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March 11, 2021

Pressley, Advocates Re-Introduce People’s Justice Guarantee to Transform Criminal Legal System

Bill Text (PDF) | Summary (PDF)| Floor Speech (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – In close partnership with advocates, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) today re-introduced the People’s Justice Guarantee (PJG) – a comprehensive, decarceration-focused resolution that outlines a framework for a fair, equitable and just legal system. The resolution calls for an ongoing and participatory “peoples process” that centers the dignity and expertise of those impacted by the broken carceral state.

“In this moment, we have an opportunity and responsibility to pursue bold, structural reforms that shift resources away from institutions that perpetuate brutality and injustice and invest in solutions that promote community safety and center the dignity and humanity of all people,” Pressley said. “The People’s Justice Guarantee offers a vision of true justice, healing and accountability. It would reduce our prison population and finally usher in an era of mass decarceration. Creating a just legal system is a matter of political will—plain and simple—and it’s time we demonstrate the courage necessary to make it a reality.”

The United States criminal legal system has institutionalized a culture of cruelty, disproportionately harming Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities. Overcriminalization, police violence, and mass incarceration are the byproducts of decades of policy violence rooted in a fundamentally flawed approach to public safety. Because our laws fail to provide the necessary resources to ensure all people have their basic needs met, the criminal legal system continually destabilizes the lives of millions, traumatizes families, and decimates entire communities.

The People’s Justice Guarantee—a comprehensive resolution dedicated to eradicating racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other forms of systemic oppression—centers the voices of those most impacted by systemic injustice to rebuild a humane, equitable, and just America. The resolution was developed in close partnership with activists, advocates, and those most impacted by criminal and racial injustice. It specifically calls for:

  • Decarceration and the dramatic reduction of jail and prison populations;
  • Eliminating wealth-based discrimination and corporate profiteering;
  • Transforming the experience of confinement; and
  • Investing in historically impacted communities.

Full text of the resolution is available here and a summary is available here.

The People’s Justice Guarantee is supported by the Center for Popular Democracy, Lawyers for Civil Rights, African American Policy Forum, Center for Disability Rights, Vera Institute of Justice, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, HIPS, Reframe Health and Justice, Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Grassroots Leadership, National Council of Jewish Women, Black and Pink Massachusetts, Phoenix Transition Program, TRANScending Barriers Atlanta, Prisoners’ Legal Services of MA, Texas Advocates for Justice- Houston/ Austin, Positive Women’s Network-USA, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), and Champaign County Bail Out Coalition (CCBC).

“This resolution is another major step forward for our communities and a testament to decades of work to redefine public safety and end mass criminalization and incarceration done by grassroots organizations and social movements,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Co-Executive Director and Network President at the Center for Popular Democracy. “Over the past year, in particular, communities have come together to acknowledge the relentless emotional, financial, and human toll of mass incarceration and mass criminalization accelerated by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This has given way to incredible movements like the People’s Coalition for Safety and Freedom. We thank Representative Pressley for following our communities’ leadership and championing this resolution in our vision. We look forward to engaging with her on a People’s Process that will further develop policy platforms for our justice system and democracy, and know that she will continue to seek real insight and leadership from our communities as we build this new vision of public safety together.”

“The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) endorses the People’s Justice Guarantee Bill, submitted by Representative Ayanna Pressley. Recognizing that the United States has a “moral obligation to meet its foundational promise of guaranteed justice for all,” H. Res. 702 provides a robust set of policy solutions that address the expansion of police and prison infrastructure as the result of the 1994 Crime Bill,” said Kimberlé Crenshaw of the African American Policy Forum. “In 2014, we at AAPF began the #SayHerName Campaign to raise awareness about the reality that Black women are targets of police violence. Black women and girls as young as 7 and as old as 93 have been killed by police — they have been shot, choked out, body-slammed and tasered to death for driving while black, having mental disabilities while Black, shopping while Black, being homeless while Black, sleeping while Black, defending themselves while Black, and asserting their rights while Black. If H. Res. 702 is enacted, its provisions will save the lives of Black women who would otherwise be victims of police violence.”

“The People’s Justice Guarantee articulates important truths about the state of justice in America—including, critically, how our current criminal legal systems have their roots in slavery and the nation’s history of racial oppression. We share Representative Pressley’s vision of an America where vastly fewer people are in prison, jail, and immigration detention, money does not determine freedom, profit motive does not lead to the exploitation of those behind bars or on community supervision, and the dignity of those in correctional facilities is paramount,” said Vera Institute of Justice President Nicholas Turner. “The People’s Justice Guarantee calls for those most directly affected by the criminal legal system to help lead the process of reshaping justice in America. Indeed, their voices must be central to the development of new policies and decisions about how to use the resources that are divested from policing, prosecution, and incarceration. Critically, Congresswoman Pressley’s resolution also recognizes the urgent need to redress the harms and traumas associated with our immigration system. We look forward to working with Representative Pressley and other members of Congress to bring about the changes laid out in the People’s Justice Guarantee and thank her for her leadership.”

