Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) on Wednesday reintroduced a resolution aimed at driving decarceration and making the criminal legal system more equitable and just.
The People’s Justice Guarantee, first introduced in 2019, is being put forward again by Pressley at a time when the Democratic-led Congress seems ready to acknowledge and address the intersections of racial justice and criminal justice.
“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 in a statement to The Root ahead of the reintroduction of the resolution. “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 comprehensive resolution came about through a “people’s process,” informed by conversations with activists, advocates and individuals impacted by the carceral state, says the Congresswoman’s office. The People’s Justice Guarantee lays out a framework for addressing issues of overcriminalization of communities of color, and the corresponding issues of police violence and mass incarceration that Pressley accurately taps as being informed by what she described as “policy violence.”
“Growing up with an incarcerated parent, these failures are personal to me,” said Pressley in the House on Wednesday when reintroducing the resolution.
Major legislative proposals that fall under its umbrella include a bill recently introduced by Pressley and Senate Democrats Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren to fully end qualified immunity—the legal doctrine that protects police from being sued by civilians for damages. That proposal goes further than the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed by the House last week, which also targets qualified immunity.
Other notable measures informed by the resolution include a bill to combat unfair and discriminatory disciplinary practices that push out Black girls from school and disproportionately shuttle them towards prison systems, legislation to support the creation of mental health first-responder units to interrupt the frequently tragic phenomenon of police responding to people experiencing mental health crises, and a bill to end the federal death penalty that the congresswoman reintroduced in January with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) ahead of Biden’s inauguration. The president memorably campaigned on ending executions by the federal government, with a promise to support legislative efforts to do so.
A spokeswoman for Pressley said her office is working with the Biden administration and members of Congress to grow support for the initiatives under the People’s Justice Guarantee. That addressing mass incarceration, police violence and other unjust criminal legal policies are rising to the top of the agenda in D.C. signal a welcome movement towards uprooting some of the most pervasive manifestations of systemic racism in America. But the true test will be how far the Democratic Party is willing to go to see these progressive policies passed and implemented.