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Systemic Racism Mitigation Bill Signed Into Law!

 

On June 28 the Governor signed S.5, creating Act 9 of the Special Session. Act 9 is a landmark accomplishment in Vermont, being the first legislative mandate creating an apparatus to mitigate systemic racism across all state government in Vermont.  Justice For All, other Racial Justice Reform Coalition member organizations and community members, invested countless hours in this grass root effort lead.  Legislators and the Governor’s Office also worked under extraordinary conditions to get this law passed.  We should all take a moment to appreciate our accomplishment.  Thank you to EVERYONE who participated in making this vision into a law and once again demonstrating that Vermont leads from the front with organizing around social justice! Read more on Act 9 and how you can submit to be a Panel Member here.

Summary of Act 9 

“Act No. 9 (S.5) (Special Session). Government operations; systemic racism An act relating to racial equity in State government This act creates a new five-year position of Executive Director of Racial Equity within the Executive Branch and tasks the position with identifying and working to eradicate systemic racism within State government. It also creates the Racial Equity Advisory Panel to work with the Executive Director of Racial Equity to implement reforms, advise the Director to ensure ongoing compliance with the purposes of the chapter that creates the position of Executive Director, and advise the Governor on strategies for remediating systemic racial disparities.”

High Level Overview of Act 9

Members of The Racial Equity Advisory Panel will be appointed on or before September 1, 2018. Terms of members shall officially begin on January 1, 2019. Those interested in being appointed to this panel should submit resumes to the Human rights Commission, The Governor, and The House Speaker, Supreme Court Chief Justice or the Committee on Committees.

Once appointed, the Racial Equity Advisory Panel will have until November 1, 2018 to develop and post a job description for the Executive Director of Racial Equity. They will then have until January 1, 2019 to submit candidates for the Executive Director of Racial Equity position to the Governor. The Governor will appoint the Executive Director of Racial Equity before February 1, 2019. The Executive Director of Racial Equity will identify and work to eradicate systemic racism within State government. The charge of the Executive Director of Racial Equity is as follows:

  1. Implement a program of continuing coordination and improvement of activities in State government to combat systemic racial disparities and measure progress toward fair and impartial governance by:
    • Overseeing a comprehensive organizational review to identify systemic racism in each of the branches of State government and inventorying systems in place that engender racial disparities;
    • Managing and overseeing the statewide collection of race-based data to determine the nature and scope of racial discrimination within all systems of State government; and
    • Developing a model fairness and diversity policy and reviewing and making recommendations regarding policies held by all State government systems.
  2. Gather relevant existing data and records and develop best practices for remediating systemic racial disparities throughout State government.
  3. Develop performance targets and performance measures.
  4. Develop and conduct trainings for agencies.
  5. Report to the Racial Equity Advisory Panel on the progress.
  6. Report annually to the House and Senate Committees on Government Operations.

Our Losses

This year the Racial Justice Reform Coalition set off with a bold agenda for change. Our research provided overwhelming and compelling data supporting the fact that black and brown people’s civil liberties are under violent attack nationally and we have much work to do in our state. In spite of a the hard fight that we fought, there are a number of things that were were unable to get done.  Below is a list:

  • Making racial profiling illegal (30 other states have these laws) 1,2 
  • Mandating standardized policy, training and data collection on use of force 1,2
  • Expanding the capacity of the Human Rights Commission 1
  • Constitutional Amendment – removing slavery from the constitution 3
  • Creation of Independent Commission (similar to the Human Rights Commission) 1,2
    • Director to oversee implementation of Centralized data repository 1,2
    • Inclusion of educational institutions 1,2

1 – Recommended as amendment and never introduced (Senate Gov Ops – S-281)

2  – Introduced but not taken up (House Gov Ops – H.868

3 – Introduced but not taken up (House Gov Ops) H.R.25

Note that there remains significant concerns surrounding the Executive Order 18-04, in that it undermines the original intent of Act 9 and has yet to be rescinded.

 

 

Mark Hughes
Justice For All
Racial Justice Reform Coalition

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Open Letter to the Chair of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Center Advisory Panel

TJ

Download the Report here:

Act 54 Pic

July 23, 2018

Open Letter to: The Chair of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel.

