In conversations about civil liberties reform, we often come face to face with the inescapable fact that our world and our issues are interconnected. It’s not possible to fully address systemic racism in the criminal system without also addressing economic injustice. Drug decriminalization is an important step towards a more just and free world, but won’t necessarily lessen racial disparities unless we also make police departments more transparent and accountable. Likewise, we can’t stop at ending harmful policies, such as arresting drug users. We must simultaneously take the money saved by not arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating drug users and reinvest it into long-term drug treatment, education, job training, housing, and mental health care.
An intimate understanding of the web tying together seemingly disparate issues like climate change, housing policy, economic justice, and incarceration underlies the Movement for Black Lives’ Vision for Black Lives, “policy demands for Black power, freedom, & justice,” which the collective of over 50 organizations released today. It’s an inspiring and impressive document, the product of a year long process of meetings, phone calls, and consultations with hundreds of people, organizations, and researchers.
Among the criminal justice demands are:
- “An immediate end to the criminalization and dehumanization of Black youth across all areas of society…This includes an end to zero-tolerance school policies and arrests of students, the removal of police from schools, and the reallocation of funds from police and punitive school discipline practices to restorative services.”
- “An end to capital punishment.”
- “An end to money bail, mandatory fines, fees, court surcharges, and ‘defendant funded’ court proceedings.”
- “An end to the use of past criminal history to determine eligibility for housing, education, licenses, voting, loans, employment, and other services and needs.”
- “[The] repeal of the 1996 crime and immigration bills, an end to all deportations, immigrant detention, and Immigration, Customs, Enforcement (ICE) raids, and mandated legal representation in immigration court.”
- Civil rights protections for “Black trans, queer and gender nonconforming people” to ensure access to “employment, health, housing, and education.”
- “An end to the mass surveillance of Black communities, and the end to the use of technologies that criminalize and target our communities (including IMSI catchers, drones, body cameras, and predictive policing software).”
- “The demilitarization of law enforcement.”
- “An immediate end to the privatization of police, prisons, jails, probation, parole, food, phone and all other criminal justice related services.”
While the Movement doesn’t go so far as to call for full prison abolition in the short term, it opens the door to abolition: “Until we achieve a world where cages are no longer used against our people we demand an immediate change in conditions and an end to public jails, detention centers, youth facilities, and prisons as we know them. This includes the end of solitary confinement, the end of shackling of pregnant people, access to quality healthcare, and effective measures to address the needs of our youth, queer, gender nonconforming and trans families.”
The platform also calls for systemic reparations for “past and continuing harms,” and an exciting “divest-invest” model whereby money currently spent on putative and carceral programs is reallocated to restorative justice services and money saved by decriminalizing sex work and drugs is invested in “restorative services, mental health services, job programs, and other programs supporting those impacted by the sex and drug trade.” The divest-invest model calls for universal healthcare; a “constitutional right…to a fully-funded education”; divestment from fossil fuels and investments in “community-based sustainable energy solutions”; military spending cuts and “a reallocation of those funds to invest in domestic infrastructure and community well-being”; and financial investments in “Black alternative institutions” like co-ops and land trusts.
On the economic side, the platform calls for a restructuring of the tax code to favor progressive taxation; job programs; environmental justice; workers’ organizing rights; the restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act; the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement; tax incentives for Black community businesses and co-ops; and greater worker protections, including for incarcerated people.
Finally, the Movement calls for direct local democracy, including in the budgetary process; an end to privatized education; public financing of elections; an end to repression of Black political action and the release of political prisoners; election protection; equal access to technology; and increased funding for Black organizations, including universities and cultural institutions.
As Mother Jones famously said, we’ve got to mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living. The Movement for Black Lives is doing exactly that.
In addition to issuing these comprehensive policy demands, the Movement today also published detailed guides to help organizers around the country implement them at every level of government. No longer can politicians running for local, state, or national office say they don’t know how to respond to the protests and general rebellion we’ve witnessed over the past few years. Any activist who wants to make a difference now has a roadmap. The Movement for Black Lives has laid out their demands in clear, powerful language, and provided detailed information about how to enact them.
The world better listen up.