Category Archives: Criminal Justice

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Details Plan to Restore Trust in the Federal Judiciary

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC.
Warren’s proposals to restore trust in the federal judiciary are particularly noteworthy in light of widespread concern that the judiciary has been politicized © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With Attorney General William Barr facing criticism for his direct involvement in extorting Ukraine to engage in a bogus investigation intended to harm Democratic candidate for 2020 Vice President Joe Biden and opening a criminal investigation into the intelligence officers in the CIA and FBI who initially investigated and exposed Russian meddling in the 2016 Election and contacts with the Trump campaign, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposals unveiled earlier this month to restore trust in the federal judiciary are particularly noteworthy in light of widespread concern that the judiciary has been politicized. This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren detailed how she will strengthen the ethical integrity and impartiality of the federal judiciary. Her plan will ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nation’s ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules.

Under her plan, investigations into judicial misconduct could continue even when a judge resigns from office or is elevated to the Supreme Court. This provision would allow the judiciary to reopen the investigations into Alex Kozinski, Maryanne Trump Barry, Brett Kavanaugh, and any other judge who benefited from this loophole.

In December 2017, more than 15 female law clerks alleged that Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski committed sexual misconduct and created a “hostile, demeaning and persistently sexualized environment” for employees. According to their accounts, Kozinski inappropriately touched female clerks and showed them pornography in his chambers. 

It wasn’t the first time he was accused of misconduct. But what did Judge Kozinski do when the judiciary started to investigate? He retired.

And because of inadequate ethics laws, the investigation ended immediately. Meanwhile, Kozinski continues to collect his taxpayer-funded pension for life.

The Kozinski case is just one example of the broader problem of accountability in the federal judiciary.

Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry ended an investigation into the Trump family’s potential tax fraud and other tax schemes by resigning from the bench.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia did not recuse themselves from Citizens United v. FEC, the case that opened an avalanche of money in politics to the benefit of people like the Koch brothers, who invited the pair to multiple all-expenses paid retreats.

And several judges have ruled on cases while owning stock in a company that was a party to the case, violating existing conflicts-of-interest rules that expressly prohibit this practice.

The basic premise of our legal system is that every person is treated equally in the eyes of the law – including judges. Our judiciary only functions properly when it lives up to this promise, and it risks eroding its legitimacy when the American people lose faith that judges are ethical and fair-minded.

That’s why today I’m announcing my plan to strengthen the ethical integrity and impartiality of the federal judiciary. It’s time to ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nation’s ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules.

Recusing Judges and Supreme Court Justices with Conflicts of Interest.

In 2011, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Hill ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson in a case brought by a woman who suffered from a malfunctioning medical implant. He did so while owning as much as $100,000 in the company’s stock. The same judge ruled on three other cases involving companies in which he owned stock – and ruled in favor of the company each time. Judge Hill, unfortunately, is not alone: one study identified 24 cases in which judges owned stock in a company that appeared before them in court.

A basic principle of our federal judicial system is that judges make decisions as disinterested, impartial observers – stepping aside when they may not be able to decide cases objectively. This principle should also bar judges from being the final arbiter of whether they can be objective in the first place. 

It’s time for fundamental reform:

Prohibit judges from deciding for themselves whether they should recuse from a case due to a conflict. When a litigant believes that a judge cannot consider a case in an unbiased manner, the litigant may file a recusal motion asking for another judge to decide the case instead. But our current system gives judges enormous discretion to decide for themselves whether to grant recusal motions where their objectivity is challenged. My plan will instead empower the Chief Judges within regional circuits to establish a binding recusal process. It will also require courts to publish its reasons any time judges are disqualified from a case without a recusal motion, including when judges voluntarily recuse or when an automated conflict-checking software disqualifies them. 

Ban judges from owning or trading individual stocks. It’s not enough for judges like James Hill to recuse in cases with conflicts of interest – my plan would eliminate the appearance of impropriety by banning federal judges from owning or trading individual stocks, while allowing them to instead invest in conflict-free mutual funds or open new investment accounts managed by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. Law firms follow rules like these to avoid the appearance of financial conflicts with the interests of their clients. Judges should certainly be held to the same standard.

