force with Law Enforcement

Did you know that law enforcement does not collect use of force data as a part of the race traffic stop data collection processes?  It gets worse, There is no model Appropriate Use of Force Policy or standardized training across all agencies either.  A recent report from the Burlington Police Department indicated that use of force was being applied to black people at 4 to 5 times the rate as white folks.  Stand with us as we call for Senate Judiciary to TAKE UP S.119.  #fixUseofForceVT


  • Leave a message for your senator.  Find your senator here OR call 828.2228
  • Email the Committee and senior leadership.  Email address: vermont-senate-judiciary@googlegroups.com
  • Leave a message with member of Senate Government Operations.  Find member here or call 828.2278

4)  Ask House Government Operations to Take up H.478: Appoint a Slavery Reparations Commission 

Legislators have acknowledged disparities in the criminal justice system in Act 54 (2017) and the Attorney General’s and HRC’s Task Force Report.  The need to address systemic racism in all state government is in the process of being addressed with the hiring of a Racial Equity position, as prescribed in Act 9 (2018).  Serious consideration must be given to if and how Vermont chooses to address reparations.  This commission will grapple with these questions.  Help us as we call on House Government Operations to TAKE UP H.478.  #ReparationsVT


  • Leave a message for your Representative.  Find your representative here OR call 828.2228
  • Email the Committee and senior leadership.  Email address: vermont-house-government-operations@googlegroups.com
  • Leave a message with member of House Government Operations.  Find member here or call 828.2267

5) Ask the House Judiciary to take up H.465: Expand the Human Rights Commission and Prohibit Racial Profilingiciary

The Human Rights Commission has never in its existence been more busy and it has always been underfunded. What is more important than protecting the civil liberties of every protected category in this state? We have waited far too long. Let House Judiciary know that it’s time to TAKE UP H.465. #NoracialprofilingVT


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What Equity Looks Like and Ending Slavery in Vermont

What Equity Looks Like
24 February, 2019
3:00 – 5:00 pm
First Congregational Church
38 South Winooski Avenue

Here is an opportunity for us to celebrate the work we have accomplished and discuss the unprecedented year ahead.  There will be an overview and discussion on racial equity; a presentation on current implementation of Act 54 (2017) and Act 9 (2018) and an opportunity to discuss the racial equity bills that are being introduced. The sponsoring legislators will be on hand for the discussion. 

Come out and get involved
Family friendly

#EndslaveryVTThe proposal to amend to the constitution; eliminating slavery (Proposal 2) was taken up in Senate Government Operations Committee last month and testimony has been ongoing.  There is mounting discussion about the prospect of leaving the language of constitutionalized slavery in the Vermont constitution for “historical purposes”.  Further, the limited number of folks asking to testify has caused the Proposal to get stuck in Committee.  This is the first time in 242 years that we have had an opportunity to remove this language.  Help us make it happen.   Contact the Senate Government Operations Committee and tell them to “remove slavery from the constitution”.  Let them know that you are willing to testify!  

Here are three ways you can voice support or sign up to testify:

  1. Email Senate Gov Ops at this address: vermont-senate-government-operations@googlegroups.com
  2. Leave a message at 828.2228
  3. Call the Committee Assistant at 828.2272

NO Taxation and Regulation Without Reparations Campaign

The legislature has the regulation of cannabis on the fast track.  The financial upside seems to have given everyone “war on drugs” amnesia. Regulating Cannabis without taking these factors into consideration is scandalous and immoral.  Stand with us as we proclaim No taxation and Regulation Without Reparations!  

  • Automatic, no cost expungement of cannabis related criminal records
  • Immediate release of those incarcerated for cannabis related crimes;
  • Exclusion of cannabis related crimes as impediments to opportunities for employment and access to public services;
  • Training and start-up assistance in the hemp and cannabis industry;

Join us as we address this vitally important issue.  Here is how you can help:


Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.   Would you like to Become a member? 

Here is an option for a one-time contribution

Protect Me

Mark Hughes, Executive Director, Justice For All

The Advice Show, on Kiah Morris

I am deeply disappointed with the manner in which the Attorney General has addressed Kiah Morris’ request for an investigation. V.S.A. 13, 1023 is simple assault.  This and potentially aggravated stalking clearly are crimes committed in this case.  13 V.S.A, 1458 provides injunctive reliefs despite any charges being brought against the “alleged” perpetrator.  Instead of prosecuting this case, the Attorney General defended and judged it!   The resulting new “Bias Incident Reporting Protocol” is deeply problematic. There was no community stakeholders’ coordination in this process. This is indicated by there being no civilian reporting process.  I guess they never thought about the potential of a “bias incident” being committed by law enforcement.  The protocol internalizes all processes to law enforcement.  The person filing the claim has no visibility or involvement in critical referral (HRC, OCR, ACLU, etc…) decisions. Finally, who collects the data?

It’s so sad that Kiah, James and Jamal would be traumatized yet again and let down by the system on the same day.  Sadder is that it was all too predictable.  There never seems to be a problem figuring out how to protect white folks (alleged perpetrator or victim) and their property throughout all history.  There has never seemed to be a problem finding a law that could be applied to prosecuting black folks.  In cases where there hasn’t been a law to prosecute black people, we have been a nation that simply created them.  All this as white people nervously exclaim “all lives matter” when we try to remind them that black lives matter.

