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June 19, 2023

On Juneteenth, Pressley Unveils Bold Resolution to Transform Criminal Legal System

People’s Justice Guarantee Outlines Framework for Fair, Equitable, and Just Legal System

Watch Pressley Preview the Bill on “Java with Jimmy”

Resolution Text (PDF) | Summary (PDF) | Interview (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Today on Juneteenth, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) announced the reintroduction of 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, developed in close partnership with activists, advocates, and those most impacted by criminal and racial injustice, calls for an ongoing and participatory “peoples process” that centers the dignity and expertise of those impacted by the broken carceral state.

Pressley first previewed the resolution during an interview on Java with Jimmy. Watch their discussion here.

“Generations of families and communities have been destabilized and traumatized from overcriminalization, police violence, and mass incarceration, and it is long past time to promote and pursue bold, structural reform to make a just legal system a reality,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “I’m proud to mark Juneteenth—Freedom Day—by re-introducing the People’s Justice Guarantee, which offers a radical, transformative vision of true justice and moves us closer to the emancipation and collective liberation our ancestors dreamt of and fought so hard for.”

The People’s Justice Guarantee is rooted in five guiding principles – shared power, freedom, equality, safety, and human dignity – and 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.

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 is cosponsored by Representatives Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Summer Lee (PA-12), Henry “Hank” Johnson (GA-04), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Cori Bush (MO-01), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Shri Thanedar (MI-13), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Barbara Lee (CA-12), and Delia Ramirez (IL-04).

The resolution was developed in collation with several grassroots organizations, advocates, and individuals including: National Immigration Law Center, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Immigrant Defense Project, UndocuBlack Network, KNOW YOUR SMOKE, Inner City Weightlifting, Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College, African-American Coalition Committee of MCI-Norfolk, SAW youth program, Janelle Ridley, and United We Dream, Lawyers for Civil Rights, HIPS, National Council of Jewish Women, Detention Watch Network, National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), Center for Disability Rights, Color Of Change, and African American Policy Forum.

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

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 2023, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-12)unveiled the Housing for Formerly Incarcerated Reentry and Stable Tenancy (Housing FIRST) Actbold legislation to help people who are formerly incarcerated and those with criminal histories access safe and stable housing.
  • In May 2023, Rep. Pressley reintroduced her Justice for Incarcerated Moms Act to improve maternal health care and support for pregnant individuals who are incarcerated. It was originally introduced in March 2020 and reintroduced in February 2021 as part of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Package—a suite of 12 bills aimed at addressing the Black maternal health crisis.
  • In May 2023, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Grace Napolitano (CA-31), Co-Chair of the Mental Health Caucus, requested the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to research post-traumatic prison disorder and share findings related to prevention and treatment for people returning from behind the wall.
  • In April 2023, Rep. Pressley and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) re-introduced their Ending Qualified Immunity Act, legislation that would eliminate the unjust and court-invented doctrine of qualified immunity and restore the ability for people to obtain relief when state and local officials, including police officers, violate their legal and constitutionally secured rights. Rep. Pressley originally introduced the bill in June 2020 with Rep. Justin Amash (L-MI) and reintroduced it with Sen. Markey in March 2021.
  • In April 2023, Rep. Pressley, in partnership with Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and Ilhan Omar (MN-05), re-introduced the Ending PUSHOUT Act, their legislation to end the punitive pushout of girls of color from schools. It was originally introduced in December 2019 and reintroduced in March 2021.
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley, Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Congressman Greg Casar (TX-35) and 27 Members of Congress, alongside more than 300 advocacy organizations and community leaders, reintroduced the New Way Forward Act, a landmark piece of legislation that addresses some of the most harmful provisions of immigration law that drive racist enforcement practices, expanded incarceration in immigration detention centers, and unjust deportations. It was originally introduced in December 2019 Reps. Chuy Garcia (IL-04), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Karen Bass (CA-37) and was reintroduced in January 2021.
  • In March 2023, Rep. Pressley and her colleagues re-introduced the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to stop federal entities’ use of facial recognition tools and prohibit federal support for state and local law enforcement entities that use biometric technology. They reintroduced the bill in June 2021.
  • In December 2022, the House passed Congresswoman Pressley’s amendment to strengthen maternal health care for people who are incarcerated.
  • In December 2021, Rep. Pressley unveiled the Fair and Independent Experts in Clemency (FIX Clemency) Act, historic legislation to transform our nation’s clemency system and address the mass incarceration crisis.
  • In March 2021, Rep. Pressley sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to consider H. Res. 266, the People’s Justice Guarantee, as a framework for embedding justice in our criminal legal system and building integrity in the Department of Justice (DOJ). 
  • In February 2021, October 2020, Congresswoman Pressley reintroduced 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 originally introduced the legislation in October 2020.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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 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 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 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 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