Mr. Chair

This communication is to address the specific Act 54 Report content related concerns expressed by the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel. The report was submitted by the former Chair and Co-chair on March 2nd, 2018. Despite our numerous requests, the Panel has brought no concern surrounding content to our direct attention to date. Recently we discovered concerns in the Panel June Minutes. These concerns (requested five months ago) are seemingly being represented as the premise of the committee’s overwhelming rejection of ALL of the recommendations in the report. This being the case, it would have been appropriate and responsible for the Panel to enable the former Chair and Vice-chair to provide clarity surrounding any concerns expressed about recommendations in the report. The decision to abandon a year of work is one that should be made with due diligence and facts not “emotion” and politics.

First, (as indicated immediately following or resignations) the report released on March 2nd by the Chair and the Vice Chair was not represented as the report of the full panel at the time of submission. After multiple requests for specific concerns surrounding the content of the report, the only feedback offered has been concerns surrounding process. After two submission extensions, we requested the Attorney General’s opinion on the prospect of the Chair and Vice-chair submitting the report on our own behalf. With the Assistant Attorney General having no objection, we submitted the report. The accusations and mischaracterizations levied by panel members alleging “ostensible” submission and “self-serving” intent were inappropriate, harmful and inexcusable. Some whom have levied these attacks have yet to attend one meeting since the inception of the Panel. Your attention is invited to the “Process” section of the report submitted:

The Process and Scope

“The Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel has held six meetings in as many months. Rules of engagement were disseminated in the Panel, which adopted generally agreed upon “Guiding Principles”. The Panel developed subcommittees on Public Complaint Process, Racial Profiling and Data Collection. The Committees each had a series of meetings and reported back to the Chair. The Panel then reviewed and discussed the draft report, prior to its final release. Upon completion of discussions and collection of data, the Chair and the Vice Chair, with concurrence of the Attorney General, created the report.
A number of members of the Panel expressed “process” concerns regarding the method chosen by the Chair to produce this report. The Chair and Vice Chair have also been accused of seeking to release a report in the interest of “advancing their own personal agendas”. We will not dignify this age-old tactic of attacking the character of good people when a system of oppression feels as though it is threatened. This report is being submitted by the Chair and Vice Chair to ensure that a report on addressing the systemic racism in the criminal justice system is not meeting the agendas of those who are a part of the system, once again.”

The list of concerns (taken from the meeting minutes) is as follows:

  • “Uncomfortable with the suggestion to push funds to the CJCs because this could be perceived as a conflict of interest given the fact that the prior panel chair works for them.”

This premise suggests that none of the panel members (particularly agency heads) have what could be personal or professional conflicting interests. Further, the Chair’s Reentry work at the CJC has no association with what would be a Racial Discrimination Reporting process. Finally, the Chair resigned from the CJC in February 2018 (prior to the time the report was released).

  • “Utility of new system if there’s already reporting for each department”

The Panel had an open discussion about centralized data collection. There is currently no system in place that aggregates and correlates all collected race related data for high impact decisions across ALL agencies. The need to do so is supported by the fact that the race data currently collected by law enforcement fails to serve the essence of the legislative intent because it is largely invisible and unusable to the general public. Further, the implementation of such centralized race data collection; correlation and presentation platform would provide economies of scale, ultimately providing savings to agencies across the state.

  • “Didn’t agree with making racial profiling a crime.”

The Subcommittee on Racial Profiling agreed by vast majority that Racial Profiling should be illegal but could not agree upon language. Our research and discussion with attorneys including the Assistant Attorney General, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission and former Director of the Human Rights Commission and Defender General indicated that the assertion that “racial profiling is already illegal” is somewhat of a misnomer. The Human Rights Commission’s jurisdiction over public accommodations in conjunction with the inclusion of race as one of their protected categories by default encompasses what would be considered “racial profiling” (civil).  Unfortunately, the precedent for public roadways is vulnerable in that it is only a Superior Court Decision. The ACLU Policy Attorney indicated that racial profiling is currently illegal in 30 states, but expressed concern about making racial profiling Illegal.

