Dear Senator Berger and Representative Moore:
We are writing in our capacity as members of the Board of the Durham People’s Alliance to strongly support the passage of House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act during this session of the General Assembly.
It is an embarrassment to many that North Carolina is the only state left in the nation to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Almost 97% of 16- and 17-year-olds convicted in North Carolina in 2014 as adults were found guilty of a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony. If H.B. 280 had been the law in 2014 these teenagers would have remained in the juvenile justice system as opposed to being prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system. As a result, they would not have incurred a criminal record.
Instead, they would have had an opportunity to engage in the more extensive community resources provided in juvenile delinquency court. This would have enabled them to address any underlying issues that may have contributed to their criminal activity, thereby reducing the potential for recidivism. Research demonstrates that 16-17 year olds that have made contact with the adult criminal justice system as defendants are twice as likely to commit another crime as those who had their charges resolved in the juvenile justice system.
Moreover, an astonishing 62% of young people in the criminal justice system are African-American. The disproportionate representation of African-American youth in our adult criminal courts makes treatment of 16 -17 year olds as adults especially pernicious. If we do not pass this bill and raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, we will condemn many young African-Americans to a grim future. North Carolinians do not want this. We want all our kids to have the opportunity to become successful adults who contribute to society, their families and their own communities.
The impact of being treated as a juvenile under the law instead of as an adult has enormous consequences for the future of our young people and our state economy. We must ask ourselves, how many of the kids convicted of a crime in adult criminal court could have succeeded if they had been given a second chance in juvenile court to learn from their mistakes in an age-appropriate, rehabilitative setting? Significant research has established that a young person's brain is not fully developed until the age of 25 years, and it is commonly accepted that youth are impulsive and don't always exercise the best judgment. Additionally, two-thirds of the young people in the criminal justice system have a disability. Access to necessary rehabilitative services will help our kids grow in a healthy, safe environment and give them the chance they need to be productive contributing members of our community.
The People’s Alliance has a long history of supporting efforts aimed at increasing racial justice and racial and economic equity in our community and state. We see H.B. 280 as an important step in the fight for greater equity and opportunity for all of our youth and a strong statement by our General Assembly that North Carolina unequivocally cares about giving all of our young people, including our youth of color, the best and brightest future we can offer.
We urge you to do all you can to pass H.B. 280.
The People’s Alliance Board
Vernetta Alston, Eric Boven, John Davis, Alexana Garcia, Gann Herman, Dabney Hopkins, Ryan Smith, Sondra Stein, Sara Terry, Magan Thigpen, Tommie Watson, Michael Young
As we enter a new year -- a time for recommitting to strengthen our community and ourselves -- our commitment as members of the Durham People’s Alliance is to better connect and support one another to step up more, risk more, give more, and do more to advance a more progressive North Carolina. We know that we live in times that will ask more of each us. We have heard from many of you and know you are ready to do more. What often holds us back is figuring out what we can do with our limited resources and time to fight back and advance a better, more just, more equitable place where all people can live well.
We are writing to share two concrete opportunities PA is launching in 2017 that provide you clear ways to be braver, push harder, and demand more in 2017. These are strategic actions that can build our collective power and influence as a progressive community. These are highly engaged actions, and also actions you can take from your home.
Progressive Action #1: Serve as a community connector by leading a community conversation. Community Conversations are a new initiative that PA is launching. These small groups will come together throughout the year to build community amongst themselves, discuss issues facing our state, and mobilize action when called. Community Connectors are the individuals who organize a community conversation group. PA will support Community Connectors by helping with logistics, providing facilitation training and organizing gatherings of community connectors across Durham to come together throughout the year to support and be a resource to each other. All Community Connectors need to have participated in - or plan to in early 2017 - a race equity training (PA may be able to provide funds for this training).
This is a great opportunity to:
Build your skills in community organizing and facilitating conversations
Develop your leadership capacity
Connect with like-minded progressives across Durham and forge new relationships
If you’re not interested in serving as a Community Connector but would like to be a part of these Community Conversations, we will share a sign-up for these groups in the coming month.
