Racial Justice Reform Coalition Activities – Week of April 10th

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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

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

H492 is Voted out of House Judiciary

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PRESS RELEASE:

For immediate Release:

Montpelier, Vermont April 5, 2017 – Today H.492, “An Act relating to Racial Justice Oversight Board”, was voted out of House Judiciary.

The bill, introduced by Justice For All and a Coalition of 29 Vermont organizations calls for a 15 member board organized within the office of the Attorney General and will undertake an ongoing review of racial justice reform across the State, including within the systems of education, labor and employment, housing, health care, 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.

“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.
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About Justice For All

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

Contact Information

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

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

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

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.

Will

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

H.492 Testimony Day March 22nd, 2017

The hearing on H.492, the first racial justice reform bill in Vermont history, is in House Judiciary tomorrow, starting at 9:20. Print this placard to bring with you and show up in support of the bill. Tell someone else.

Also go to racialjusticereformomnibusbillvt.wordpress.com and do all the things!

1) Sign the petition that calls 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 S116 at 802-828-2228

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) Forward the email to your networks and share this information on Facebook and by word of mouth!

Current Schedule
9:20 AM         H.492 (The Racial Justice Oversight Board) & Fair and Impartial Policing

Brynn Hare, Legislative Counsel, Office of Legislative Council
Karen L. Richards, Executive Director, Vermont Human Rights Commission
David Scherr, Assistant Attorney General, Vermont Attorney General’s Office
Kesha Ram, Immigration Task Force
Mark Hughes, Justice for All
Captain Ingrid Jonas, Captain of Support Services, Department of Public Safety
James Duff Lyall, Director, ACLU
Rick Gauthier, Director, VT Criminal Justice Training Council
Gwynn Zakov, Municipal Policy Advocate, VT League of Cities and Towns
Will Lambek, Migrant Justice
Mary Brown-Guillory, Champlain NAACP
Ebony Nyoni, Black Lives Matter VT

#racialjusticereformvt