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Official Lift Off of the Poor People’s Campaign: National Call For A Moral Revival

Vermonters,

The Poor People’s Campaign is here!

50 years ago, on December 4, 1967, the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. announced plans for a Poor People’s Campaign and called on the nation to take dramatic steps to end poverty and combat inequality. This multi-racial organizing effort and the dream of a fairer nation was assassinated along with Dr. King four months later to the day, on April 4, 1968.

The Poor People’s Campaign of Vermont will be live streaming “We a Are Here, A Poor People’s Call for a Moral Revival” at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier, starting at 6:30 PM.  We will start with freedom songs locally. We will then go live to Washington DC, at the Howard Theatre to view a program honoring the civil rights movement and the emergence of a new energy for a moral revival. This event will feature the Kairos Center, Repairers Of The Breach, Ben and Jerry’s, The Campaign For Black Male Achievement, and multiple artists including Aloe Blacc, Sweet Honey In The Rock, J. Period and a special performance by Maxwell. This concert affirmation coincides with the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s initial 1967 Campaign Call. It will be a night of reflection, inspiration and an opportunity for action.

About Poor People’s Campaign: PPC was created on December 4, 1967, by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and its leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to address the impact of poverty on the lives of millions of Americans.

If you are ready to pledge to action in the Vermont Poor People’s Campaign, please fill out the national pledge card here:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScTvNlethQeIs9LTH2PNaesZ-xUYQIsvtM_oVhjZFpfJeQgbQ/viewform

To read more about the campaign, visit poorpeoplescampaign.org

Here is the event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1750326621937244/

 

Vermont Poor People’s Campaign
Organizing Committee

#MoralRevival

#PoorPeoplesCampaign

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Featured

PETITION TO PROTECT VERMONT COMMUNITIES FROM PROFILING, BIASED POLICING & UNFAIR IMMIGRATION PRACTICES

download (5)

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE PETITION

WE DEMAND A FAIR AND IMPARTIAL POLICING POLICY THAT:

  1. Prohibits information sharing with federal immigration authorities when not required by federal law;
  2. Protects victims and witnesses of crimes, regardless of immigration status;
  3. Ensures that Vermonters living and working close to the northern border not be subject to profiling;
  4. Limits deportation agents’ access to individuals in the custody of Vermont law enforcement; and
  5. Contains clear directives within the FIPP regarding Training, Compliance, Accountability, and Supervision.

The current FIPP was written with strong input from the the Human Rights Commission, human rights and racial justice organizations. In September, 2017 the policy was reviewed by the Vermont Attorney General’s office and determined to be compliant with immigration law and adopted by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council.  Act 54 states that the Criminal Justice Training Council, “in consultation with stakeholders… shall update its model fair and impartial policing policy to provide one cohesive model policy for law enforcement agencies…”

The version of the policy that the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council is NOW proposing severely compromises the tenets of transparency and accountability.  It also departs from previously agreed language limiting local law enforcement’s role in immigration enforcement.

The policy is an important tool in the fight for racial justice in our state, but only if it includes measures for real accountability and real protections for people who are most likely to be targeted by law enforcement.

It’s time to take action for racial justice in Vermont. Our state’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (FIPP) is under attack.  This is an important document that creates safeguards from biased policing and ensures that all of us receive equal treatment under the law, regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, national origin, religion, gender or any other aspect of who we are or how we’re perceived by law enforcement.

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE PETITION

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Racial Disparities Panel Agenda

        Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice
Systems Advisory Panel
Agenda

3 October, 2017 6:00pm
 110 State Street, Montpelier

1)   Housekeeping
a.    Standing Date and location
b.    Extending
c.    Communication
d.    Administrative and professional support (Per diem)

2)   Guiding principlesa.
a. Community involvement (evening)
b.    Transparency and accountability
c.    Commitment (top involvement and training)
d.    Common Understanding (Blue Lives  Matter/ White supremacy)
e.    The system is the whole system (contractors – Statewide CJC Network, etc)

3)   Updates on Act 54 (standing agenda item)

4)   Public Comments (standing agenda item)

5)   AG Report Progress  – to committee (standing agenda item)

6)   Proposed Working Group Sessions – Discuss disparities in the Criminal Justice System and determine three most high impact / high discretion decision point.  Solicit public participation in each group.(standing agenda item)
a.    Law enforcement – De-escalation, Use of Force training policy and data collection
b.    Defender General
c.    States Attorneys
d.    Judges
e.    Corrections
f.     Community – Develop plan for education
g.    Horizontal – Data collection review, data collection, training and policy

7)  Recommendations to Legislature (standing agenda item)
a.    Public complaint process (all state government systems)
b.    Weather and how to implement racial profiling laws
c.    Expansion of data collection by law enforcement

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Here’s the News

We are looking forward to seeing coalition members at Vermont Center for Independent Living on Thursday, 28 September at 2:00.   There is a call in number for those who can’t make it.

Join the call: https://www.uberconference.com/hughesmanthony Optional dial-in number: 585-632-4622 PIN: 66232

Agenda:

1) Update on Panel
2) Meeting on Disparities in other systems
3) Fair and Impartial Policing Policy
4) Legislative Priorities (Constitutional Amendment)
5) Poor People’s Campaign

Please pass this information along to your networks. Your support is crucial.

(H.308 ) Act 54

Racial Disparities Panel
The first meeting of The Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems (created by H.308) happened on August 29th. The meeting was open to the general public. Attorney General T.J. Donavan gave passionate opening remarks and the Panel moved to appoint Christine Longmore as the Chair and Mark Hughes as the Vice Chair. The panel charge was reviewed and it was agreed that the Panel would meet in the evenings in moving forward to ensure that the general public has the ability to attend. There was a discussion on priorities and input and questions from the general public. The next meeting is scheduled for October 3rd at 6:00 PM.  The meeting will be held in a conference room at 110 State in Montpelier, which houses the State’s Attorneys and Sheriff’s Department. It is located at the corner of Taylor Street and State Street, directly across from the Pavilion Building.  You can find the Panel membership and the Legislative charge to the Panel here.

Addressing Institutionalized Racism in other Systems
H.308 (The Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile System Advisory Panel) calls for the Attorney General, the Human Rights Commission and interested stakeholders to “develop a strategy to address racial disparities within the State systems of education, labor and employment, access to housing health care, and economic development.” There will be a meeting of Stakeholders at the Statehouse, in room 10, on September 28th from 2:00 till 4:00 PM. The goal of the meeting is to gather sufficient information to enable the Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission to provide the Justice Oversight Committee with the requested strategy for moving forward in addressing racial disparities in these systems. The Stakeholders invitation with initial questions and stakeholder groups can be found here. The agenda to the meeting can be found here. The Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission are required to jointly report on the strategy to the Justice Oversight Committee on or before November 1, 2017.

Fair and Impartial Policing Policy
The Fair and Impartial Policing Policy has been updated “to the extent necessary to bring the policy into compliance with 8 U.S.C. §§ 1373 and 1644”. We will provide a copy of this policy when it becomes available. Work is currently underway to further update the policy to “provide one cohesive model policy for law enforcement agencies and constables to adopt as a part of the agency’s or constable’s own fair and impartial policing policy”. This is expected to be completed by by the close of the year. All agencies are expected to adopt a policy that includes the components of the model policy by March 1st, 2018.