I know that many are wondering where we go from here. First, T.J., apply and prosecute the law in this case and change law if necessary to address future occurrences (13V.S.A. 1454 & 1458 and 9 V.S.A 4501-4507).  Secondly, Pro Tempe Ashe, Speaker Johnson, Chairwoman White and Chairwoman Copeland-Hanzas, get a handle on civilian oversight of law enforcement by starting with public hearings on civilian oversight of law enforcement in this state (FIPP included)!  Third, Chairman Sears and Chairwoman Grad, join them and conduct public hearings on the implementation progress on the only laws designed to address systemic racism, Act 54 (2017), Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel and Act 9 (2018), Racial Equity in State Government. Finally, Speaker Johnson and Pro Tempe Ashe, embrace fairness, equity and diversity in Outcome Indicators in the legislature and lead by prioritizing and championing legislation to meet these objectives.   The work required here is the same as the work required addressing all racism in this nation and the good news is that Vermont has already started.

There was a Vermont Democratic Party gathering at the Hilton Hotel in Burlington on November 9th, 2016.  Word came in on the results of the presidential election and T.J., you looked me in the eyes and said “Don’t worry Mark.  I’ll protect you”.  Well, Mr. Attorney General, here we are and I need you to be true to your word.  Protect me.


Analysis: Incarceration Rate of People Of Color Report

The Vermont legislature passed Act 164 (2018) an act relating to bail reform. Section 6 of this law directed an “Incarceration Rates of People of Color Study”. The Vermont legislature passed Act 164 (2018) an act relating to bail reform. Section 6 of this law directed an “Incarceration Rates of People of Color Study”. What follows is a critical analysis of that report.


(a) Study Committee. The Commissioner of the Department of
Corrections, the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, the
Attorney General, the Executive Director of the Department of State’s
Attorneys and Sheriffs, and the Director of the Vermont State Police shall meet during the 2018 legislative interim to examine data regarding people of color who are incarcerated in Vermont. To the extent possible, the Committee shall also review data regarding people of color incarcerated in Maine and New Hampshire.

(b) On or before October 15, 2018, the committee shall report to the Joint
Legislative Justice Oversight Committee on:
(1) data regarding all nonwhite offenders in the custody of the
Department of Corrections, including:
(A) demographic information about the offender, including race and
ethnicity and all known places of residence;
(B) the crime or crimes for which the offender is serving a sentence
or being detained; and
(C) the length of the sentence being served by the offender or the
length of his or her detainment;
(2) sentence length comparison data between white and nonwhite
offenders who committed the same offense; and
(3) comparison data among Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire
regarding sentence lengths and incarceration rates of people of color.

Analysis of the Vermont Department of Corrections Report Requested by the Legislature in Act 164 (2018), Section 6
1.  The report request was to examine data regarding “non-white offenders “in custody”.  The report expanded the scope to all which “were” incarcerated in 2017, hence providing misleading demographic information suggesting progress of a reduction of 11% African American incarceration to that of 8.5%. 
2.  The Executive Summary of the Report states that the commissioning authority is ACT 163 (2018).  It is actually ACT 164.

3.  The report is cited as a “preliminary report” but no follow-on intent is communicated.

4.  ACT 164 calls for race, ethnicity of offenders.  The report moves beyond the scope of this request to include gender and age, while failing to provide all data requested.

5.  The report acknowledges a “flawed” data collection process in DOC.
6.  A poorly explained Analytical algorithm referred to as “Chi Square Goodness Fit Tests” are used to arrive at the conclusion that the proportion of incarcerated blacks were under the so called “hypothesized” rates in at least one instance. 

7.  DOC reported not having sentencing length data for 2017.
8.  Additional unknown and poorly explained analytical algorithms referred to as the “Chi Square Test of Independence”, “Independent Sample T-Test”, “One-way Analysis Variance ”were used to arrive at the detrimental conclusions that there are significant differences in:
a.  frequency of charges issued to white and black inmates.
b.  frequency of drug charges issued to white and black inmates.
c.  sentence length between white and black inmates.         
d.  sentence length across six race categories.
e.  frequency of Disciplinary Reports issued to white and black inmates.

9.  Interstate comparison data is confusing and inconclusive.

ACT 134 (2012) requested similar data. The report, delivered in 2015 included unsubstantiated assertions and was largely inconclusive due to unavailability of data.

This report also fails to provide the substantiating data to support the conclusions.  The black-box algorithms discussed in items (6) and (8) are analogous to “not showing ones work” to some very serious problems.  Also troubling is the fact that (unlike previous reporting) the data set includes all personnel that entered the system in 2017.  This fails to take into account that 80% of inmates are incarcerated for periods of longer duration and at any given day black people make up about 11% (not 8.5%) of the prison population.

Finally, the development of this report was absent vital stakeholders throughout the process.  Community members (specifically people of color) should have been involved.  This could have been easily accomplished by simply routing this request to the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisor Panel.

Mark Hughes, ED, Justice For All

Mark Hughes,
Executive Director
Justice For All