About a hundred stalwart citizens will begin their march to justice today with a planned arrival in Washington, DC on Monday, April 22nd and a full day of activities in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, April 23rd. The march is sponsored by The Justice League NYC which describes itself as “a task force of juvenile and criminal justice advocates, artists and experts, and formerly incarcerated individuals” operating under the umbrella of The Gathering for Justice, a social justice organization founded by Harry Belafonte in 2005. The idea for the march evolved after a grand jury declined to indict NYC police officer Daniel Pantaleo for his deadly chokehold on Eric Garner despite a video capturing the victim’s cries of not being able to breathe.
The Gathering for Justice is an organization created by Harry Belafonte in 2005 in response to the arrest and handcuffing of five-year-old Aisha Scott in her kindergarten classroom in Florida for being “unruly.” Belafonte was outraged by the events and rallied his peers to adopt a Covenant to Stop Child Incarceration. The organization opened its national headquarters in New York City in 2010 and focuses on juvenile justice policy and legislation under the leadership of Executive Director Carmen Perez.
The marchers’ first stop will be in Trenton, New Jersey for a community rally on Tuesday the 14th. Then it’s off to another community rally in Philadelphia on Wednesday the 15th. A student talk is scheduled the next day (April 16th) at Lincoln University. Marchers will leave Lincoln University on Friday the 17th and travel to Laurel, MD where no events are scheduled. There will be a rally in Baltimore on Saturday the 18th and they will leave Baltimore and return to Laurel on Sunday and continue their march to Washington, DC on Monday for a rally at Union Temple Baptist Church. Sponsors are hoping to pick up additional marchers along the route.
A slew of activities will take place on Tuesday when the March2Justice group is met by Washington, DC area supporters. Visits to congressional offices are planned to advocate for three legislative priorities. One is the End Racial Profiling Act(ERPA) introduced in the 113th Congress by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-13) in the House (H.R. 2851) and Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) in the Senate (S.1038). The House bill which would prohibit law enforcement agencies from engaging in racial profiling has 61 co-sponsors, all Democrats. The Senate bill has 18 Democrat-sponsors. The second bill is H.R. 1232—the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act introduced in the House March 4, 2015 by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA-4) which regulates the Defense Department’s transfer of military equipment to local police departments. A similar bill—S.2904 was introduced in the 113th Congress by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (OK). This bill has not been re-introduced in the current Congress.
The third bill and arguably the most important is the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevent Act (JJDPA), last reauthorized in 2002. Since that reauthorization the JJDPA has seen its appropriations cut by 54 percent. It was due to be reauthorized in 2007 however provisions of the bill have received annual appropriations. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill (S.2999) to reauthorize and strengthen certain provisions in the bill in the last Congress but it failed to get through the committee process. A main provision of the bill—the Justice Accountability Block Grant—that provides funding for graduated sanctions and continuums of care for adjudicated youth has had its funding reduced from $249.5 million in 2002 to zero dollars in 2014 and 2015. However, funds for mentoring have increased from $16 million to $94 million in 2015. Overall the JJDPA funding has been cut from $546.9 million in 2002 at its last reauthorization to $251.5 million in 2015 despite the successes and savings documented by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.
One of my former students Vincent Lau will be among the marchers representing social workers. He was most recently employed by the Vera Institute after splitting his field placement with the Sentencing Project and Congressman Edolphus Towns office on the Hill. He reached out to a few social work organizations for support to no avail. Hopefully there will be a few of us to greet him when he arrives in DC on April 23rd.
Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D
Justice League NYC Begins March2Justice Hike to DC was originally published @ Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy » Charles Lewis and has been syndicated with permission.
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