Criminal Justice Part 1

Hi Friends!
We haven’t talked a lot about criminal justice in this group yet. But there’s a primary election for Commonwealth’s Attorney coming up on June 11 and this is REALLY, REALLY important when it comes to criminal justice reform in our community.
If this is new to you, let me share some resources:
(1) The NAACP created a Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, including racial disparities in incarceration.
(2) Color of Change created “Winning Justice: The Prosecutor Project” including criminal justice reform goals.
Related to this, Shaun King (civil rights activist) founded the Real Justice PACHe explains the situation better than I can:
“…No single person or position in the entire nation directly impacts every metric of America’s justice system more than one single person — your local prosecutor. Most of the nation calls them District Attorneys or DA’s for short. Some states call them the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Other states and districts call them the State’s Attorney — it’s all basically the same role. It’s the elected prosecutor for your city, county, or region, depending on where you live.
“Our nation has 2,400 elected prosecutors. Not thousands, but millions and millions of cases come through 2,400 officers every single year. And it is these elected prosecutors who decide not just whether or not violent or corrupt cops are prosecuted, but these prosecutors decide how seriously to take those cases and how many staff members to put on them.
“These prosecutors are 95% white, 81% male, and only 1% of them are women of color. They are also, as you can imagine, overwhelmingly conservative. Hundreds of them are effectively serving what amounts to unofficial lifetime appointments because they basically run unopposed term after term. Some of these prosecutors have been in office for over 30 years.”
More is available on this here.
Given the influential power of this office, I am breaking the rules of the group (non-partisan, no endorsements) and endorsing the challenging candidate for Commonwealth’s Attorney. Please let me tell you why.
When I initially looked at the websites of the two candidates for this office, I couldn’t see a quick snapshot of the differences between them. At a glance, they both had some key phrases that I would want to see around criminal justice reform. I was already leaning toward the challenger because she received an endorsement from Shaun King’s Real Justice PAC and she has the support of members of the local Black Parents group.
And then I attended the recent NAACP Criminal Justice Forum, which included the incumbent on the panel. After discussion among the panelists, the conversation was opened up to audience members. One attendee asked each of the panelists to answer yes or no to this question: “Do you believe systemic racism exists and is affecting community members today?” The incumbent was the second person to have the opportunity to respond and her response was appalling. (1) She wasn’t confident about the definition of systemic racism. (2) She defended her office and employees and focused on overt acts of racism and discrimination, which are not what systemic racism is. (3) In her position, which she has held for seven years, she is unclear about why systemic racism is important and whether it has an impact on the communities she serves.
Given the realities of the criminal justice system and its role in perpetuating systemic racism and white supremacy, it is time for someone who not only recognizes these realities, but who is willing to work to change them. This is what Listen. Amplify. Follow. looks like in practice.
Please join me in raising awareness and getting out the vote for the challenger for Commonwealth’s Attorney on June 11. I’ll be sending out a separate email with an invitation to a postcard party if you’d like to join us. Thank you.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

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