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.

Governor, Please Sign H.308 Now!

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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.

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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

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

Request for the Governor to Sign H.308

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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

Governor, Please sign H.308

download (4)

Last evening the Senate has passed H.308, the most comprehensive racial justice reform legislation in Vermont history. This clears a path to the Governors desk.

Here is our latest press release.  

Senate proposal for amendment.

House proposal for amendment to Senate amendment

Ask the Governor to sign H.308.  Send the Governor a note here: Email the Governor. You can also call the Governor’s office at 802.828.3333.

Racial Justice Reform Coalition

#racialjusticereformvt

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.

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)