The NEW Poor People’s Campaign
Join us on the Poor People’s Campaign. Our next meeting (The Gathering) will be on October 1st at 5:30 PM at three locations:  The Workers Center in Burlington, The Old Labor Hall in Barre and The Root Social Justice Center, in Brattleboro.  The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will necessarily be a multi-year undertaking. The Summer of 2017 through the Spring of 2018 will be used as the public launching of the Campaign. By engaging in highly publicized civil disobedience and direct action over a 6-week period in at least 25 states and the District of Columbia during the Spring of 2018, the Campaign will force a serious national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism and poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation during a key election year while strengthening and connecting informed and committed grassroots leadership in every state, increasing their power to continue this fight long after June 2018. Vermont’s New Poor Peoples Campaign will focus on local issues relating to us as Vermonters and will serve as a vehicle for us to take the people’s agenda to the statehouse. Sign up here to get on the ACTION list for updates and mobilization. You can also message “PPCVT” to 444999 to join the text and email list as well.

This national movement picks up the campaign started by Dr. King and others in the last months of his life. The focus is on addressing:

1) Systemic racism
2) Systemic Poverty
3) Ecological Devastation
4) War Economy
5) Changing the Moral Narrative of the United States

This is a live-stream event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/188464115030264/

 

Featured

Coalition Updates

All,

The implementation of H.308 is in full swing.  Here are a couple of updates on where we are with the panel and the Attorney General and HRC’s task to address the other systems (housing, employment, education, etc..).  We will provide an update on the policy component of H.308 when information becomes available.

Racial Disparities Panel 

The first meeting of The Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems (created by H.308) happened on August 29th. The meeting was open to the general public.  Attorney General T.J. Donavan gave passionate opening remarks and the Panel moved to appoint Christine Longmore as the Chair and Mark Hughes as the Vice Chair.  The panel charge was reviewed and it was agreed that the Panel would meet in the evenings in moving forward to ensure that the general public has the ability to attend.  There was a discussion on priorities and input and questions from the general publicThe next meeting was tentatively scheduled for September 21st at 6:00 PM.  You can find the Panel membership and the Legislative charge to the Panel here. 

H.308 Addressing Systemic Racism in other Systems

H.308 (The Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile System Advisory Panel) calls for the Attorney General, the Human Rights Commission and interested stakeholders to “develop a strategy to address racial disparities within the State systems of education, labor and employment, access to housing and health care, and economic development.”  There will be a meeting of Stakeholders at the Statehouse, in room 10, on September 28thfrom 2:00 till 4:00 PM.  The goal of the meeting is to gather sufficient information to enable the Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission to provide the Justice Oversight Committee with the requested strategy for moving forward in addressing racial disparities in these systems.  The Stakeholders invitation with initial questions and stakeholder groups can be found here.  The Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission are required to jointly report on the strategy to the Justice Oversight Committee on or before November 1, 2017

Below, you can find some information on other activities:`

The NEW Poor People’s Campaign
Join us on the Poor People’s Campaign.  Our next meeting will be on September 17th at 6:00 PM at the Peace and Justice Center in Burlington at 5:30 PM.  The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will necessarily be a multi-year undertaking. The Summer of 2017 through the Spring of 2018 will be used as the public launching of the Campaign. By engaging in highly publicized civil disobedience and direct action over a 6-week period in at least 25 states and the District of Columbia during the Spring of 2018, the Campaign will force a serious national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and environmental devastation during a key election year while strengthening and connecting informed and committed grassroots leadership in every state, increasing their power to continue this fight long after June 2018.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2046070795676711/

ANTIGONE IN FERGUSON
Theater of War

Friday & Saturday
September 15 & 16, 2017
8:00 pm

Featuring Tracie Thoms (Rent, Falsettos, The Devil Wears Prada)
and Zach Grenier (The Good Wife, Deadwood, Fight Club)
and Dartmouth College Gospel Choir

“A play that speaks to Ferguson’s tragedy and lets the audience speak back.” PBS News Hour
Seeking a way forward after the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown, leaders in Ferguson, MO, called on Brooklyn-based Theater of War, which addresses community traumas through staged readings—by some of today’s most sought-after actors—of ancient texts. Together they created Antigone in Ferguson: Sophocles’ 2,500-year-old tragedy about a clash between personal convictions and state law, punctuated by soul-searching gospel songs by Ferguson singers (joined here by members of the Dartmouth College Gospel Choir). Afterwards, cast and audience engage in an honest, open discussion of how the play pertains to our own communities and where to go from here. Guest respondents for these discussions include racial justice activists, students, and members of law enforcement from New Hampshire and Vermont. Saturday’s performance will be American Sign Language interpreted.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5hmgDRA1pw
Location: The Moore Theater, Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College

Run Against Racism September 17th

Come to run at 11:30 or join us for the rally 12:30. The 1st Annual Race Against Racism is a rally and an inclusive community walking and running event.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1675800779128969/

Featured

The New Poor People’s Campaign

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has emerged from more than a decade of work by grassroots community and religious leaders, organizations and movements fighting to end systemic racism, poverty, militarism, environmental destruction & related injustices and to build a just, sustainable and participatory society. The Campaign aims to build a broad and deep national moral movement — rooted in the leadership of poor people and reflecting the great moral teachings — to unite our country from the bottom up.

For years we have seen a kind of attention violence towards issues of systemic racism, poverty, and militarism. There was a time when our nation was fighting a war against poverty; now it seems we are waging a war on the poor. Our social fabric is stretched thin by widening income inequality while politicians criminalize the poor, fan the flames of racism and xenophobia to divide the poor, and steal from the poor to give tax breaks to our richest neighbors and budget increases to a bloated military.

The twin forces of white supremacy and unchecked corporate greed continue to gain more power and influence, both in statehouses across this nation and at the highest levels of our federal government. Today, one in every two Americans are poor or low-income while millions of children and adults continue to live without access to healthcare, housing, clean water, or good jobs.

At the same time, the issues of poverty and racism have been forced to the margins of our moral narrative and claims that a limited focus on personal morality should overshadow and supplant a commitment to public morality rooted in a critique of greed, racism, and injustice.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revivalwill strategically connect and grow different struggles and lift up and deepen the leadership of those most affected to transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society. The Campaign will push forward concrete demands, build unity across lines of division, and draw on art, music, and religious traditions to challenge the dominant narrative that blames poor people for poverty.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revivalwill necessarily be a multi-year undertaking. The Summer of 2017 through the Spring of 2018 will be used as the public launching of the Campaign. By engaging in highly publicized civil disobedience and direct action over a 6-week period in at least 25 states and the District of Columbia during the Spring of 2018, the Campaign will force a serious national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and environmental devastation during a key election year while strengthening and connecting informed and committed grassroots leadership in every state, increasing their power to continue this fight long after June 2018.

At such a time as this, we need a new Poor People’s Campaign for Moral Revival to help us become the nation we’ve not yet been.

More information can be found here. https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/

Sign up for our Vermont based New Poor People’s Campaign here:

Featured

Racial Justice Reform Coalition Updates: Summer

Folks,

We hope that you are having an amazing summer.  Here are some updates on some events that will be happening in the very near future.

H.308 (Act 54, 2017) Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel Discussion
Monday, August 28th at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier
https://www.facebook.com/events/1711606875815140/
Wednesday, August 30th the Unitarian Church in Burlington 
https://www.facebook.com/events/354885951608461

H.308 (Act 54, 2017) created the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel. This legislation was put forward and strongly supported by Justice For All, the Racial Justice Reform Coalition (30 Vermont organizations) and the entire community.   Come out and learn more about the law and provide input and recommendations on implementation and next steps.  Because of you, the law exists.  It will take your continued involvement to ensure that it is implemented effectively.

We will announce other dates as they are finalized.