Require Supreme Court Justices to provide written explanations of recusal decisions when a litigant challenges for recusal. If a Supreme Court Justice has a conflict of interest, they are ethically obligated to recuse themselves from considering a case, but the law allows them to deny recusal motions without even providing an explanation. Under my plan, when a party asks for a Justice to recuse, the Judicial Conference will issue a non-binding, public advisory opinion with its recommendation – and the challenged Justice will publicly explain their final recusal decision in writing. Because all recusal decisions will be a matter of public record, future litigants will understand these conflicts and know when to bring recusal decisions of their own.

Strengthening Ethics Rules for All Judges.

Every lawyer in America is subject to ethics rules. Federal judges are generally subject to a Code of Conduct that applies the most basic of these principles to members of the judiciary.

But there is no Code of Conduct for Supreme Court Justices.

That means that Supreme Court Justices can go on trips with litigants, like Justice Scalia did when he heard a case involving Vice President Cheney after going hunting with him – without an independent ruling on whether it was proper to do so. It means Justices can receive large speaking fees and all-expenses paid trips to fancy conferences, like Justice Thomas did when the Federalist Society, an extremist right-wing legal group, flew him to Palm Springs and paid for meals and transportation for four days. And it means that someone like Brett Kavanaugh can face accusations of lying to Congress – without a full and fair investigation by the judiciary. These actions could violate the Judicial Code of Conduct, but because unlike all other federal judges these Justices are not bound by a code of ethics, they are immune from any judicial investigations into misconduct. 

We must act now to fix this – and that means strengthening the Code of Conduct for all judges.

Here’s where I would start:

Extend the Code of Conduct to Supreme Court Justices. When Judge Kavanaugh was elevated to the Supreme Court, 83 ethics complaints that had been lodged against him were dismissed – and because the Supreme Court is not covered by a Code of Conduct, no procedure exists to file new complaints. Questions are often raised about the behavior of Supreme Court Justices, such as Justice Thomas’s 13 years of financial disclosures that failed to list $690,000 in payments to his wife from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing judicial activist group – but these actions are beyond the scope of current rules. Enough. My plan applies the Code of Conduct for United States Judges to Supreme Court Justices – and places the Judicial Conference in charge of violations. My plan also allows individuals to file complaints against Supreme Court Justices, just like they can against all other federal judges.  

Strengthen the Code of Conduct to ensure a fair and impartial judiciary. When judges accept gifts or financial contributions from interested parties, public trust in a fair-minded judiciary erodes. My plan strengthens the Code of Conduct so that judges generally cannot receive paid speaking fees or all-expenses-paid trips from outside organizations. To ensure that judges continue to interact with the public without the appearance of impropriety, my plan also establishes a modest fund to help cover reasonable expenses.

Real Enforcement for Judicial Misconduct.

When a lawyer violates the ethics rules, their state’s judiciary can investigate their behavior and impose disciplinary punishment, including stripping their licence to practice law.

But the panels of judges that investigate judicial conduct complaints have limited disciplinary power beyond asking the judge to voluntarily resign or asking the House of Representatives to consider impeachment proceedings – a request the House is free to ignore. 

It’s time for real accountability for judges. Here’s how we’ll start:

Continue investigations into judicial misconduct even when a judge resigns from office or is elevated to the Supreme Court.

In 2016, Federal District Court Judge Walter Smith faced a judicial investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of court employees and drinking on the bench while presiding over cases. Judge Smith resigned, and the complaints filed against him were dismissed. 

My plan extends the authority of the Judicial Conference to former judges so that individuals under investigation cannot simply resign from the bench to avoid accountability. This provision would allow the judiciary to reopen the investigations into Alex KozinskiMaryanne Trump-BarryBrett Kavanaugh, and any other judge who benefited from this loophole.

Provide strong disciplinary authority to judicial ethics watchdogs, including the ability to strip non-vested taxpayer-funded pensions from judges.

Under today’s rules, even if retired judges could be investigated, the Judicial Conference has no meaningful tools to discipline them. American taxpayers are paying for the more than $180,000-per-year retirement pay of Judge Smith, Judge Kozinski, Judge Trump-Barry, and several other judges who left office during investigations into their behavior. We need to restore real accountability within our judiciary. 

