By J. Vasquez, Participatory Defense & Policy Coordinator
Peace & blessings and happy holidays!
2020 was a year filled with unprecedented events, including a devastating pandemic, high unemployment, and a global movement for racial justice and police accountability. In the midst of it all, CURYJ is hard at work advocating for local and statewide policy changes that primarily affect Black and Brown communities. We’ve won some amazing battles and we’ll continue the fight in 2021 and beyond.
A big Thanks to everyone who helped us fight against state-sanctioned terrorism, racism, and oppression. Whether you attended a protest, participated in a caravan, gave public comment, phone banked, or lit up social media, we appreciate your contribution and look forward to working with you as we fight for racial and youth justice into the new year.
It’s going to take all of us to make the changes we want to see in our communities. If we don’t stand up and fight, then Black and Brown people will continue to be marginalized, over-policed, over-prosecuted, and disproportionately incarcerated while others profit off our oppression. Below is a quick recap of our campaigns in 2020.
SB 203 Juvenile Interrogation — Along with our statewide allies and coalition partners we passed SB 203 which requires that all youth, including 16 and 17-year-olds, consult with legal counsel in person, by telephone, or by video conference prior to a police interrogation and before waiving any of their Miranda rights. Keep in mind that what you say to police will be used against you in court, and police will try to manipulate you to incriminate yourself. If you are a juvenile, police have to let you speak with legal counsel before they interrogate you.
AB 1506 Police Use of Force — CURYJ led a statewide coalition to make sure that local police agencies do not get to choose whether or not they want the Department of Justice to investigate police killings of community members. History has shown us that police cannot be trusted with policing themselves. That’s like asking a pack of wolves to investigate the killing of Little Red Riding Hood! They will NOT find the wolf who killed her guilty, but rather will make up excuses to justify the killing. According to Mapping Police Violence, police in California have killed 1,179 community members between 2013–2019. Guess how many officers are sitting in prison right now because of killing a community member? If you guessed ZERO (0), you guessed right. Something needs to change! Remember, police work for us. We pay their salaries! AB 1506 requires a state prosecutor to investigate incidents of officer-involved shootings resulting in the death of “unarmed” community members. In 2021, we will closely monitor the implementation of this new law because police almost always claim that people are “armed” when in fact they are not. And just because police “believe” someone is armed, doesn’t mean they are. Just because Trump “believes” he won the election, doesn’t mean he did.
SB 823 Close DJJ (youth state prisons) the Right Way — CURYJ, along with our allies, advocated for the passing of SB 823 which closes DJJ by the end of 2023, giving counties enough time to build capacity to serve youth in their home counties, and provides incentives to counties to recall youth in DJJ, and ultimately close DJJ sooner. Creates important changes to current law to prevent the harmful transfer of youth to adult courts and prisons, which overwhelmingly impacts youth of color. Creates a much-needed state agency, the Office of Youth and Community Restoration, to provide oversight, guidance, and support to counties to improve local practices and youth outcomes. Provides state oversight and accountability over counties’ uses of state funds, and requires counties to report data and outcomes measures to the state to ensure local compliance with best practices. Creates greater opportunities for community input and involvement, including opportunities for social service agencies and community-based organizations to receive funding to serve youth in their communities.
CRISES Act — Police should not be responding to non-criminal situations! Period! Half of all people killed by police have a disability. The CRISES Act creates alternatives to police intervention by creating a state-funded pilot program for expanding the participation of community-based organizations in emergency response for specified vulnerable populations, e.g., mental health, intimate partner violence, community violence, substance abuse, natural disasters, young people of color, people with disabilities, people who are gender nonconforming, people with immigration status issues, and people who are unhoused. Although our Coalition passed this bill with overwhelming support in the California legislature, Governor Newsom vetoed it. We are currently working with our coalition partners to ensure that the CRISES Act passes next year.