* Note:  Don’t miss the first Racial Disparities Advisory Panel meeting on the 29th of August at 2:00 PM.  The meeting will be in room 10 at the State House.

https://www.facebook.com/events/212749125792827/

Kickoff Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel Meeting
When:  Tuesday, 29 August at 2:00 PM
Where:  Statehouse, Room 10 

H.308 (Act 54, 2017) created the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel. This legislation was put forward and strongly supported by Justice For All, the Racial Justice Reform Coalition (30 Vermont organizations) and the entire community.   Come out and show your support.  The power of the people is derived from the transparency and accountability of our government.  Your involvement is needed more than ever.

https://www.facebook.com/events/212749125792827/


The New Poor People’s Campaign: A National Moral Revival – The Gathering:  A Time for Reflection, Revival and Resistance
When:  Sunday September 3rd From 5:30 till 8:00 PM
Where: Unitarian Church in Montpelier

This is the fourth installment of “The Gathering” series, by Repairers of The Breach. The Poor People’s Campaign tour is underway and we are growing a movement. Come and prepare for action with us!

Live from Raleigh, North Carolina, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove co-host this monthly program to equip communities with resources for faithful reflection and public action on moral issues. The Gathering includes an introduction to a moral issue, immersion in freedom songs that inform how we engage the issue, an interview with folks directly impacted by the issue, and a theological engagement with the issue that names a specific call to moral action. September’s issue is LIVING WAGE in partnership with Fight For $15 on Sunday, Sept. 3.

You can learn more about the New Poor People’s Campaign and this nation al call for a moral revival here:

https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/
http://www.breachrepairers.org/

Bring the kids and the snacks and beverages you like.

https://www.facebook.com/events/113713119284805/
Don’t forget our monthly general meeting (every third Thursday) at the Unitarian Church, in Montpelier.

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, Law Enforcement Professional Regulation and the Racial Disparities Panel . Our work continues with numerous community outreach activities, Vermont Justice Coalition, Coalition on Racial Justice Reform 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.

Sign These Petitions
Say no to The War on Drugs” that is being waged by Jeff Sessions 
Implement Oversight of All Law Enforcement Agencies in Vermont
Racial Justice Reform and a Constitutional Amendment
Establish a Racial Oversight Board in Vermont H.492
Establish a Racial Justice Oversight Board S.116

Thank you for your support!

Mark Hughes,
ED, JFA

#racialjusticereformvt

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Racial Justice Bill Signed by Governor Today

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
May 31, 2017

Contact: Mark Hughes, co-founder, Justice For All (401) 480 8222; mark@justiceforallvt.org

Racial Justice Reform Bill signed by Governor Scott

MONTPELIER, VT May 31, 2017 – Justice For All is pleased to announce that Governor Scott signed H.308, a racial justice reform bill. This new law sets forth guidance to “establish a panel to review and provide recommendations to address systemic racial disparities in statewide systems of criminal and juvenile justice”. Vermont will once again lead the nation by signing into law the most comprehensive racial justice reform legislation in our state’s history.

The panel will “continually review the data …collected to measure State progress toward a fair and impartial system of law enforcement; provide recommendations to the Criminal Justice Training Council and the Vermont Bar Association…on data collection and model trainings and policies for law enforcement, judges, correctional officers, and attorneys, including prosecutors and public defenders, to recognize and address implicit bias;” and provide additional recommendations on “data collection and a model training and policy on de-escalation and the use of force in the criminal and juvenile justice system” The panel will also have a role in “educating and engaging with communities, businesses, educational institutions, State and local governments, and the general public about the nature and scope of racial discrimination in the criminal and juvenile justice system.” Finally, the law states that the “Attorney General, together with the Human Rights Commission and interested stakeholders, shall develop a strategy to address racial disparities within the State systems of education, labor and employment, access to housing and health care, and economic development.”

“The issues are real and the time is now”, said Mark Hughes, Executive Director of Justice For All, the driving organization behind the Racial Justice Reform Coalition a 32-organization coalition leading the charge for racial justice reform in Vermont. Coalition member Robb Kidd of the Vermont Sierra Club said, “It’s a shame in this day and age that we actually have to have a bill passed to promote racial equality.” The Racial Justice Reform Coalition will monitor H.308 implementation and continue to boldly tackle racial justice activities in Vermont.
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About Justice For All

Justice for All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.

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Governor, Please Sign H.308 Now!

jfa

PRESS RELEASE:

For immediate Release:

Montpelier, Vermont May 25, 2017 – Today The Justice Reform Coalition called on the Governor to immediately sign H.308, the most comprehensive racial justice reform bill in Vermont history..

The bill, introduced by Justice For All and a Coalition of 29 Vermont organizations calls for a 13 member board organized within the office of the Attorney General and will undertake an ongoing review of racial justice reform across the State, including economic development, and criminal and juvenile justice. The board is expected to do so by monitoring the collection and publication of race-based data, recommending policies and trainings to address systemic implicit bias, and evaluating racial justice policies, practices, and results statewide.

“We need racial justice now, there is a sense of urgency to get this panel moving”, said Mark Hughes, Executive Director of Justice For, the lead organization of the Racial Justice Reform Coalition. “We should not have to wait for the Governor to find time on his calendar for racial justice” he said. The bill has been approved by both chambers of the Assembly since May 1st.

###

About Justice For All

“This is Vermont, making history again”, said Mark Hughes, Executive Director of Justice For, the lead organization of the Racial Justice Reform Coalition, “it is morally right and legally possible”. The bill is expected to swiftly move through the House and the Senate has called for hearings as early as Friday

Contact Information

Mark Hughes Executive Director, Justice For All
o: (802) 532-3030
w: justiceforallvt.org
t: @Justice4All mark@justiceforallvt.org

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Why Do We Say Racial Justice NOW?

Why We Say Racial Justice NOW?, Erin Rose

“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.”

Friends,

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

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Request for the Governor to Sign H.308

jfa

Mr. Governor,

My name is Mark Hughes and I am the original crafter of what has become H.308. I am an Iowa native and have been in residence in Vermont for over 8 years. I am a retired army officer, a father and a grandfather. I am an ordained minister in the Baptist faith. I am the cofounder and Executive Director of Justice for All, A racial justice organization with a mission to pursue racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship building.

Literally hundreds of people have reached out to the legislature and your office from across the state to express the importance H.308 and racial justice reform in Vermont. Our petitions record thousands more who are in support of this bill. Some of this citizen support is on record in the Legislature. Notable is the support of the Human Rights Commission and the ACLU of Vermont on this important historic legislation.

Over the course of the past couple of years we have built relationships with countless elected officials and members of the law enforcement community. We have also conducted dozens of community activities designed to educate and build bridges across these communities and into the law enforcement local leadership apparatuses. During this time and leading up to the introduction of this bill we have been in consultation with the Attorney General, various police chiefs, the state police union representative and the Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Training Council concerning the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile System Panel. During the course of this time we have built a coalition of over 30 organizations (Racial Justice Reform Coalition) who all stand in support of this H.308. You can find a list of these organizations here:

https://racialjusticereformomnibusbillvt.wordpress.com/the-coalition/

Neither racial justice reform nor the concept of it beginning in the criminal justice system is new in Vermont. Act 134 in 2012; “Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System” was a bill that focused on racism from an institutional (implicit) perspective. It addressed sentencing, policy, data collection, training, the complaints process and other justice system workers. Unfortunately, the approach was walked back over the last five years to focus primarily on law enforcement.

