“Yet still, we have not crossed the finish line. H.308 awaits the signature of the governor that will officially pass it into law. We call on Governor Scott for a public signing of H.308.”
At the beginning of this legislative session, we were told by many that the Racial Justice Reform Bill (currently known as H.308) was an admirable and important piece of legislation but that it was unlikely to become law this year. We were told that our legislature functions on a biennium, that most bills take at least two years to get through, that we would have to be patient. While this was solid and experienced advice, to say the least, we disagreed.
Simply put, there was no time to wait. There IS no time to wait. With a new administration signing multiple executive orders for “law and order” and a “crack-down on crime,” as well as the appointment of Jeff Sessions -a man deemed too racist to be a federal judge in 1986- to the post of attorney general, we saw the writing on the wall. Just last week, our fears were realized with Sessions’ memorandum on charging and sentencing wherein he states that “prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense…the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”
The federal reversal of Obama-era community policing policies combined with rampant racial disparities in our own state criminal justice system were enough to instill the critical sense of urgency necessary to fight for the protection of people of color in Vermont. We are so proud and grateful to the legislators of the house and senate as well as the hundreds of Vermonters who took up this cause and demanded with us that yes, we need to see Racial Justice NOW! This bill moved with unprecedented speed through both chambers, with immeasurable support from the community every step of the way.
Yet still, we have not crossed the finish line. H.308 awaits the signature of the governor that will officially pass it into law. We call on Governor Scott for a public signing of H.308. We ask him to stand against the harmful policies coming from DC that signal a return to the disastrous war on drugs that disproportionately targets communities of color. Furthermore, we ask Governor Scott to stand WITH the hundreds of Vermonters who have fought for this legislation and affirm the position that the time to safeguard our citizens of color is now.
Erin Rose, JFA Outreach Coordinator