SB 731 Police Decertification — California is only one of five states that does not have a decertification process. This means that when police officers are fired, convicted of a crime, or commit acts of violence against community members, they can simply hop over to another law enforcement agency. A joint investigation by Voice of San Diego and news outlets across the country found that more than 80 officers convicted of crimes in California are still on the job. At SDPD, one officer who knocked his wife unconscious remains on the force and was even allowed to continue responding to domestic violence calls. Decertification strips badges from bad cops who have shown that they are a danger to our communities. Bad cops with a history of misconduct should not be patrolling our communities! CURYJ has worked tirelessly on this bill, and although it did not pass last session, we are committed to taking Decertification to the finish line in 2021.
VISION Act — Prevents California law enforcement agencies from working with ICE to deport people. Like any other community member, immigrants who have contact with the criminal (in)justice system — including people who have completed their sentence, been granted parole, had charges dropped, or been granted release by a judge — should be allowed to return to their communities and rebuild their lives. Although this bill died last session, we are resurrecting it for 2021. CURYJ is working with our coalition partners to make sure that Californians with immigration status issues get to stay with their families and communities here in California, many of which have been in the U.S. since they were children.
PROP 17 Voting Rights for Californians who have already served their time — We worked with our coalition partners, led by formerly-incarcerated people, to restore voting rights for nearly 57,000 Californians! Felon disenfranchisement is rooted in systemic racism & Jim Crow laws. Prop 17 wasn’t just a win for people on parole, it was a win for democracy, and a win against voter suppression and systemic racism! Democracy is stronger when every voice matters, including our community members who are currently incarcerated. Maine, Vermont, and the District of Columbia never disenfranchise their community members, including incarcerated people. California needs to live up to its claim as a “progressive” state and abolish voter suppression wherever it exists within its borders. CURYJ will continue the fight to restore voting rights for all Californians.
PROP 20 Prison Spending Scam — We provided leadership for a statewide coalition to oppose a dangerous prison spending scam which would have sent thousands of Black and Brown people to state prison and cost California taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year. We organized a NoOnProp20 Rally at Lake Merritt, hosted a Facebook live event, participated in virtual town halls, and led a digital organizing campaign to inform people about the truth of Prop 20 and how it would have taken California back to the heyday of mass incarceration.
Alameda County DA Accountability — CURYJ spent 2020 working with our Justice Reinvestment Coalition (JRC) partners to hold our elected official, DA O’Malley, accountable to the people she serves. We have pressured the DA’s Office to resentence incarcerated people, send people to community diversion programs rather than incarceration, and allow people to fight their cases from home rather than Santa Rita Jail, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are currently demanding that the DA’s Office no longer prosecute gang enhancements because they are racially biased. Nine out of ten people charged with gang enhancements are Black and Brown!
AB 392 Police Use of Deadly Force — CURYJ worked on this bill in 2019 which took effect on January 1, 2020. This bill changed the “reasonable” standard of police use of deadly force to “necessary.” This means that police are only allowed to use deadly force to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person. CURYJ is currently a member of a statewide coalition to ensure that AB 392 is being implemented as it was intended because police departments have a long-history of refusing to hold its officers accountable when they kill community members. DA O’Malley cited AB 392 this year when, in a historic move, she filed charges against the officer who killed Steven Taylor.
Oakland Police Department Accountability and Budget—CURYJ is a founding member of the Defund OPD Coalition and helped to push Oakland City Council members toward investing in housing, healthcare, schools, and other interventions that keep us safe. This fight is continuing and we are involved in the Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce, fighting to keep impacted families’ voices heard. We also participated on the Raheem Advisory Council which collected community input regarding use-of-force encounters by Oakland Police (OPD) and was used to provide recommendations for reimagining OPD’s use-of-force policy.
CURYJ had several major victories in 2020 but there are still many battles ahead. We cannot fight this fight alone. There is much more power in our communities than we even realize! People power can move mountains and tear down walls of racial injustice. Join us in 2021 as we continue to build youth leaders, center the voices of system-impacted people, and fight for racial justice!