Civil rights are being threatened… and apparently it’s the fault of police officers who are enforcing the law.
The State’s Attorney in Baltimore has cited the “flawed” criminal justice system as the number one reason that minority communities feel marginalized and unable to get ahead in America in 2019.
According to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, police departments have been over-militarized and laws have been unfairly enforced against black and brown people, and that it now stands as the main civil rights issue they face in America.
“Black people are six times more likely to be arrested and become a part of the criminal justice system [than] whites,” Mosby said on Saturday. “You have an overmilitarization of police departments all across the country, racially unjust application of laws against poor black and brown people, [and] collateral consequences of these convictions that have kept black and brown people and communities [as] second-class citizens,” she said.
The comments came Saturday as a large group of activists, local leaders and concerned citizens gathered to strategize how Maryland can best move forward and leave its racially unjust laws and problems in the dust.
Mosby says that there are a number of ways that the system can improve, including the halting of prosecuting small drug offenses like marijuana possession, an increase in youth programs and opportunities for marginalized groups in the community, and the dismissal of convictions involving police officers that are allegedly “corrupt”, as with her office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, a group that looks at new evidence that arises in past cases.
Baltimore has faced scary violent crime numbers, with a consecutive five years of 300 homicides or more within the city walls. Mosby originally ran with a “tough-on-crime” attitude and plan, according to the Baltimore Sun, but since taking office has seemingly retracted that plan in favor of pushing for equality in the law.
Essentially, less prosecution for crimes overall because the entire system is “broken”.
The Sun reported that David Fakunle is the acting chairman of the Maryland Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. The group is involved in finding ways to change how the system works in order to prevent minority groups from being targeted.
Fakunle led a chant during one of his recent gatherings, saying, “Respect my existence, or expect my resistance.”
The first-ever state-run commission dedicated to investigating lynchings in the U.S. launched on Thursday.
The Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission aims to uncover the truth behind at least 40 killings between 1854 and 1933. https://t.co/axnZEhuF0D
— Here & Now (@hereandnow) September 13, 2019
Hopefully citizens don’t take those words out of context or use them to the extreme while dealing with police encounters, as resistance to members of law enforcement is dangerous for both the officers and the subject.
Calls about the “broken system” may be getting out of hand, however. While leaders push toward emptying prisons and choosing which laws we are okay with violating, some are saying it could lead the system to a total breakdown.
Representative Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, graced us a resolution this past Thursday that advocates for far-reaching changes to the criminal justice system, including a provision that would allow “transgender individuals to be housed in a facility that conforms with their gender identity.”
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Of course, anyone with a shred of common sense could see how the aforementioned notion could not only be exploited by biological men entering the system, but also pose a risk to genuine women housed in facilities.
Once you travel down this road legislatively, who can be the authority to say someone doesn’t feel like a certain gender?
This is personal for me. It’s time for a bold people-centered vision for decarceration & justice in America. Today we’re introducing The People’s #JusticeGuarantee. Drafted with community & centering a people’s process that lifts the voices of those impacted by our broken system. https://t.co/pePAiBuFdg
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) November 14, 2019
The resolution, which she peddled as “The People’s Justice Guarantee,” proposes a wide range of reforms from banning on life sentences without parole, to an assault weapons ban, to decriminalizing prostitution.
Pressley said in a press release:
“For far too long, those closest to the pain have not been closest to the power, resulting in a racist, xenophobic, rogue, and fundamentally flawed criminal legal system. Our resolution calls for a bold transformation of the status quo – devoted to dismantling injustices so that the system is smaller, safer, less punitive, and more humane.”
All this while we still are holding this President accountable. pic.twitter.com/ZVXWYnVWa2
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) November 14, 2019
Pressley’s plan would also give incarcerated people the right to vote, repeal federal laws that criminalize illegal immigration, require inmates who are working to be paid no less than federal minimum wage and increase support for inmates transitioning back into society.
However, the right to vote is a right afforded to tax-paying citizens; when you’re in prison, you are not paying any taxes – yet once released, people can get those rights back.
Also, requiring minimum wage for inmate-work inside a prison would be pointless, as prisons have a right to collect “room & board” for monies earned through work while incarcerated.
It would also ban “private companies from profiting from the operation of prisons, jails, and immigration detention facilities, including food services, financial services, commissaries, and medical care,” among many other proposals.
So, the prison just hires other people directly versus outsourcing to offset costs, costing more tax dollars.
Pressley’s resolution aspires to be more than just prison reform though as it pushes the Green New Deal, a $15 minimum wage, reparations for slavery and the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.
While reparations have been proven time and again nearly impossible to calculate, the repeal for the Hyde Amendment would mean tax dollars would directly support abortions in the U.S.
A slew of progressive organizations lined up behind the proposal.
In a not so shocking turn of events, many progressive organizations loved the proposal, such as Kanya Bennett, the senior legislative counsel for the ACLU:
“The ACLU is pleased to support the People’s Justice Guarantee, the first resolution of its kind to boldly reimagine the American legal system. It is with this framework that the Congress must now work to eradicate mass incarceration.”
Rob Smith, executive director of The Justice Collaborative, had this to say about the endeavor:
“We have an incarceration crisis in America that is making us less safe and undermining the values upon which our country is built — liberty and justice for all.
The People’s Justice Guarantee is a bold, transformative plan to shrink our jail and prison populations sharply, end wealth-based discrimination in the criminal legal system, and invest heavily in the communities that have been the most destabilized by the failed policies of mass incarceration.”
Conservatives, however, said that Pressley’s proposal would fly about as well as a broken kite. Not to mention, the potential harm enacting it would cause. Cully Stimson, a senior legal fellow at the National Security Law Program for the Heritage Foundation, had this to say:
“The bill lacks merit and is divorced from reality. The de-incarceration movement is at best naive, and if enacted, dangerous as it would result in tens of thousands of violent murderers, rapists and child molesters being let free.”
Representative Lance Gooden from Texas thinks Pressley’s steadfastness is pointless and believes that any reforms of this nature are best left to the Trump administration:
“Hollow statements do nothing to improve our federal corrections system. The Trump administration has already enacted the most ambitious, bipartisan criminal justice reform package in decades and I look forward to working with the president to assess what more can be done.”
Penny Nance, the president and CEO of Concerned Women for America also noted the obvious dangers associated with allowing self-identifying transgenders into the prisons of their choice:
“I’m sure that liberals who support this legislation will be pleased with their virtue signaling, but it’s clear that this legislation creates safety issues for very vulnerable women, those who are incarcerated.
In the vast majority of cases a biologically male offender is physically bigger and stronger than a female. Incarcerated women have no rights or ability to advocate for themselves.
It’s wrong to force them into a cell with a man even if he identifies as a woman. Single sex incarceration exists for a reason. ‘The right side of history’ is on the side of safety for vulnerable women.”
While the package in its entirety is likely not to pass considering the manner in which it spans, therein lies the possibility that democrats could systemically tackle one goal at time and potentially gain momentum.