Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability
The goal of Criminal Justice Reform is to transform the criminal justice practices that have contributed to the huge racial inequities in our system; as part of a larger effort to address issues of racial justice. For too long, our systems of law enforcement, prosecution and judicial decisions have been weighted against the poor and people of color. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others this year has brought home to many just how unfair and oppressive policing has been on communities of color.
The large gatherings in cities across the nation and all over the world indicated something larger than previous protests by communities of color frustrated by continuing police violence. These marches were more broadly-based and indicated a fundamental change in how the larger society viewed racial injustice. This shows a greater awareness of the injustice and majority support for Black Lives Matter.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and a specially-appointed Workgroup to Address Police Accountability in the House held hearings over the summer, and the leadership of both houses have pledged to create meaningful legislation and push for changes in police training and accountability—especially, for the adoption of nonviolent alternatives to police use of force. Which means, this year the General Assembly is more likely than ever to pass important measures to rebalance the rights of Black people against those of the police, and measures to reallocate funds from law enforcement to mental health and social services are also likely to be considered. These changes are long overdue, and we will need a strong movement to make them happen.
Maryland has the HIGHEST racial disparities in our prison population in the COUNTRY! Our Unitarian Universalist values call us to use compassion, equity, and justice to change this.