  • The Report did not follow “Statutory Structure”

3 V.S.A. § 168 clearly defines the responsibilities of the Panel as follows:

  • Continually reviewing the data collected pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 2366
  • Recommendations to the Criminal Justice Training Council and the Vermont Bar Association
  • Educating and engaging with communities, businesses, educational institutions, State and local governments, and the general public
  • Monitoring progress on the recommendations from the 2016 report of the Attorney General’s Working Group on Law Enforcement Community Interactions
  • On or before January 15, 2018, and biennially thereafter, reporting to the General Assembly, and providing as a part of that report recommendations to address systemic implicit bias in Vermont’s criminal and juvenile justice system, including:
    • How to institute a public complaint process to address perceived implicit bias across all systems of State government;
    • Whether and how to prohibit racial profiling, including implementing any associated penalties;
    • Whether to expand law enforcement race data collection practices to include data on non-traffic stops by law enforcement.”

Below is a screen shot from a portion of the report

 

 

A screenshot of the table content of the, report below maps to the legislative reporting as well as all other elements of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Advisory Panel charge.

  • The “stat about things worsening in Chittenden County in 2016 is not supported by evidence.”

The report did NOT discuss Chittenden County specifically in this context. The report stated, “Numerous race date reports have been released over the last number of years, all indicating racial disparities. In 2016, the data indicated that problem was worsening.” (p.11)

In 2016, the data DID indicate the problem was worsening. Reporting was released in 2016, the latest year reported was actually 2015, NOT 2016 and there is indeed empirical data indicating that the problem worsened over this period. We will ensure that our report provides clarity to this misunderstanding. Reference data provided:  

http://justiceforallvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Seguino-and-Brooks_VSP_final-report-1.pdf

http://justiceforallvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/bpd-race-data-presentation-20160411.pdf

It should seriously concern the community that after five months the Panel has delivered us NO content concerns; from Minute reports, only three of the 17 recommendations are being challenged; ONLY newly Attorney General appointed community Panel members have raised questions on recommendations (none of agency representatives) and the entire process is being reinitiated (throwing out all recommendations). This is the real injustice that is occurring. We posit that agency members of this panel are reluctant to give an up-down vote on any given recommendation for fear of political repercussion or organizational change. They have instead chosen to respond to our requests with personal attacks and outcries that our process was inconsistent with Act 54. We never denied that.

In November of 2017, the Criminal Justice Training Council’s process of changing the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (unilateral) was inconsistent with Act 54. Assistant Attorney General Scherr and the Panel were made aware (Act 54 Update agenda item at a Panel Meeting). Major Jonas (Public Safety) immediately dismissed the update as a “mischaracterization”. All legislative leadership (oversight) are aware of the Vermont Criminal Justice Council’s blatant disregard for the process of changing the FIP. The Council’s decision to disregard the letter of the law was to ensure that the state police received five hundred thousand dollars (and additional money for local departments) from the Department of Justice (Community Oriented Policing Grant).   We acknowledged the letter of the law by consulting the Attorney General before acting to ensure that recommendations to mitigate systemic racism were given a real chance to be considered, enabling hope for our children.

Mr. Chair, you stated that the Panel would start the process from the beginning because of your concerns that there was “too much emotion” behind the existing report. This decision is clearly at the expense of the countless hours of deliberations and committee work documented in Minutes, personal notes and on the ORCA Media web site. This will enable agency heads to be able to bury the recommendations and produce something more to their liking without ever having to go on record on any given recommendation.

The Attorney General nominated the former Chair and both the former Chair and Vice-Chair’s nominations were carried unanimously. We made every effort to ensure that the process was fair by giving everyone an opportunity to offer dissent on any component of the report. The Chair and Vice-chair resigned from the Panel because despite our best efforts, as has been throughout all of our nations history; there is a reluctance of those with political and economic power to make at real effort to change. We urge you to salvage the recommendations that were put forward to maintain the integrity of the process and ensure the credibility of the outcome. As stated in the Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission Task Force Act 54 – Racial Disparities in State Systems Report (December 2017) “People of Color have waited far too long for the equality we promise in word but not deed. It is time to remedy that wrong.”

Lastly, a simple “thank you” and a humble apology is the least the Attorney General and the Panel can offer the former Chair and Vice-Chair. We deserve nothing less.