Today one in 14 African American males are incarcerated in Vermont (leading the nation). We all know that African Americans continue to be stopped and searched at disproportionate rates across the state. We learned this year that over 15% of the use of force cases reported by Burlington involve African Americans (3.8% population). We learned during these proceedings that black youth have been on average 340% more likely to go to Woodside over the past four years! Further, we have learned last year from reports from Dr. Stephanie Sequino of UVM, Dr. Jack McDevett of North Eastern University and Ashley Nellis (The Color of Justice) that the problem in Vermont has worsened over the past five years.

We are aware of concerns that are surfacing claiming that somehow the Fair and Impartial Policing component of this legislation will place us into a so-called “Sanctuary State” status. A tremendous effort has been made to arrive at the consensus and careful consideration was given to address all concerns along a timeline in moving forward, as you can see here. It should be noted that the Attorney General stands in support of the this legislation and provided guidance in the approach to addressing the FIP, in light of concerns involving potential of de-funding of federal programs.

We owe it to this state and our people to stand on the side of right. Our moral responsibility and sense of urgency must take us beyond discussions of “process and timing” and we cannot allow our perceptions of perfect to become the enemy of done.   This is the most significant piece of racial justice reform legislation in Vermont History. All of Vermont must acknowledge that the time for racial justice reform is now. People of color in Vermont are being arrested, serving as targets of use of force and incarcerated disproportionately on a daily basis and it is destroying lives and families EVERY DAY. The impact of stigma and trauma that the criminal justice system places on our people is life long and spans generations.

Mr. Governor, I respectfully implore you to sign H.308. I ask that you stand on the right side of history as a Governor that made the controversial and highly political decision to advance racial justice reform as an issue for our state.   As racial disparities in our criminal justice system in Vermont worsen, the president has issued three executive orders announcing yet another “tough on crime” agenda. Now more than ever, people of color in Vermont call upon our state to protect us!

In closing I will leave you with a quote:

“I’m going to do everything I can to protect the rights of all Vermonters and the human rights of all people — that includes standing up to executive orders from Washington that cross legal, ethical and moral lines that have distinguished America from the rest of the world for generations,”

Mr. Governor, you said these words in the defense of S.79, an immigration bill that was signed into law last month. Please approach H.308 with the same moral compass and sense of urgency that was displayed with the Immigration Bill. All of us in Vermont want this state to be known as a place where there is Justice for All!

Respectfully, Mark A. Hughes,
Justice For All, Executive Director

signing bill

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Racial Justice Reform Bill Moves to the Governor’s Desk

jfa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
May 2, 2017

Contact: Mark Hughes, co-founder, Justice For All; (401) 480 8222;
mark@justiceforallvt.org

Racial Justice Reform Bill Moves to the Governor’s Desk

MONTPELIER, Vt. – This morning Justice For All announced that the Senate has passed H.308, the most comprehensive racial justice reform legislation in Vermont history. This clears a path to the Governors desk.

This legislation creates a panel to “continually review the data …collected to measure State progress toward a fair and impartial system of law enforcement; provide recommendations to the Criminal Justice Training Council and the Vermont Bar Association…, on data collection and model trainings and policies for law enforcement, judges, correctional officers, and attorneys, including prosecutors and public defenders, to recognize and address implicit bias; provide recommendations to the Criminal Justice Training Council,… on data collection and a model training and policy on deescalation and the use of force in the criminal and juvenile justice system” The panel will also have a role in “educating and engaging with communities, businesses, educational institutions, State and local governments, and the general public about the nature and scope of racial discrimination in the criminal and juvenile justice system.”

“Justice For All has been working with members from both legislative bodies to drive this legislation from the beginning of this session, we ask that the Governor sign this landmark racial justice bill.” Said Mark Hughes of Justice For All. Justice For All is the lead organization of the Racial Justice Reform Coalition a 32-member coalition that has led the campaign for racial justice reform in the Vermont criminal justice system and beyond. The Racial Justice Reform Coalition will remain active in monitoring H.308 implementation and undertaking other initiatives related to racial justice reform in Vermont. A press conference is expected in the Cedar Creek Room of the Statehouse on Friday, May 5th at 3:00 PM.

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About Justice For All

Justice for All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.

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Senate to Consider House Amendment to H.308 (Racial Justice) – Governor to Consider Next

Update:  There is a good chance that this vote could happen as early as Monday (May 1st).

Tuesday, the Senate will consider a proposal to concur with the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.308. We support this proposal!  Thanks again to the The President Pro Tempore, Senator Ashe, the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Balint, Judiciary Chair, Senator Sears and bill sponsors Senators Pollina, Brooks, Ingram and White for stepping up and going beyond the call to get this done.

This is the last step in a long journey to get this racial justice reform legislation to the desk of the governor.  The Racial Reform Coalition has performed flawlessly in this unprecedented endeavor. Thanks to all who have participated.

Ways to help and show support:

1.) Call the Sergeant at Arms and leave a message for your Senator to H.308 @ 802-828-2228.  (You can also send an email: jmiller@leg.state.vt.us) OR send an email your Senator your expressing support for concurrence of the House amendment of H.308 . – Find them here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/people

2) Send an email expressing your appreciation for the hard work of key members of the Senate. Use this email address to thank the Senate leadership, the judiciary chair and the bill sponsors:senate-h308-contacts@googlegroups.com

3)  Ask the Governor to sign H.308 when the Legislature sends it to his desk at the end of next week.  Send the Governor a note here: Email the Governor.  You can also call the Governor’s office at 802.828.3333.

4) Share this link with your network. H.308 (racial justice bill)

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House Plans to Consider Proposal to Concur with Senate Amendment to H.308 with Amendment

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Tomorrow, the House will consider a proposal to concur with the Senate amendment to H.308 with amendment. We applaud and support this proposal!  Thanks again to the Speaker of The House, Representative Johnson, House Majority Leader, Representative Krowinski, Judiciary Chair, Representative Grad and bill sponsors Representatives Morris, Christie and Gonzalez for your work on this historic bill.  We are fortunate to have such leadership.

Ways to help and show support:

1.) Call the Sergeant at Arms and leave a message for your Representative expressing your support for concurrence of the Senate amendment with amendment to H.308 .  802-828-2228  You can also send an email: jmiller@leg.state.vt.us

2.) Send an email your Representatives your support for concurrence of the Senate amendment with amendment to H.308 . – Find them here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/people

3)  Send an email expressing your appreciation for the hard work of key members of the house.  Use this email address to thank the house leadership, the judiciary chair and the bill sponsors:   house-h308-contacts@googlegroups.com.

4)  Share this link with your network.  H.308 (racial justice bill) 

The amendment is as follows:

Amendment to be offered by Reps. Morris of Bennington, Christie of
Hartford and Gonzalez of Winooski to H. 308

That the House concur in the Senate Proposal of Amendment with further
proposal of amendment as follows:

First: By striking out Sec. 3 in its entirety and inserting in lieu thereof the
following:

Sec. 3. OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL; HUMAN RIGHTS
COMMISSION; REPORT

The Attorney General, together with the Human Rights Commission and
interested stakeholders, shall develop a strategy to address racial disparities
within the State systems of education, labor and employment, access to
housing and health care, and economic development. The Attorney General
and the Human Rights Commission shall jointly report on the strategy to the
Justice Oversight Committee on or before November 1, 2017.

Second: By adding a new Sec. 6a to read as follows:

Sec. 6a. REPEAL

3 V.S.A. § 168 (Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice
System Advisory Panel) is repealed on July 1, 2020.

