In wake of the nationwide calls to end police brutality and systemic racism, two progressive members of Congress are throwing their support behind a bill that proposes to overhaul the criminal justice system. Drafted by the Movement for Black Lives, the BREATHE Act comes in response to the ongoing protests demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black men and women killed by police.
In a press conference Tuesday, Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Detroit announced the BREATHE Act. Under the bill, The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 organizations, is calling for sweeping reforms, including the elimination of government agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration and the use of surveillance technology.
“I think this moment calls for structural change and transformative change in ways that we haven’t seen in a very long time, said Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, reports The Associated Press. “We see this opportunity to push for the BREATHE Act as a part of what we’re calling the modern-day civil rights act.”
The bill is broken into four sections that focus on reforming federal institutions and policies. The bill would also end life sentences, abolish all mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and close all federal prisons and immigration detention centers.
According to The Detroit Metro Times:
The first calls for divesting from police agencies like the DEA and ICE, banning surveillance technology, ending civil asset forfeiture, ending life sentences and mandatory minimum sentences, closing federal prisons, and decriminalizing and retroactively expunging both state and federal drug offenses, among others.
The second section calls for incentives for states to shrink or close detention facilities, removing police from schools, abolishing police gang databases, eliminating court fees and forgiving all court debts, repealing all juvenile offenses, and creating new intervention programs that would send specialists other than police to respond to 911 calls, among others.
The third section calls for social equity in communities, including equitable funding for all schools, closing youth detention centers, developing school curricula critical of colonialism, more wraparound services for students, promoting environmental justice, providing safe access to water, creating pilot programs for universal basic income, providing access to education for undocumented immigrants, and modernizing all public schools, among others.
The fourth section calls for reparations for those incarcerated including enfranchisement to vote, creating a public financing program for campaigns powered by small dollar contributions, incentivizing states to increase voter turnout, allowing undocumented immigrants to vote in local and state elections, and holding officials and police officers accountable, among others.
Although the bill has won support from Reps. Pressley and Tlaib, no members of Congress have said that they plan to introduce it. Still, Cullors said she is hopeful it will gain support.
“We are a generation that wants to make sure that the needs of all Black people are met,” said the activist. “We believe the BREATHE Act is that legislation. It’s an act that is pushing us to look at the future of this country, an act that is mandating and demanding a new future and policies that are courageous and visionary.”
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