That’s why my plan provides disciplinary tools to the Judicial Councils and their parent organization, the Judicial Conference, including the ability to strip sitting or retired judges of their non-vested pension benefits by making retirement pay for new judges explicitly contingent on the absence of serious misconduct. In addition to strengthening these disciplinary tools, my administration will also work to prevent judicial misconduct against employees and law clerks by supporting strong climate surveys, questionnaires to court employees about the work environment in our federal courts, to help the judiciary understand how to improve the culture within our courts.

Create a new, fast-track impeachment process for federal judges who commit impeachable offenses. 

The Constitution reserves the impeachment of judges for only the most egregious offenses. But when a judge commits a serious offense or ethical violation, we need to make sure that there is a prompt investigation – and that Congress takes action.

It’s time to fast-track the process for judges who commit impeachable offenses. My plan would strengthen the process to certify that a judge may have committed an impeachable offense, and would ensure that any impeachment referrals will trigger a series of automatic rules under which the House Judiciary Committee will conduct a thorough investigation and vote without unnecessary delay. These reforms will ensure that judges who commit serious, impeachable offenses will more likely be promptly removed from office.

These changes will not only allow us to ensure accountability for bad actors, including reopening inquiries into the conduct of offenders like Brett Kavanaugh. They will also hold the vast majority of judges who act in good faith to the highest ethical standards, and in the process, begin to restore accountability and trust in a fair and impartial federal judiciary.

Read more about her plan here:  

AOC, Michael Moore, Stars of Progressive Politics Endorse Bernie Sanders at Queens Rally

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Amid a sea of “Bernie” signs and chants of “We are the 99%” and “We will win”, Jane Sanders, looked out over the massive crowd of 25,000 that overflowed Queensbridge Park, beneath the Queensborough Bridge, onto the street, and said, “Here are people from every background in the melting pot called New York. Most of our ancestors came to America for a better life- mine from Ireland to escape famine, poverty; Bernie’s from Poland escaping anti-Semitism, poverty.

Jane Sanders at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“All believed they could have a better life. But in the last 40 years that promise has eroded. Bernie plans to change that.” And, noting that this is his first rally since his heart attack, she said to massive cheers, “Bernie is back. He’s healthy and more than ready to continue his lifelong fight for working people of America.”

Michael Moore: “This is not just about defeating Trump, but the rotten system that gave us Trump’

Democracy, said documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, is where “Everyone gets a seat at the table, a slice of the pie and not fight for last crumbs. We don’t just need a democratic politics, we need a democratic economy.”

Filmmaker Michael Moore at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Moore said, “The powers that be are very unhappy you’re here, that Bernie is back. The pundits, the media [boo] are throwing everything out there to get people to think differently:

“That Bernie is too old. Here’s what’s too old: the Electoral College, the $7 minimum wage, women not being paid the same as men, thousands and thousands of dollars of student debt, $10,000 deductible for health care, Super Delegates, the fossil fuel industry – that’s what’s too old.

“It’s a gift we have 78-year-old American running for president. The experience he has, what he has seen. He knows what a pay raise is, a pension – look it up. What it looks like to defend against fascism and white supremacy, to have the library open every day, what regulations are (Boeing). I’m glad he’s 78.

“Health? We should be talking about the health of planet that’s dying [crowd chants “Green New Deal”]; the health of kids in Flint Michigan, of 40 million living in poverty, of young black males shot in back by police [chant Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Count]. The only heart attack we should talk about is the one Wall Street will have when Bernie wins.

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Next, that Bernie can’t win. He will win he has won 8 times to the House, 2 times to the Senate, 22 states in 2016 – almost half [chant “We will win.]. In 2016 [Democratic primary], Bernie won Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota. Of the 11 states that border Canada, Bernie won 10 (not NY) [boo] – we can fix that. Of the 5 states that border the Pacific, he won 4; of 6 in New England, won 4; Bernie won West Virginia – all 55 counties. According to a poll, he is #1 in Nevada, a dead heat in Iowa, #1 in New Hampshire. He has raised more money from more donors with the smallest amount.

“Why say Bernie can’t win? Because they are lying to the American people. Bernie will win. [Chant, “We will win”]

“They say he can’t win because he is a [Democratic] socialist [yay!]. That’s not going to fly. The American people have loved socialism for the last 70 years. Social Security, free public school, Medicare, Medicaid, fire department – all are socialist.