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House to Vote on Senate Amendment to H.308 (Racial Justice Bill)

All,

We are very pleased to update you that the Senate passed their version of the Racial Justice bill last week. Here is what you need to know about the Senate version of the bill. First, the Fair and Impartial Policing component (20 V.S.A. § 2366) was reintegrated into the bill. Secondly the areas of expertise of the five community appointees previously required were removed. The focus of the bill was returned to the initial scope of the criminal justice system. Though there were other modifications, we believe that these were the most significant.

The bill will be presented on the House floor TOMORROW as “H. 308 A committee to reorganize and reclassify Vermont’s criminal statutes” with a Senate proposal for amendment (it’s complicated).  The House can concur, further amend or send the bill to conference.  Key members of the coalition have been in discussion surrounding the Senate’s version and have concluded that though all stakeholders were required to compromise, the product (H.308) does satisfy the coalition’s original intent of the legislation.

We thank the House leadership, judiciary chair and bill sponsors for their work to date and earnestly request that they please consider concurring with the Senate’s Amendment. We have concluded that to do otherwise will delay and potentially jeopardize the passage of this racial justice reform bill that we have all worked so hard to get accomplished this year. We therefore implore House concurrence with the proposed Senate amendment to enable immediate adoption.

Ways to help:

1.) Call the Sergeant at Arms and leave a message for your Representative expressing your support for concurrence of the Senate amendment and immediate adoption of H.308 .  802-828-2228  You can also send an email: jmiller@leg.state.vt.us

2.) Send an email your Representatives your support for concurrence of the Senate Amendment and immediate adoption of H.308 – Find them here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/people

3)  Send an email expressing your support for concurrence of the Senate Amendment and immediate adoption of H.308.  Here is an email address that will enable yo to reach the house leadership, the judiciary chair and the bill sponsors:   house-h308-contacts@googlegroups.com.

Respectfully,

Racial Justice Reform Coalition

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H.308 -An act relating to the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel.

An act relating to a committee to reorganize and reclassify Vermont’s criminal statutes.

Reported favorably with recommendation of proposal of amendment by Senator White for the Committee on Judiciary.

The Committee recommends that the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 1. 3 V.S.A. § 168 is added to read:

§ 168. RACIAL DISPARITIES IN THE CRIMINAL AND JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM ADVISORY PANEL

(a) The Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel is established. The Panel shall be organized and have the duties and responsibilities as provided in this section. The Panel shall be organized within the Office of the Attorney General and shall consult with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, the Vermont chapter of the ACLU, the Vermont Police Association, the Vermont Sheriffs’ Association, the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police, and others.

(b) The Panel shall comprise the following 13 members: – 1062 –

(1) five members, drawn from diverse backgrounds to represent the interests of communities of color throughout the State, who have had experience working to implement racial justice reform, appointed by the Attorney General;
(2) the Executive Director of the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council or designee;
(3) the Attorney General or designee;
(4) the Defender General or designee;
(5) the Executive Director of the State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs or designee;
(6) the Chief Superior Judge or designee;
(7) the Commissioner of Corrections or designee;
(8) the Commissioner of Public Safety or designee; and
(9) the Commissioner for Children and Families.

(c) The members of the Panel appointed under subdivision (b)(1) of this section shall serve staggered four-year terms. As terms of currently serving members expire, appointments of successors shall be in accord with the provisions of subsection (b) of this section. Appointments of members to fill vacancies or expired terms shall be made by the authority that made the initial appointment to the vacated or expired term. Members of the Panel shall be eligible for reappointment. Members of the Panel shall serve no more than two consecutive terms in any capacity.

(d) Members of the Panel shall elect biennially by majority vote the Chair of the Panel. Members of the Panel who are not State employees or whose participation is not supported through their employment or association shall receive per diem compensation and reimbursement of expenses pursuant to 32 V.S.A. § 1010, to be provided by the Office of the Attorney General. The Office of the Attorney General shall provide the Panel with administrative and professional support.

(e) A majority of the members of the Panel shall constitute a quorum, and all action shall be taken upon a majority vote of the members present and voting.

(f) The Panel shall review and provide recommendations to address systemic racial disparities in statewide systems of criminal and juvenile justice, including: – 1063 –

(1) continually reviewing the data collected pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 2366 to measure State progress toward a fair and impartial system of law enforcement;
(2) providing recommendations to the Criminal Justice Training Council and the Vermont Bar Association, based on the latest social science research and best practices in law enforcement and criminal and juvenile justice, on data collection and model trainings and policies for law enforcement, judges, correctional officers, and attorneys, including prosecutors and public defenders, to recognize and address implicit bias;
(3) providing recommendations to the Criminal Justice Training Council, based on the latest social science research and best practices in law enforcement, on data collection and a model training and policy on deescalation and the use of force in the criminal and juvenile justice system;
(4) educating and engaging with communities, businesses, educational institutions, State and local governments, and the general public about the nature and scope of racial discrimination in the criminal and juvenile justice system;
(5) monitoring progress on the recommendations from the 2016 report of the Attorney General’s Working Group on Law Enforcement Community Interactions; and
(6) 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:

(A) how to institute a public complaint process to address perceived implicit bias across all systems of State government;
(B) whether and how to prohibit racial profiling, including implementing any associated penalties; and
(C) whether to expand law enforcement race data collection practices to include data on nontraffic stops by law enforcement.

Sec. 2. 20 V.S.A. § 2358 is amended to read:

§ 2358. MINIMUM TRAINING STANDARDS; DEFINITIONS
* * *

(e)(1) The criteria for all minimum training standards under this section shall include anti-bias training approved by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council and training on the State, county, or municipal law enforcement agency’s fair and impartial policing policy, adopted pursuant to subsection 2366(a) of this title.

(4) The Criminal Justice Training Council shall, on an annual basis, report to the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel regarding:
(A) the adoption and implementation of the Panel’s recommended data collection methods and trainings and policies pursuant to 3 V.S.A. § 168(f)(2) and (3);
(B) the incorporation of implicit bias training into the requirements of basic training pursuant to this subsection; and
(C) the implementation of all trainings as required by this subsection.

Sec. 3. SECRETARY OF ADMINISTRATION; PROPOSAL

The Secretary of Administration shall develop a proposal to identify and address racial disparities within the State systems of education, labor and employment, access to housing and health care, and economic development. The Secretary shall report on the proposal to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary on or before January 15, 2018.

Sec. 4. 20 V.S.A. § 2366(f) is added to read:

(f) Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit or impede any public agency from complying with the lawful requirements of 8 U.S.C. §§ 1373 and 1644. To the extent any State or local law enforcement policy or practice conflicts with the lawful requirements of 8 U.S.C. §§ 1373 and 1644, that policy or practice is, to the extent of the conflict, abolished.

Sec. 5. CRIMINAL JUSTICE TRAINING COUNCIL; FAIR AND IMPARTIAL POLICING POLICY

(a) On or before October 1, 2017, the Criminal Justice Training Council, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall review and modify the model fair and impartial policing policy to the extent necessary to bring the policy into compliance with 8 U.S.C. §§ 1373 and 1644.

(b) On or before January 1, 2018, the Criminal Justice Training Council, in consultation with stakeholders, including the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Vermont Human Rights Commission, and Migrant Justice, shall update its model fair and impartial policing policy to provide one cohesive model policy for law enforcement agencies and constables to adopt as a part of the agency’s or constable’s own fair and impartial policing policy pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 2366(a)(1).

