Community-driven, trauma-informed solutions to public safety | Reimagining Justice This Month

Reimagining Justice This Month highlights stories about effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.

Race, History, Policing: A New Vision of Public Safety Conference, National Network for Safe Communities
This video features EJUSA’s Trauma Advocacy Program Director Fatimah Loren Muhammad on a panel talking about community-driven, trauma-informed solutions to public safety. The biennial conference brought together over 300 public safety stakeholders, national organizations, academics, and community groups to talk about advancements in the field.

Blueprint for a New NewarkThe New York Times
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Newark Rebellion, in which the police killing of a black cab driver ignited a city to fight for freedom from oppression and divestment. In this op-ed piece, Ryan Haygood, President of the NJ Institute for Social Justice and a collaborator of EJUSA, highlights this historical trauma and opportunities to create new police/community relationships today. EJUSA is proud to support the Newark community in forging these new relationships. Continue Reading →

Racist hate mail a reminder of the death penalty’s true colors

Last month, an African American prosecutor in central Florida received an especially disturbing piece of hate mail: a racist note and a noose.

The prosecutor, State Attorney Aramis Ayala, made national news earlier this year when she announced she would not seek the death penalty in future cases. Her constituents broadly supported the decision, and a grassroots movement sprang up in support. But Florida’s Governor Rick Scott made the reactionary decision to transfer all her death penalty eligible cases to a neighboring prosecutor.

The specter of a white Governor stripping the state’s first black States Attorney of almost two-dozen cases for exercising her lawful discretion was discomfiting enough. But that battle is now buried in a thicket of legal arguments.

Lest the courtroom drama obscure the obvious racial implications of the entire saga, a noose in the mail brings them back into stark relief.

A noose is not just a threat; it’s a symbol of lynchings – which themselves were precursors to the modern death penalty.

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Civil rights leaders weigh-in against scheduled executions in Arkansas

Mona delivering sign-on lettersLocal and national civil rights and racial justice leaders signed a letter to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, calling on him to halt the series of executions scheduled in the coming weeks. EJUSA Campaign Strategist Mona Cadena was on hand at the Capitol to deliver the letter (left), which outlined the concerns the group has with the death penalty’s racial bias and its disproportionate effect on communities of color.

“Racial bias in the criminal justice system, including the death penalty and its application, is undisputed,” the letter says. “From slavery to Jim Crow to the present day, the death penalty has long been a tool of injustice and discrimination in the USA and the State of Arkansas.”
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Black lawmakers call for repeal of death penalty

NBCSL ConferenceAfrican American State Legislators Cite Disproportionate Sentencing

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) has passed its first-ever resolution supporting repeal of the death penalty in the United States. The historic vote took place during the NBCSL 40th Annual Legislative Conference in New Orleans, LA. It is an escalation of the organization’s previous call for a moratorium in 2002.

“As a Nebraska state senator, I proudly voted to strike the death penalty from our state statutes in 2015. I was just as proud to sponsor the recent NBCSL resolution that calls for an end to the death penalty across the country,” said Nebraska State Senator Tanya Cook. “This sentence is not a deterrent to violent crime. Period. That fact has been scientifically-demonstrated over and over again in this country and around the globe.”

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New resource: Fact sheet on Latinos and the death penalty

Latinos and the Death PenaltyLatinos are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice and face a higher risk of wrongful conviction than their white counterparts. Increasingly, Latinos in the United States are skeptical of the death penalty, and community leaders and national organizations are calling for its end.

We are excited to publish a new resource with detailed information about Latinos and the death penalty. The resource is available in both English and Spanish and can be found on our learn pages. You can also download a formatted version (in Spanish too!) to hand out at your next death penalty discussion or while you’re tabiling.

Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Justices, give Duane Buck a second chance, CNN.com
Linda Geffin was the second chair prosecutor in Duane Buck’s case is now calling for a new sentencing in his case. She reflects on the racial bias that permeated Duane Buck’s case and our criminal justice system.

Being black shouldn’t mean a longer prison sentence, USA Today
The destructive myth of black dangerousness was heard in the highest court of the land yesterday – in a death penalty case out of Texas. Never has “broken beyond repair” been more apparent.

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Supreme Court hears death penalty racial bias case from Texas

Duane Buck

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Texas death penalty case of Duane Buck. Buck was sentenced to death after his own lawyer called an “expert” who testified that Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black. At this crucial moment, when our nation is confronting hard truths about race and the criminal justice system, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether this blatantly racist testimony will be allowed to stand or whether Buck must receive a new sentencing hearing, free of racial bias.

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In memory of murder victims, set new priorities for action

Dorothy & ShariIt is more urgent than ever that we honor victims of violence by responding with healing, racial equality, and prevention. That was the message in an op-ed by EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein and Dorothy Johnson-Speight from Mothers in Charge, published this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

To commemorate the National Day of Remembrance for Murder victims, Shari and Dorothy joined together to call for a new approach to addressing violence – one that recognizes that violence and homicide are a public-health crisis that needs a public-health solution, and that solution must be rooted in racial equity.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for African American males ages 15 to 34. For too long, the response to this crisis has been aggressive policing and incarceration. But mass incarceration, traumatizing police interactions, and a lack of care and support for people who experience violence have all worked to further devastate low-income black communities.

More and more policymakers, public-health officials, and law enforcement officials are coming to realize that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. Yet the public dollars spent on violence prevention and survivor support are dwarfed many times over by the billions of dollars spent on corrections. The survivor support that does exist is far below the need, and it rarely gets to communities of color, even though they experience the highest rates of homicide and gun violence.

If we’re serious about building safe and healthy communities – and rebuilding communities most impacted by violence – our public dollars must reflect a different set of priorities.

Read the full op-ed here.

#IAmTroyDavis

Troy Davis

Troy Davis was executed 5 years ago today, and, unfortunately, the struggle did not end with him. We must continue to support repeal until the death penalty is gone for good.

Sign the “I Support Repeal” petition in hour of Troy today.

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New resource: Fact sheet on racial inequality and the death penalty

EJUSA Fact Sheet: Racial IniquityLast month, EJUSA Campaign Strategist Ben Jones wrote a powerful post about the history of racial oppression in the U.S. death penalty. The post was so popular, we decided to create a fact sheet with the material.

You can now find the information in our ‘Learn’ pages, where you can download a formatted version to hand out at your next death penalty discussion or while you’re tabiling.