“Black and Pink Massachusetts is proud to support Congresswoman Pressley’s bold steps toward decarcerating our country. The People’s Justice Guarantee calls to shrink the criminal legal system, decriminalize sex work, abolish cash bail and decommission solitary confinement units are strident steps toward greater justice. She recognizes that the most marginalized people within our communities are often the most impacted. Her team has eagerly listened to formerly incarcerated LGBTQ people, their expertise and experiences within the system, which is a model that all policy makers should follow.  We look forward to Congresswoman Pressley partnering with us to bring these mutual goals to fruition,” said Michael Cox, Executive Director of Black and Pink Massachusetts.

“The criminal justice system, at all levels, is stacked against communities of color, Black people and immigrants largely due to the racist policies that came out of the 1994 Crime bill and harsh immigration laws passed in 1996. It is time to roll those policies back and put an end to the criminalization of our communities of color,” said Patrice S. Lawrence, Co-Director of the UndocuBlack Network.  “Communities of color, and Black people in particular, are racially profiled, are disproportionately arrested without cause and deported at higher rates than other immigrants. We must have the right to due process and a fair and equitable chance even in spite of the targeting and over-policing of our communities. At UndocuBlack, we have advocated for several families and individuals who have been doubly penalized by the penal and immigration detention systems. It is with this in mind that the UndocuBlack Network strongly endorses the People’s Justice Guarantee and lauds Representative Ayanna Pressley’s commitment to a process by deliberately collaborating with and including directly impacted communities.”

 “Congresswoman Pressley is a champion for change and progress, and we always need leadership that pushes us toward a safer and more just America,’’ said Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins. “For too many people, our criminal legal system is broken. Wealth and privilege should never dictate outcome, and unfortunately, too often they do.  I welcome Congresswoman Pressley’s efforts to engage in the conversation about criminal justice and I look forward to partnering with her on many of these important issues.’’

“We desperately need a shift in this country away from divisiveness and degradation and towards embracing the true potential of each and every one of us,” said Elizabeth Matos of Prisoners’ Legal Services.

Congresswoman Pressley has introduced over a dozen pieces of precise legislation informed by the People’s Justice Guarantee to fundamentally redefine what justice looks like in America:

  • In June 2019, in conjunction with Gun Violence Awareness Month and the 5th Annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day, she introduced a resolution to honor survivors of homicide victims by establishing National Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness Month
  • In July 2019, she introduced the No Biometric Barriers Housing Act with Reps. Yvette Clarke (NY-09) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) that would prohibit the use of biometric recognition technology in most public and assisted housing units funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), protecting tenants from biased surveillance technology. 
  • In December 2019, she introduced the Ending Pushout Act to reduce unfair and discriminatory exclusionary discipline practices that disproportionately impact Black and brown girls and lead them into the school to confinement pathways.
  • In December 2019, she introduced the New Way Forward Act with Reps. Chuy Garcia (IL-04), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Karen Bass (CA-37) to help bring an end to the criminalization of immigrants and end the use of private detention facilities. The lawmakers reintroduced the legislation in January 2021.
  • In March 2020, she introduced the Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act, legislation to improve maternal health care and support for pregnant individuals who are incarcerated. She reintroduced the legislation last month as part of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Package—a suite of 12 bills aimed at addressing the Black maternal health crisis.
  • In May 2020, she introduced a resolution with Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Karen Bass (CA-37) and Barbara Lee (CA-13) to condemn any and all acts of police brutality, racial profiling, and militarization and over-policing of Black and brown communities.  
  • In June 2020, she introduced the Ending Qualified Immunity Act with Rep. Justin Amash (L-MI) to eliminate the unjust and court-invented legal doctrine of qualified immunity in civil actions. She re-introduced the legislation last week with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA).
  • In June 2020, she introduced the Andrew Kearse Accountability for Denial of Medical Care Act with Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ed Markey (D-MA), to hold police officers criminally liable for denying care to those in medical distress.
  • In June 2020, she introduced the Dismantle Mass Incarceration for Public Health Act with Reps. Tlaib (MI-13) and Barbara Lee (CA-13) to require decarceration to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and jails.
  • In July 2020, she introduced the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act with Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN-05) and Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), to prohibit federal funds to support the increased presence of police in K-12 schools and supports school districts that invests in counselors.
  • In August 2020, she introduced the COVID-19 in Corrections Data Transparency Act with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and others, requires federal, state, and local prisons and jails to collect and publicly report COVID-19 data. The legislation was reintroduced last month.
  • In October 2020, Congresswoman Pressley introduced the Mental Health Justice Act with Reps. Katie Porter (CA-45), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), and Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), to support the creation of mental health first responder units that would be deployed in lieu of law enforcement when 911 is called due to a mental health crisis. The lawmakers reintroduced the legislation last month.
  • In January 2021, she reintroduced the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021 with Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to prohibit the use of the death penalty at the federal level, and require re-sentencing of those currently on death row. The lawmakers originally introduced the bill in July 2019.

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