Sec. 6. 20 V.S.A. § 2366 is amended to read:

§ 2366. LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES; FAIR AND IMPARTIAL POLICING POLICY; RACE DATA COLLECTION

(1) On or before March 1, 2018, every State, local, county, and municipal law enforcement agency and every constable who exercises law enforcement authority pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 1936a and who is trained in compliance with section 2358 of this title shall adopt a fair and impartial policing policy that includes, at a minimum, each component of the Criminal Justice Training Council’s model fair and impartial policing policy.

(2) On or before October 1, 2018, and every even-numbered year thereafter, the Criminal Justice Training Council, in consultation with others, including the Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission, shall review and, if necessary, update the model fair and impartial policing policy.

(b) To encourage consistent fair and impartial policing practices statewide, the Criminal Justice Training Council, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, shall review the policies of law enforcement agencies and constables required to adopt a policy pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, to ensure those policies establish each component of the model policy on or before April 15, 2018. If the Council finds that a policy does not meet each component of the model policy, it shall work with the law enforcement agency or constable to bring the policy into compliance. If, after consultation with its attorney or with the Council, or with both, the law enforcement agency or constable fails to adopt a policy that meets each component of the model policy, that agency or constable shall be deemed to have adopted, and shall follow and enforce, the model policy issued by the Council.

(c) Annually, as part of their annual training report to the Council, every State, county, and municipal law enforcement agency and every constable who exercises law enforcement authority pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 1936a and who is trained in compliance with section 2358 of this title shall report to the Council whether the agency or officer has adopted a fair and impartial policing policy in accordance with subsections (a) and (b) of this section. The Criminal Justice Training Council shall determine, as part of the Council’s annual certification of training requirements, whether current officers have received training on fair and impartial policing as required by 20 V.S.A. § 2358(e).

(d) Annually on April 1, the Criminal Justice Training Council shall report to the House and – 1066 – Senate Committees on Judiciary regarding which departments and officers have adopted a fair and impartial policing policy, and whether officers have received training on fair and impartial policing.

Sec. 7. EFFECTIVE DATES This act shall take effect on passage, except that Sec. 6 (law enforcement agencies; fair and impartial policing policy; race data collection) shall take effect on March 1, 2018.

And that after passage the title of the bill be amended to read:

An act relating to the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel.

(Committee vote: 5-0-0)

(For House amendments, see House Journal for March 24, 2017, page 500.)

Reported favorably with recommendation of proposal of amendment by Senator Sears for the Committee on Appropriations.

The Committee recommends that the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill as recommended by the Committee on Judiciary with the following amendment thereto:

In Sec. 1, 3 V.S.A. § 168, subdivision (d), after the last sentence, by inserting the following:

The Panel may meet up to ten times per year.

(Committee vote: 7-0-0)

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The Racial Justice Board Bill is NOW H.308!

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All,

H.492, “An Act relating to Racial Justice Oversight Board” and H.523 (Fair and Impartial Policing) were both successfully voted out of the House last week! Senate Judiciary amended H.308 by attaching S.116. and successfully voted it out last week as well!. The bill is currently in Senate Appropriations.

Ways to help:

1.) If you have not signed these petitions, they are still very important. They continue to notify everyone under the dome with each signature.

Petition for H.492

Petition for S.116

2.) Continue the calls the Sergeant at Arms. This is not a one time deal. Call as many times as time permits and leave a message for your Representative or Senator expressing your support for the immediate adoption of H.308. 802-828-2228 You can also send an email: jmiller@leg.state.vt.us

3.) Send a note to the Senate Appropriations Committee, urging them to vote out H.308 immediately for racial justice in Vermont! This address will enable you to reach them all at once:

vermont-senate-appropriations@googlegroups.com

4.) Send an email your Representatives or Senators expressing your support for the immediate adoption of H.308 – Find them here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/people

Let’s get this done!

Don’t forget our monthly general meeting (every third Thursday) at the Unitarian Church, in Montpelier. Here is the event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1690014234628673/

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.
#racialjusticereformvt

Thank you for your support!

Mark Hughes
Justice For All

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Racial Justice Reform Coalition Activities – Week of April 10th

racialjusticereformvtrallyAll,
H.492, “An Act relating to Racial Justice Oversight Board”, will go to the House floor tomorrow. The Fair and Impartial Policing component that was decoupled from the bill will go to the House floor on Wednesday. Also, S.116 will continue testimony at 8:45 on Wednesday morning.

Please Show up at the statehouse to support each of these bills.
Bring: Download and print a copy of this #racialjusticereformvt placard to bring with you to the statehouse. By showing up with these placards we will not only be able to identify one another but this enables us to communicate our numbers.

Things you can do:
1) If you have not signed these petitions, they are still very important. They continue to notify everyone under the dome with each signature.
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 S.116: 802-828-2228. You can also send an email: jmiller@leg.state.vt.us

3) Send a message to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing your support for S.116 – vermont-senate-judiciary@googlegroups.com

4) Mail a postcard to your representative and ask them to vote yes Tuesday for H.492. Find them here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/people

WAIT there’s more! The Racial Justice Reform Coalition and S.116 Sponsors will be hosting a film viewing of “13th”. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.

Date: Thursday, April 13th
Time: 5:30 AM
Place: Vermont State House – (Room 11) (See this map.)
Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/287770841660894/

Trailer for 13th

Later in the evening, we’ll be off to Sweet Melissa’s because it’s time to “Move Forward” with racial justice reform in Vermont. The state is positioned for success with the first racial justice reform legislation in history! You need to be here and show your support for our state leading the nation with racial justice. We’re almost there folks. Let’s move this bill forward and let’s celebrate!

Date: Thursday, April 13th
Time: 9:30 PM
Place: Sweet Melissa’s
Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/795246720643590/

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.
#racialjusticereformvt

Thank you for your support!

Mark Hughes
Justice For All

Featured

House Judiciary Passes H.492; Senate Judiciary Hears S.116 Testimony Tomorrow

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All,

H.492, “An Act relating to Racial Justice Oversight Board”, was voted out of House Judiciary yesterday and is due to go to the House floor for debate on Tuesday.  The Fair and Impartial Policing component that was decoupled from the bill was taken on as a Committee Bill and voted out of House Judiciary today.  Meanwhile, S.116 has been taken from the Senate Judiciary wall and we start testimony on this bill starting at 9:00 AM tomorrow morning.

Please Show up tomorrow!

Date:Friday, April 7th
Time: 9:00 AM
Place: Vermont State House – (Senate Judiciary)  (See this map.)
Bring: Download and print a copy of this #racialjusticereformvt placard to bring with you to the statehouse to show your support!
Facebook Event:  https://www.facebook.com/events/893687194105946/

Here are some other things you can do:

If you have not signed these petitions, they are still very important.  They continue to notify everyone under the dome with each signature.
Petition for H.492
Petition for S.116  

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

Send a message to the Senate Judiciary Committee  expressing your support for S.116 – vermont-senate-judiciary@googlegroups.com

Mail a postcard to your representative and ask them to vote yes Tuesday for H.492. Find them here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/people

Wait, there’s more!  The Racial Justice Reform Coalition and S.116 Sponsors will be hosting a film viewing of “13th”   Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.

Date:Thursday , April 13th
Time: 5:30 AM
Place: Vermont State House – (Room 11)  (See this map.)

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.

#racialjusticereformvt

Thank you for your support!

Mark Hughes
Justice For All

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House Judiciary Testimony

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Testimony to:House Judiciary April 4, 2017 3:30 PM on H.494; Racial Justice Oversight Board

Mark A. Hughes, Justice For All, Executive Director

Acknowledging the Chair, the Vice, the ranking member the bill sponsor and the remainder of the committee. Understanding that the work you have done thus far in this session has been difficult but necessary.

