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

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

All,Maxine

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

Coalition Requests House Concurrence on Senate Amendment to H.308 (Racial Justice Bill)

Madam Speaker, Representative Krowinski, Madam Chair, and Representatives Morris, Gonzalez and Christie,

Key members of the coalition have been in discussion surrounding H.308 and have concluded that though all stakeholders were required to compromise, the consensus has created a product (H.308) that 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.

Thank you!

Racial Justice Reform Coalition

Mark Hughes’ Testimony to Senate Judiciary April 7th, 2017

Mark Hughes, ED, Justice For All
  Testimony to Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee – 7 April, 2017 9:10 AM Statehouse

Recognizing the chair and members of the committee who are charged with heavy responsibility of being the gatekeepers of the legislative framework that keeps everyone in Vermont safe, thank you for an opportunity to appear before the committees today.

My name is Mark Hughes and I created S.116. 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 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.

Justice for All is a member of the State Police Fair and Impartial Policing Committee; we served on the panel that created the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy and participated in the negotiations with VCJTC for its approval and adoption, ad we served on the Law Enforcement Professional Regulation Committee this past summer which resulted in what is now H.22.

I ask for the latitude of the Chair in that we may need to make last minute modifications or changes to those who may testify. We have worked hard to be responsive to the rapid and unpredictable pace of the Committee. Many stakeholders across that state have had to very littler time to prepare to testify due to their vulnerable positions. They can’t afford to take the time required to be a part of this process. Many can’t afford to take a an day, let alone an hour off from work to engage in this important discussion. Literally hundreds of people have however reached out to members of this committee from across the state to express the importance of racial justice reform in Vermont. Our petitions record thousands more who are in support of this bill. Many of the dozens of coalition member organizations are represented in this room.

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 I 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 Justice Reform Board.

Our work over this time has lead us to understand that Vermont struggles with racial institutionalized racism, evidenced by disparities and the problem has worsened over the past several years. Though it is beyond the scope of the mission of Justice For All, it has become clear to us that the disparities created by this systemic racism also exists in other systems (housing, employment, education, health services, economic development). JFA participated in the Criminal Justice Reform Coalition over the past two years in an attempt to put forward legislative solutions and though competing priorities overshadowed our agenda, we learned a lot.

It is important to note that my personal contributions to the VDP Platform resulting in the adoption of key elements that serve foundationally to undergird components of S.116, the Racial Justice Reform Bill. Some of those principles include:

• Will work to amend Article 1 of the Vermont Constitution to clarify that slavery in any form is absolutely prohibited.
• Seeks the passage of laws and regulations that ensure equality regardless of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, criminal history, ancestry, place of birth, age, physical or mental condition, military service, or economic status.
• Supports civilian oversight of law enforcement with a community reporting apparatus, independent investigative, and prosecutorial and decertification powers to reinforce trust and legitimacy in communities of color and increase overall public safety.
• Calls for an adequately funded state racial justice oversight board to implement effective transparency and accountability.
• Seeks a Racial Impact Assessment integrated into the legislative process.
• Seeks anti-bias policies and mandatory training for all justice system personnel

This year we have returned with a coalition of 30 organizations, The Racial Justice Reform Coalition. The members of the racial justice reform coalition are …

Background
The Vermont Civil Rights Advisory Committee to the Civil Rights Commission filed a report “Racial Harassment in Vermont Public Schools” citing racial harassment in our schools in 1999. Their progress report, filed in 2003 showed no progress. They filed a Briefing report “Racial Profiling in Vermont”, based upon briefings from 2008. Recommendations from this report included policy, training, body cams, community partnerships, illegalizing racial profiling and the “commissioning of an oversight commission”.

The data collection was initiated by the Uncommon Alliance, a diverse group of Burlington are community members, law enforcement and local and state officials led to Act 134 in 2012; “Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System” here in Vermont. This legislation focused on racism from an institutional perspective.. It addressed sentencing, policy, data collection, training, the complaints process and sought to establish a broader look at other justice system workers.

The sentencing report that this bill called for, due in December 2012 emerged in October 2015. No further action has been taken surrounding disparities in sentencing and incarceration. This is unfortunate in that these Twenty thousand dollars was the only appropriations toward racial justice in Vermont history. Instead of taking a systems approach in 2012 Act 134 “encouraged” the remainder of the criminal justice system to adhere to their respective rules of ethics. The LEAB responded to the 2012 recommendation for a unified complaint process for reporting misconduct came back with a response indicating that they did not have enough time. No further action has been taken. Completion of statewide training and the introduction of In-service training on Implicit-bias is still a couple years out. There are ongoing challenges with the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy.
The data collection process lacks transparency and has yet to be adequately funded and little or no attention has been given to the remainder of the criminal justice system to address the racial disparities.

Last year 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.

The reason for this bill is clearly there is a need for centralized monitoring and oversight to provide transparency and accountability into and of the criminal justice system as data collection, policy, training and oversight.

Much progress has been made with addressing racial disparities in the law enforcement system and advancements can be made with funding and oversight. I respectfully implore the committee to return to the focus of addressing racial disparities across the entire criminal justice system. Further, we must acknowledge the work that must be done to address institutionalized racism in employment, education, housing, health services and the political process.

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) 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.
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”

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In closing I would like to enter for the record a statement from the research coordinator of Justice For All.
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I am writing to express my support for H.492 (S.116). I am a resident of Woodbury, Vermont and a professor at a college in Vermont. Higher education should be a conduit that brings young talented people into the state and I have been continually impressed by the impact that my institution has had historically on the culture and community of central Vermont. Alums from past decades are entrepreneurs, public servants, and community leaders throughout the
region. As our student body becomes increasingly diverse, however, I have become aware that students of color, coming to rural Vermont from elsewhere in the country do not feel safe leaving campus. They are fearful of a state that sees itself as uniquely and distinctly progressive and does not acknowledge or address its racism and biases. They fear being targeted because of the color of their skin and the recent traffic stop data that analyzed by Stephanie Seguino and Nancy Brooks confirms that their fears are warranted.

Implicit bias makes this state unwelcoming and dangerous for people of color who are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be searched, and more likely to be arrested. One result of this (alongside the racial disparities in incarceration rates) is that the state does not become more diverse and the implicit biases in institutions, public service, and communities goes unchecked.
The Vermont legislature has known about this for a long time and has made efforts to address it:

In 2008, the Vermont Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights recommended the collection of traffic stop data, and the development and implementation of bias-free policing policies and training, as well as police- community partnerships. Act 134 in 2012 put these recommendations into law and Act 193 (2014) and Act 147 (2016) implemented them through Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council and the development of a model Fair and Impartial Policing policy. It is clear, however, from the data being collected as a result of these earlier acts, that the existing legislation is insufficient to effectively redress racial bias in the state.

H.492 (S.116) adds an essential component by constituting a Racial Justice Oversight Board, tasked with analyzing and reviewing data pertaining to race and

Otto Muller, PhD
Goddard College
Calis

“…Thanks to the cosponsors for binging such an important bill…this bill is badly needed…”