“What they don’t want to do is tell the truth, what would happen if they structured economic policies with democracy instead of capitalism. And this isn’t capitalism of your great grandpa, this is a form of greed, selfishness so that just few at the top succeed, the  rest struggle paycheck to paycheck.

“Afraid taxes on rich will go up under Sanders? It was depressing during the debate to watch Democrats go after Medicare for All. What would Franklin Roosevelt say?

“They say we can’t afford it? How does Canada afford it? Every other industrialized country has figured it out, why can’t we? They don’t want us to figure it out.

“They say taxes will go up? That is part of the big lie – your taxes already are up. We don’t call it a tax – in Canada, France, Finland they get free health care, free or nearly free day care and college, but pay more in tax for these things. The average American family pays $12,000 a year for child care, $4000 in student loans, $6000 for deductibles, co-pays and premiums for health care – too damn much – the average is $20,000/year but we don’t call it a tax.

Over 25,000 turned out for the Bernie Sanders for President rally, in Queensbridge Park, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We are here in Queensbridge Park, Manhattan Island just across the river is headquarters of corporate America [boo], corporate media [boo], Wall Street

[boo]

. So much misery has been visited on the American people from a half mile away. It must stop.

“They must hear us at Goldman Sachs, Fox News, Trump Tower – the scene of the crime.

“This [election] is not just about defeating Trump, but the rotten system that gave us Trump…. beating Trump isn’t enough.  We must crush Trump at the polls, then fix the rotten corrupt economic system that gave us Trump.”

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

San Juan Mayor Cruz: “Move forward on the path of progressive agenda. We are equal. We will win. We must win.”

Calling herself a “climate change survivor,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, attacked Trump for “killing us with inefficiency” that contributed to 3,000 Puerto Ricans dying after being smacked by back-to-back hurricanes.

Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Why we have to win” she says is for Medicare-for-All, so no one has to choose between groceries and insulin; to be able to afford college and life after college, to “stand against those who earn $100 million and pay workers starving wages; who take away women’s right to choose; the crime of separating families at southern border; climate change.

“I am a climate change survivor. Climate change is real – 3000 Puerto Ricans were killed because Trump Is a racist, xenophobic, paper throwing demagogue.” [Chant, “Lock him up. Vote him out.”]

“The time is now to be fearless, relentless. I stand with Sanders – I respect every other candidate but there is one name only who can get the job done. Be united in one progressive voice, cross generations. Move forward on the path of progressive agenda. We are equal. We will win. We must win.”

Nina Turner: “We must knock out Billionaire class that doesn’t believe working people deserve a good life.”

National co chair Nina Turner quoted Congresswoman Barbara Jordan who said American people want an America as good as its promise. “That means an America where people don’t die because have to ration insulin; hospitals are not closing; where there is clean water, air, food; a justice system that doesn’t gun down black folks in their houses.

Nina Turner at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We need to clean up the criminal injustice system, Truth & Reconciliation about the ravages of racism, a health care system not commodified. We need to take care of Mother Earth.”

Alluding to the Democratic candidates, she said, “There are many copies but only one original. We finally have somebody in our lifetime, his own special interest is people of nation.

“We must knock out Billionaire class that doesn’t believe working people deserve a good life.”

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “We need a United States truly, authentically operated, owned by working people.”

“We must bring revolution of working class to the ballot box of America,” declared Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She prompted chants of “Green New Deal,” saying, “Queensbridge Park is ground zero in the fight for public housing and environmental justice.

“Last February I was working as a waitress in Manhattan, shoulder to shoulder with undocumented workers who were putting in12 hour days with no healthcare, not a living wage. We didn’t think we deserved it. That is the script we tell working people: your inherent worth, value as human depends on income another underpays. Turn around that basic language… We must change the system that puts corporate profit ahead of all human and planetary costs.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

After her parents put all they had to buy a house, she said she learned from an early age that “kids’ destiny determined by zipcode. Income inequality is a fact of life of children.” Her father died of cancer when she was 18 and she learned, “We all are one accident away from everything falling apart.

Sanders, she said, has fought for Planned Parenthood, for public education, for CHIP, for single-payer health care, for gender rights, to end “life-crushing” student debt.

“He didn’t do it because it was popular. He fought when it came at the highest political cost in America.