My name is Mark Hughes and I created H.492. I am the Vermont Democratic Party Affirmative Action Chair and the Cabot Town Chair as well as a member of the Platform Committee. I am the cofounder and Executive Director of Justice for All, A racial justice organization with a mission to pursue racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building

I bring with me many stakeholders from across the state who have testified and literally hundreds of people who have reached out to members of this committee and the rest of the assembly expressing the importance of racial justice reform in Vermont. There are thousands more who have shown support of this bill by way of petition and dozens of organizations from across the state who collectively are called the Racial Justice Reform Coalition stand in support of this bill.

I mentioned the Vermont Advisory Committee to the Civil Rights Commission reports filed on “Racial Harassment in Vermont Public Schools” and “Racial Profiling in Vermont” as background to my initial testimony. As you recall, I informed you that recommendations from the latter report over ten years ago included policy, training, body cams, community partnerships, illegalizing racial profiling and the “commissioning of an oversight board”.

I also indicated in my first testimony that neither racial justice reform nor the concept of it beginning in the criminal justice system is new in Vermont. Act 134 in 2012; “Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System” was a bill that focused on racism from an institutional (implicit) perspective. It addressed sentencing, policy, data collection, training, the complaints process and other justice system workers. Unfortunately, the approach was walked back over the last five years to focus primarily on law enforcement.

Today there has been no further action taken on the sentencing report; there remains uncertainty surrounding the policy statewide; we continue to struggle with data collection; completion of statewide training and the introduction of In-service training on Implicit-bias is still a couple years out; a unified complaint process has not been established and little or no attention has been given to the remainder of the criminal justice system to address the racial disparities.

Today one in 14 African American males are incarcerated in Vermont (leading the nation). We all know that African Americans continue to be stopped and searched at disproportionate rates across the state. We learned this year that over 15% of the use of force cases reported by Burlington involve African Americans (3.8% population). We learned during these proceedings that black youth have been on average 340% more likely to go to Woodside over the past four years!  Further, we have learned last year from reports from Dr. Stephanie Sequino of UVM, Dr. Jack McDevett of North Eastern University and Ashley Nellis (The Color of Justice) of the Sentencing project further support this fact while suggesting that the problem in Vermont has worsened over the past five years.

Through work with the State Police, it seems that we have discovered hope in this data driven approach in addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. It was with that hope that that the Racial Justice Oversight Board would be used as an apparatus by the legislature and responsibilities would include; providing advise on addressing institutionalized racism to the legislature; monitoring (with legislative authority) the ongoing progress of law enforcement rollout of policy, training, data collection and oversight, and; monitoring and advising on the rollout of these processes across the remainder of the criminal justice system. The longer-term goals of this board have always been envisioned as providing recommendations on the implementation of these strategies across employment, housing, education and health services.

Understanding now the history of racial justice reform in Vermont, it is my hope that the committee would see more clearly our (and and coalition members) concern with decoupling the Fair and Impartial Policing component from H.492. Also, the fact that the revised bill turns the focus from the criminal justice system to an initial focus on these other systems as well creates an unwieldy and overly ambitious approach. (as expressed by the ACLU Vermont). It is also important to note that the inclusion of language that would seek to require community members of color to be “experts” could potentially create a counterproductive outcome by severely limiting the otherwise pool of qualified candidates. Finally, the removal of most all of the language that would enable the legislature to realize transparency (through the implementation of this board) into this law enforcement processes is severely diminished by the removal of language that addresses:

1) Use of Force
2) Data Collection
3) Monitoring of Training
4) Recommendations for Civilian Oversight
5) Monitoring for Compliance – 20 V.S.A. § 2366

All this being said, the historical significance of this bill cannot be understated. All of Vermont must acknowledge that the time for racial justice reform is now. People of color in Vermont are being arrested, serving as targets of use of force and incarcerated disproportionately on a daily basis and it is destroying lives and families EVERY DAY. The impact of stigma and trauma that the criminal justice system places on our people is life long and spans generations.

I respectfully implore the committee to allow this unprecedented Racial Justice Reform Bill to advance to the full house for debate.   I ask that you stand on the right side of history as the Judiciary committee that made the controversial and highly political decision to advance racial justice reform as an issue for our state to see and our legislature to debate.

As racial disparities in our criminal justice system in Vermont worsen, the president has issued three executive orders announcing yet another “tough on crime” agenda. Now today, Attorney General Sessions announced a review of consent decrees across the nations as being in the interest of “…actively developing strategies to support the thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country that seek to prevent crime and protect the public…,”

Now more than ever, people of color in Vermont call upon our state to protect us!

In closing I will leave you with two quotes:

“The word should go out to every Vermonter that the folks that work under this dome will stand up and fight for everybody in this state regardless of who you are, where you’re from, where you live or who you love,”

T.J. Donavan, Vermont Attorney General

“I’m going to do everything I can to protect the rights of all Vermonters and the human rights of all people — that includes standing up to executive orders from Washington that cross legal, ethical and moral lines that have distinguished America from the rest of the world for generations,”

Phil Scott, Vermont Governor

Vermont’s Governor and Attorney General said these words this year in the defense of S.79, an immigration bill that was signed into law last week.   I asked at my initial testimony and I ask you again – Please approach H.492 with the same moral compass and sense of urgency that was displayed with the Immigration Bill. All of us in Vermont want this state to be known as a place where there is Justice for All!

Respectfully,

Mark A. Hughes
Justice For All, Executive Director

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H.492 Racial Justice Reform Bill Update – April 2nd

Last week, we made you aware of an impasse that we were experiencing due to pushback from law enforcement lobbyists.   The following day, coalition member, Partners for Fairness and Diversity (Curitss Reed) unilaterally worked with bill sponsors to modify the bill.   The coalition was unaware that such discussions were taking place.   Among other things, the changes that were incorporated decouple Fair and Impartial Policing from H.492 and remove significant language that was designed to provide transparency and accountability in law enforcement.  Partners for Fairness and Diversity is no longer a member of the Racial Justice Reform Coalition.

Among other things, the modifications that were incorporated decouple Fair and Impartial Policing from H.492 and remove significant language that was designed to provide transparency and accountability in law enforcement. The primary scope has moved from addressing the criminal justice system to one that is more global in nature (which the Pro Tempe President and Senate Judiciary Chair advised against in our initial discussions). Further, “areas of expertise” have been incorporated as qualifications for people of color to participate. Partners For Fairness and Diversity are now requesting resumes for these positions. The Racial Justice Reform Coalition has no involvement in this effort.

We owe it to ourselves to ensure that the creation of a Racial Justice Reform Board produces both a credible and legitimate outcome to address racial justice in the state. The involvement of an organization with a longstanding contractual relationship with the state in this legislative process has already began to cast doubt surrounding the legitimacy of the outcome of this process. I have consulted with Migrant Justice, Community Council of Accountability with Law Enforcement Officials, Black Lives Matter Vermont and the Champlain Valley Chapter of the NAACP and we agreed to remove Partners for Fairness and Diversity from the Racial Justice Reform Coalition.

The priority of the original intent of this bill was to enable the legislature to better monitor the work that is being done by law enforcement to address implicit bias and; provide recommendations and monitoring for future expansions of this work into the remainder of the criminal justice system. I will continue to work to restore the primary scope of the bill to address the criminal justice system.   We have all seen real data that reveals disparities and reports indicate that the problem has worsened. The House Judiciary Committee is anticipated to call H.492 to a vote on Tuesday. We will therefore be unable to request any additional changes to this bill until it reaches the Senate. Many people have invested so much in crafting and advocating for this, which is by far the most significant legislative attempt to address racial justice in Vermont history!

