As part of our work to address the fact that racism is a root cause of hunger, Just Harvest commits to standing with allies who are seeking to reform the U.S. incarceration system and policing from its historic use as a means to kill Black people.
We are proud to join growing numbers of people and organizations across the country and the world in condemning the killing of Black people and other people of color, particularly their inhumane and violent deaths at the hands of the police. Yet while it is these acts that garner widespread public outrage, it is no less outrageous that this system is regularly used to oppress, imprison, and destroy Black people, their families, and their communities, as well as people experiencing poverty, mental illness, and other racism and bigotry.
It is not enough to just say the victims’ individual names; for our country to truly heal, we must surface and address deep and systemic social disparities and racial biases, and enact real reform.
There are far better ways of addressing and preventing crime that would also make our society a better place for all. These include aggressively pursuing solutions to the crimes of mass poverty, hunger, inequity, and state violence; and a focus on the corporate crimes that typically escape reckoning, such as theft of resources, abuse of labor, and assaults on the environment and public health.
Rather than contributing to prison construction and ever-growing police and security budgets, government should be adequately investing in under-served communities, education, and job development; decriminalizing non-violent offenses and devising more humane and effective systems to alleviate them; supporting anti-violence programs; prioritizing human services and care; ensuring protection of the vulnerable; protecting people’s human, constitutional, and civil rights; and working to root out racism in all its forms.
To directly address how our racist criminal justice system oppresses Black lives, Just Harvest supports the following policy measures recently compiled by SEIU to be included in “a program for peace and justice”:
- Replacing the failed “War on Drugs” with a comprehensive strategy to treat addiction as a public health challenge;
- Shifting resources away from militarized police departments towards communities most impacted by racism and violence;
- Relieving police of the responsibility for dealing with most community conflicts and mental health crises by investing in programs for restorative justice and social care;
- Raising standards for police departments to recruit, employ, and track exemplary officers while excluding those with histories of racism or violence;
- Changing laws and police contract language that allow broad scope for deadly violence or diminish accountability; and
- Introducing special prosecutors to handle cases of police violence in order to remove conflicts of interest for district attorneys who are expected to hold the police accountable while also relying on them as partners to prosecute cases.
We also support the specific statewide measures recently put forward by Pennsylvania’s Police Reform Working Group, which comprises a number of PA state representatives, Philadelphia city council members, and attorneys. They are demanding that Republican House leaders in the General Assembly quickly bring to a vote 19 police reform bills, many of them introduced last year but held in committee by chairperson Rep. Kauffman (R-Franklin). These include HB 1664, the bill Rep. Lee (D-Swissvale) put forward a year ago to put necessary constraints on a police officer’s right to use deadly force.
What You Can Do
White people should commit themselves to transforming our society into one where everyone has what they need to flourish, regardless of the color of their skin. The work of anti-racism is to set that course while redressing the centuries of harm to Black lives that are holding us back. In allowing Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color their humanity, white people will no doubt find their own.
Opportunities to help push for real changes in policing and to advance anti-racism and racial equity:
Contact your state representative and senators and find out where they stand on the state legislative measures detailed above and what they’re going to do to advance them.
Contact Mayor Bill Peduto at (412) 255-2626 or email@example.com and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at (412) 350-6500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can use this messaging template to urge them to adopt the Allegheny County Black Activist/Organizer Collective’s 12 demands (images right and above) to address police brutality and oppression against Black people and other people of color.
To directly support local efforts to address police brutality and protect Black lives, please make a donation to:
Alliance for Police Accountability
Bukit Bail Fund (https://afgj.salsalabs.org/bukitbailfundofpittsburgh or paypal.me/bukitbail)
Pittsburgh Freedom Fund (Venmo @Pgh-FreedomFund)
One Pennsylvania (works to address, among other things, the school-to-prison pipeline and voter intimidation)
Movement for Black Lives