Respectfully,

 

 

Christine Longmore
Former Chair, Racial Disparities in the Criminal and
Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel

Mark Hughes,
Former Vice-Chair, Racial Disparities in the Criminal and
Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel

 

Copied are:
Mr. Attorney General
Assistant Attorney General Scherr
Mr. President Pro Tempore
Madam Speaker of the House
Chairman Sears
Chairwoman White
Chairwoman Grad
Chairwoman Townsend
Director Richards (HRC)
Director Lyall (ACLU)

Download the Report here:

Act 54 Pic

 

Executive Order 18-04: Undermining Systemic Racism Mitigation

When the Governor vetoed S.281, issued Executive Order 18-04 He commented, “Importantly, to ensure the intent of the legislation is fulfilled without delay, I have signed Executive Order 04-18. This Executive Order is modeled after S.281 but goes further in our effort to ensure racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, equity and equality – and avoids the unconstitutional powers included in the bill”.  First to be clear the Governor’s qualm with the bill was that it did not (by design) give him the unilateral authority to remove the Director.   The bill’s language requiring a 3/5 consent of the Panel was arrived at through a in Conference Committee after objections of a complete independent model (such as the Human Rights Commission).

Executive Order 18-04 was never intended to be fulfill the original intent of the legislation by.  Executive Order 18-04is a complete diversion from any attempt to mitigate systemic systemic racism and instead rambles on with a post-racial universal approach that skillfully dodges the existence of the real problem that we are trying to address.  In fact a bipartisan Legislative Council says that S.281 was never unconstitutional. Why then did he really veto S.281? A careful examination of the Executive Order Revealed this:

  1. Any Governor has discretion to eliminate the function. Is that a move that someone who is serious about addressing systemic racism makes?
  2. Named ““Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Mitigation”. Why the name change Mr. Governor? It might be easier to say but it misses the root of the problem.
  3. Does not fund the position but requests the Secretary of Administration to review the vacancy pool to find a position. The Governor is meticulous about fiscal responsibility in every other way. Why not with systemic racism mitigation?
  4. Has no time line for implementation. If the Governor is serious about this, why would he not establish and implementation date?
  5. Defines scope to be the Executive Branch only. Why does the Governor think that the work should only be in the Executive Branch?
  6. Enables the Governor to appoint all 5 members to the Panel. Does the Governor realty think that we are going to make progress in this area by him loading the Panel with folks that tell him what he wants to hear
  7. Calls for a sole report to the Governor alone (legislative reporting is upon request). The Governor fails to see the importance of transparency and accountability in this work.
  8. Gives no oversight authority to the Panel. The Governor doesn’t seem to mind having a symbolic Panel when it coms to so called “Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Mitigation”
  9. Only requires appointees of the Governor appointees to attend training. The Governor’s limited scope for training casts serious doubt on his knowledge of the magnitude of the issue at hand.

Does the Governor really believe that Vermont should have a Systemic Racism Mitigation Law?

The legislature called the Governor on his “intent to ensure the intent of the legislation was fulfilled”.  They compromised with the Governor by removing the language from the bill that the Governor claimed was unconstitutional, in spite of the Legislative councils memo stating that it did not.  We are grateful that the  bill, introduced as S.5 in the Special Session of 2018 was in fact  signed and enacted as Act 9. We remain cautious to celebrate out of concerned that the Governor has yet to rescind this Executive Order 18-04.  What could he possibly be planning next?

Governor, please immediately rescind Executive Order 18-04.

Call to Action
Join us as we call on the the Governor to rescind Executive Order 18-04
    1. Please pass this to your network and ask them to take action
    2. Call the Governor’s office (802.828.3333) and ask him to rescind Executive Order 18-04
    3. Write the Governor’s office and ask him to rescind Executive Order 18-04
    4. Write an Op Ed or Opinion piece for your local papers (nobody is covering it)
    5. Post this and updates on social media.

 

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

Post Resignation Letter From the Former Chair and Vice-Chair of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel

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. Below is an email that was sent in response to mischaracterizations and attacks on the character of the Chair and Vice-Chair (some by Panel members who have never attended a meeting in the year the the panel has existed), which led to the resignation of the Chair and Vice-chair.