Here is how you can help. Continue to stand with the Racial Justice Reform Coalition as we push for legislative change. Remind your legislators and constituents of the importance of addressing the criminal justice system first.  Be present on Tuesday in House Judiciary to witness the final deliberations and and vote.  It is not clear what time this will happen, if it happens at all as law enforcement continues to push back.

Respectfully,

Mark A. Hughes,
ED, JFA

#RacialJusticeReformVT

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H.492 Racial Justice Reform Bill Update

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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.

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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 Mary BrownFloor 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

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Support H. 492 and S.116 on Town Meeting Day

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We wanted to make sure you were equipped to support any efforts you might be planning to propose a resolution for your town to support H492 and S.116 (Racial Justice Oversight Board). The bill proposes 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 all know that we face in in Vermont with racial disparities in the criminal justice system, we must make a commitment to do the right thing. The language to the resolution is simple.

The adoption of a resolution that supports passing of H.492 and S.116, the bill that proposes to establish the Racial Justice Oversight Board to manage and oversee the implementation of racial justice reform across the State.

FAQs on the bill can be found here.

Go here to read the bill and learn how you can offer your support

Here are some additional things that you can do now to assist in moving this unprecedented legislation forward:

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

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 S.116:   802-828-2228
You can also send an email: jmiller@leg.state.vt.us

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

Finally, Justice For All gathers on the third Thursday of every month, at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier from 6:00 till 8:00 PM. Our next meeting is March 16th.

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.

Thanks for the outpouring of support.

Mark A. Hughes, Executive Director,
Justice For All Cooperative, Inc

About Justice For All
Justice for All is a racial justice organization, which identifies and dismantles institutionalized racism while facilitating healing in our communities. Our mission is to ensure justice for ALL through community organizing, research, education, community policing, legislative reform, and judicial monitoring. We address systemic issues such as racially biased policing and inequities in the criminal justice system.

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Racial Justice Reform Kickoff Celebration

The First of Many Celebrations 

On February 2nd, 2017 Justice for All hosted the Racial Justice Reform Coalition Kick-off party at Sweet Melissa’s in Montpelier, VT. Held on the eve of the release of the first draft of this ground-breaking piece of legislation, this party was a celebration of the forward momentum of the fight for racial justice in Vermont. In attendance were key drafters of the original bill proposal, sponsoring legislator Kevin “Coach” Christie and supporting members of the legislature, representatives from coalition member organizations, and an exuberant showing of community members eager to show their support for racial justice.

Justice for All Executive Director and co-founder Mark Hughes spoke on his excitement and passion for this piece of legislation and other racial justice efforts, Coach Christie said a few words on the importance of  racial justice reform in Vermont, and additional speakers shared their thoughts on what racial justice means to them. This event also marked the launching of the “I Support Racial Justice Reform in Vermont” photo petition campaign. The first of many events, this kick-off merely marked the beginning of a series of celebrations as this legislation and this movement gain momentum and reach critical milestones in the powerful and indomitable march toward racial justice reform in Vermont and across the nation.

Here are some of the photos taken for our #racialjusticereformvt photo petition. There will be many more to come.

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Racial Disparities in Vermont Prisons

This is not a social, political or economic issue. It is a moral issue.

human-rights

6/28/2016

By Mark Hughes and Ashley Nellis, Ph. D.

A new report on racial disparities in state prisons underscores the need for policymakers and state administrators in Montpelier to take a hard look at the policies, practices and prejudices that are playing out in our state’s criminal justice system.

By disaggregating and analyzing U.S. Justice Department data the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization The Sentencing Project found that nationally, African Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites across the nation. In Vermont the ratio is even higher at 10 times the rate of whites across the nation. In fact, Vermont is the highest in the nation with one in 14 of all African American adult males in state prison.

The findings come in a period when many states, including Vermont, have responded to assertions of unfairness in the justice system in the aftermath of the highly reported Trayvon Martin shooting four years ago in Florida and the shooting and racial protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere more recently.

Policymakers and administrators in Vermont are aware of the disparities. Several states have legislated sentencing reforms or re-categorized drug cases in particular, which account for many of the convictions that lead to racial and ethnic disparities, so that possession and use of drugs is more likely today to lead to treatment rather than extended imprisonment. State officials know that in the aggregate African Americans are not disproportionately likely to commit certain drug crimes, but they nevertheless are more likely to wind up in prison where whites convicted of similar offenses may get alternative outcomes.

One of many practices that contribute to racial disparities in the criminal justice system in Vermont is the disproportionate number of traffic stops and searches of African Americans by law enforcement. The Vermont Advisory Committee to United States Commission on Civil Rights provided a briefing on the challenges of Racial Profiling in 2009. Some of the recommendations have yet to be undertaken. Traffic stop data analysis in 2012 concluded that African Americans were being stopped and searched at disproportionate rates by Vermont State (VSP), Burlington, South Burlington, UVM and Winooski Police Departments. In spite of a legislative mandate to collect race-based traffic stop data issued in 2012, this data is only beginning to become publicly accessible in 2016. VSP’s initial decision (in 2012) to release their data to third parties for analysis created discussion surrounding research veracity and efficacy and did little to provide true transparency or adopt the research as a benchmark from which to move forward. This year (with VSP’s long awaited release of five years of data), VSP released the data to Northeastern University and UVM as well as posted the raw data on their site. Based upon research produced by Dr. Jack McDevitt of Northeastern University, traffic stop racial disparities have increased in Vermont over the past five years. This is clearly as a result of the lack of transparency and a culture of denial. Dr. Stephanie Seguino’s (UVM) report on this data set is due to be released this week. In moving forward it is important that we move past using the collection of data to prove (or disprove) racial disparity, to that of using it to measure our progress towards parity. The consistent public release of the data will provide the transparency required for accountability in this area.  Internal commitment to progress, analysis of this data, policy implementation, training, and corrective actions (as required) will also be necessary to move these efforts forward. It is also important that we understand that this is a very small part of a much larger challenge.

In general, the national report suggests that while overt racism may not continually come into play in the criminal justice system, there are points of discretion in the system where arresting officers, prosecutors, judges and even defense attorneys may be predisposed to view one group differently from another. Policy makers in Vermont must work to achieve the transparency required to identify these points of discretion in the system and demand similar commitment to metrics, policy, training and corrective actions as required to ensure that Vermont lives up to it’s narrative of openness and fairness.

Concerns about differential treatment is important not only because every American is constitutionally entitled to fair and equal treatment under the law, but because of the collateral consequences that are attached to criminal convictions – reduced access to housing, education and employment opportunity chief among them.

There is a growing recognition across the country that mass incarceration practices have not contributed to public safety, but have instead created a system that is inefficient, unsustainable, and unfair mass incarceration has perpetuates disadvantages that African Americans and other people of color have endured historically. Solving foundational problems through improved access to education, decent housing, prevention services focused on at-risk youth, and job training and placement is continually challenging but important.

But equally crucial, and probably more immediately manageable, is the identification and remediation of the policies and behaviors that lead to over-incarceration and racial disparities in prison in Vermont and elsewhere. State officials must fashion reforms that make the justice system smarter, fairer and less costly both in dollars and in the loss of human potential. We owe it to ourselves in this political, social and racial climate of change in 2016.

Mark Hughes is an advocate for racial justice affiliated with Justice For All in Vermont. Ashley Nellis, Ph. D., is a senior researcher for The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., and author of The Color of Justice: racial and ethnic disparity in state prisons, available at http://www.sentencingproject.org