Progressive Action #2: Join a Political Accountability Team, to help hold local elected officials accountable to our progressive values. This year, we will also launch these new teams that will attend (or watch online) meetings of local elected bodies - County Commissioners, City Council and/or Board of Education. These teams of around 4 people will organize amongst themselves to have one person attend or watch each meeting, record notes of key votes and comments and share them with PA to be posted in a new online platform.
This is a great opportunity to:
Develop deep knowledge about local politics
Provide a valuable new resource to Durham citizens who want to be more informed about local politics
Take leadership in a role that is flexible (most work can be done from the comfort of your home) and requires few meetings
If you sign up for either of these opportunities, someone will reach out to you to follow-up with more information about next steps and answer any questions you have. You can also email Magan at [email protected] with questions.
If you don’t currently have the capacity to take on either of these new roles - but you’re excited about these opportunities to advance a more progressive Durham - please consider making a donation today to support this work.
We’re excited to work alongside you in the coming year. Together, we will keep fighting.
Dear PA family,
As the results of this election sink in, our minds and hearts are heavy. We are grieving. We find hope in local and state progressive victories. We look ahead to what this time will require of us.
We are grieving. We grieve because today people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, women, and many others feel less safe and less valued in this country. We grieve because we expect and fear unprecedented rollbacks of policies that protect people and our planet. We reject reactions to this election that undermine the legitimacy of these fears. We must not bury the fear and pain we feel in this moment. Masking our country's widespread fear and anger will only normalize hate, racism and misogyny.
We find hope in local and state progressive victories. As we prepare for unprecedented battles at the national level, we are grateful that progress won for many of our friends in local races. We find hope and light in this:
Shamieka Rhinehart will be our District Court Judge. Heidi Carter, James Hill, Brenda Howerton, Wendy Jacobs, Ellen Reckhow will be our County Commissioners. Mike Woodard, Floyd McKissick, Graig Meyer, Henry Michaux, and the person who has the honor of filling Paul Luebke's seat will fight for our shared values in the state legislature. State Representative James Hall will continue as NC House Democratic Leader. Mike Morgan will be North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice, Josh Stein will be Attorney General and we are confident that Roy Cooper will prevail in the recount and be our next Governor. Representatives Price and Butterfield will continue to represent us in Congress.
We have Durham to thank for this hope. We are proud of People's Alliance's pivotal role in securing these electoral victories. We want to express our immense gratitude to Kate Fellman and all the You Can Vote volunteers (a program we are proud to say was born out of PA). We know our efforts here in Durham matter and make a difference.
We believe in these elected officials and know that they will fight for a Durham and a country where all people can live well. We have to be prepared to work with them - to back them up when they need us, to help create pathways for them to be bold, and to push them toward opportunities to go further in our fight for progress.
We look ahead to what this time will require of us. This election is a dark moment in American history; one that marks a powerful rise of the forces of racism, Islamophobia, and misogyny that have always been a plague on this nation's soul. But it will also mark the time that we rise up. This is the moment when unprecedented local organizing and bold activism will create change. This work will not wait until the next election. For Democracy to work, for justice to prevail, we must show up for this work every day.
As the People's Alliance board, we commit to joining with our community and other progressive organizations in Durham to create a bold, intersectional activist movement. As individuals, we commit to recognizing the privileges we each possess and using those to put ourselves between hateful forces and people of color, Muslims, LGTBQ folks, women, people with disabilities and our other family and friends who are subjected to violence and disenfranchisement.
In the coming weeks, we will work to determine how People's Alliance can strengthen the movement required by these times. This work will take all of us - please join us.
We will fight.
With love and compassion,
People's Alliance Board
Vernetta Alston, Eric Boven, John Davis, DeDreana Freeman, Dabney Hopkins, Marion Johnson, Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, Destini Riley, Carl Rist, Lanya Shapiro, Ryan Smith, Sondra Stein, Sara Terry, Magan Thigpen, Tommie Watson