Download the Act 54 Report here:

Email, dated 27 March, 2018

Panel Members, Racial Justice Advocates, Community Members, Constitutionally Sworn members of Public Safety, Law Enforcement, Public Servants & Elected Officials,

The purpose of this communication is to offer a few points of clarification and an opportunity for all of us to witness systemic racism in action. A “teachable moment”, if you will.  The Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel has held six meetings in as many months. Rules of engagement were disseminated in the Panel, which adopted generally agreed upon “Guiding Principles”.  Additionally, the Chair and Vice Chair consulted individually with;USAVT Office of Civil Rights Attorney, Jules Torte, ACLU Jay Diaz, Chloe White, Diane Derby, Senator Leahys Office, Karen Richards HRC, Robert Appel former HRC Director, Racial Justice Reform Coalition 30+agency members VCIL, and Individual Panel members; including Lisa Menard DOC, Ken Schatz Karen Vastine Commissioner and Executive Assistant of DCF, VTCJR Anna Stevens, CJNVT Director Julie Payne.

The Panel, through the leadership of Christine Kemp Longmore and Mark A. Hughes, then developed subcommittees on the Public Complaint Process, Racial Profiling and Data Collection as directed by the part of the charge that had a January 15, 2018 deadline attached. It is significant to note that both the reports submitted by Panel member Rick Gauthier Executive Director, VCJTC and Karen Richards HRC/David Scherr, AAG in connection to the charge of this panel were not voted on or put before a body of people to collectively author.

Our next steps in the process included, each of the Committees holding a series of meetings and reporting back to the Chair. The Panel then reviewed and discussed the draft report, in preparation for its final release. As we neared time to submit the final report, it became increasingly clear that the panel members who head criminal justice system agencies had “concerns” about the report. Even after we provided additional time and incorporated expressed concerns into the report, we were met with a chorus of agency head cries surrounding process. After conferring with Assistant Attorney General (AAG), David Scherr on these concerns (and with no objection from the AAG), the Vice Chair and I submitted the report as the Report of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Advisory Panel.

In desperation (and consistent with the system we are trying to address) various agency heads have unfairly characterized our actions suggesting that we submitted this report “ostensibly on behalf of the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel ” and suggesting that we are “Intent upon advancing their own personal agendas, rather than following the law”. Aside from the fact that it is a false statement, we will not dignify this age-old tactic of attacking the character of good people when the people who represent this system of oppression feel threatened. The report was submitted by the Chair and Vice Chair to ensure that it does not meet the agendas of the agency heads of the system, once again.

This report provides the essence of what we have gleaned from the Panel combined with extensive research and the feedback through countless hours of community engagement. Again to be clear, we did not submit this report to represent the full consensus of the Panel.  Most Agency heads have contributed little to nothing in the countless hours we have invested in research, outreach and developing this report that is attached for your review. In fact, Many have never attended a meeting. I have worked as a Police commissioner for one of the largest police departments in Vermont over the past 2 1/2 years and as an activist for over 30 years. I have seen ALL of this before as reports, advisory panels and the like come and go. This report however provides the most thorough and comprehensive framework of recommendations in Vermont State history. Agency heads have yet to articulate any specific point in this report to which they are opposed (only process, as usual). In our meeting last evening, we discovered that some agency heads have yet to read the report!

Throughout this difficult process we have been demonized and vilified with character assassination attempts and gossip. The Chair and Vice Chair resigned from the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel at our meeting the evening of March 26, 2018. We leave feeling that the Panel and the Attorney General are indebted to us for our service and should have the common decency to offer an apology for our treatment. This system is rooted in racism and has fail-safes for self-preservation. This panel was never designed to succeed. Consistent with all accounts of history, when white people with political and economic power feel threatened, they respond in all manners unmeasured. In this case the response was with attempts to censor a report and libel its authors.

The process that we used to produce this report was sound, transparent and made in good faith. We have taken extreme care in ensuring that the essence of our discussions and all concerns were taken into consideration in the preparation of this report. We stand behind every word of it and sincerely believe that it establishes a path that will redefine the criminal and juvenile justice system in Vermont. The content of the report offers hope for us, our children and generations to come. It is our sincere hope that Vermont’s elected officials and appointed officials finds the collective will to do better.

Former Chair, Christine Kemp Longmore
Former Vice Chair, Mark A. Hughes

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.

Download the Act 54 Report here:

 

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

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.

Download the Act 54 Report here:

 

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

Download the Act 54 Report here:

 

 

Open Letter to the Senate Pro Tempore and Senators White, Sears, Pollina, Cummings, Brooks and Ingram Regarding a Resolution Proposing the 2019 Senate Amend the Constitution to Remove Slavery

April 17, 2018

Mr President Pro Tempe, Peter, et. all,This inquiry went out over a month ago and I have not received a direct response, though I’ve been told that it is now “late in the session” and there a too many other things on your plates. I asked Senator Ingram to look into this and among other reasons she is  telling me that this resolution would not be taken up this session. Some indirect responses seem to suggest the assumption that we don’t understand the constitutional amendment process. We understand the constitutional amendment process. Other Senators have avoided this discussion by speaking about the 2019 Biennium as if somehow they have little chance of being a part of it (unlikely). Not to be overly critical but it seems that someone ought to be asking why there has NEVER been a proposal of a constitutional amendment, removing slavery (though there has been an ERA proposal which was not ratified because it was voted down when it reached the state ballot.). I think we all understand that you all take an oath to the constitution every time they are sworn in.

I am hearing (also indirectly) that the reason why some senators think that this is a bad idea is that “it won’t bind the 2019 senate”. We have no intention on binding a future senate. We do however want the existing seated senate to go on record on this issue, given the fact that in all likelihood most all of them will return. It is for this reason that I disagree with some senators comments that this will “bring nothing to the discussion”. In fact, I believe that it WILL START THE DISCUSSION in the midst of our continued false narrative that Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery!

Senator White represents Windsor, the home of Stephen Jacobs who was on the Council of Censors, States Attorney, County Judge, United States District Attorney, Member of Governors Council and State Supreme Court Judge while owning at least one slave in Vermont (Dinah White). They don’t teach that in school here. Let’s not compartmentalize this because then we’ll forget the importance of S.281, a bill to mitigate systemic racism in Vermont. To not understand the history of Dinah also distracts us form the conversations of patriarchy, poverty and disability.

I am having a hard time with the fact that 1) language stating the position of intent to clarify reference to slavery in the constitution has been in the VDP Platform since 2016 (before the election), and 2) you have already passed a resolution requesting an action of the 2019 Senate [ERA Amendment]. With something as important as this, It troubles me that in a time like THIS, that our VDP senate majority would not take up a resolution to urge the 2019 senate to amend the constitution to eliminate slavery.

Are we really waiting for another election cycle to pass?

 

Mark Hughes,
ED, Justice For All

We have 48 Hours to Make History – Please Ask Senate Appropriations to Fund S.281 and PASS it  out of Committee NOW!

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy. And this is where I choose to cast my lot today.

― Martin Luther King Jr., To Charter our Course for Our Future”

 

All,

If there is any hope that the systemic racism mitigation bill (S.281) passes this year, it MUST come out of Senate Appropriations funded NOW.
Appropriations cross-over is on Friday, 16 March. Here is how YOU CAN HELP:

  1. Please pass this call to action to EVERYONE on your mailing list.
  2. Call the Statehouse and leave a message for Senators, Kitchel, Nitka, Sears, Starr, McCormack, Ashe, Westman and Balint with S.281 in the subject line, asking that the committee to “immediately fund and pass S.281 out of Senate Appropriations Committee.” Also ask YOUR Senator to vote S.281 out of the Full Senate by Friday, 16 March.  Call 828.2228
  3. Please send an email to this address vermont-senate-appropriations@googlegroups.com, requesting that they “immediately fund and pass S.281 out of Senate Appropriations Committee.” Make sure that S.281 is in the subject line.
  4. Email your Senator and Ask them to Vote S.281 Out of the full Senate by Friday, 16 March.  Find your Senator’s email address here:  https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/all/2018/Senate

Here is the bill as voted out of senate Senate Government Operations. Here is the Coalition systemic racism research document and again the  Q&A to verse you in the bill background and details