“In 2016, he changed politics in America. We now have one of the best Democratic fields – much because of Sanders.

“I’m in Congress today but one year ago I was a sexually harassed waitress. This freshman class in overwhelming numbers rejected corporate money – thanks to Bernie – endorsed Medicare for All, sees the climate crisis as an existential threat.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“[In Congress] it is no joke to stand up against corporate power and establishment interests. Arms are twisted, political pressure psychological and otherwise applied to make you abandon the working class.

“I have come to appreciate the nonstop advocacy of Sanders. It’s not just what he fights for but how: mass mobilization of the working class at the ballot box, a movement (against) racism, classism of Hyde Amendment, imperialist and colonial histories that lead to endless war and immigration crisis.

“NYCHA is underfunded by $30 billion –that is not an accident, but an outcome of system that devalues poor, Logic that got us into this won’t get us out.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We need a United States truly, authentically operated, owned by working people.

“Bernie showed you can run a grass roots campaign and win in America when others thought it impossible.”

__________

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Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Plan to Reduce Mass Incarceration, Reform Criminal Justice System

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president, proposes a plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system without infringing on public safety (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system without infringing on public safety. This is from the Warren2020 campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform our criminal justice system. Elizabeth believes we need to reimagine how we talk and think about public safety, spending our budgets not on putting people in prison but on community services that lift people up. It is a false choice to suggest a trade off between safety and mass incarceration – we can decarcerate and make our communities safer. 

Her plan details how she will reform all aspects of our system: what we choose to criminalize, how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, how long we keep people behind bars and how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.

“We will reduce incarceration and improve justice in our country by changing what we choose to criminalize, reforming police behavior and improving police-community relations, and reining in a system that preferences prosecution over justice. When people are incarcerated, we will provide opportunities for treatment, education and rehabilitation, and we’ll continue those supports for returning citizens as they reenter our communities. Most importantly, we’ll rethink the way we approach public safety — emphasizing preventative approaches over law enforcement and incarceration. That’s the way we’ll create real law and order and real justice in our country.”

Read more about Warren’s plan here: 

The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but nearly 20% of the world’s prison population. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with over 2 million people in prison and jail.

Our system is the result of the dozens of choices we’ve made — choices that together stack the deck against the poor and the disadvantaged. Simply put, we have criminalized too many things. We send too many people to jail. We keep them there for too long. We do little to rehabilitate them. We spend billions, propping up an entire industry that profits from mass incarceration. And we do all of this despite little evidence that our harshly punitive system makes our communities safer — and knowing that a majority of people currently in prison will eventually return to our communities and our neighborhoods.

To make matters worse, the evidence is clear that there are structural race problems in this system. Latinx adults are three times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. For the exact same crimes, Black Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested, charged, wrongfully convicted, and given harsher sentences. One in ten Black children has an incarcerated parent.

Four words are etched above the Supreme Court: Equal Justice Under Law. That’s supposed to be the promise of our justice system. But today in America, there’s one system for the rich and powerful, and another one for everybody else. It’s not equal justice when a kid with an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail, while a bank executive who launders money for a drug cartel can get a bonus. It’s long past time for us to reform our system.

Real reform requires examining every step of this system: From what we choose to criminalize, to how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, to how long we keep people behind bars, how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.

We cannot achieve this by nibbling around the edges — we need to tackle the problem at its roots. That means implementing a set of bold, structural changes at all levels of government.

And it starts by reimagining how we talk and think about public safety. For example:

Public safety should mean providing every opportunity for all our kids to get a good education and stay in school.

It should mean safe, affordable housing that keeps families together and off the streets.

It should mean violence intervention programs that divert young people from criminal activity, before the police become involved.

It should mean policies that recognize the humanity of trans people and other LGBTQ+ Americans and keep them safe from violence.

It should mean accessible mental health services and treatment for addiction.

It is a false choice to suggest a tradeoff between safety and mass incarceration. By spending our budgets not on imprisonment but on community services that lift people up, we’ll decarcerate and make our communities safer. Here’s my plan.

Rethink Our Approach to Public Safety

It’s not enough merely to reform our sentencing guidelines or improve police-community relations. We need to rethink our approach to public safety, transitioning away from a punitive system and investing in evidence-based approaches that address the underlying drivers of violence and crime — tackling it at its roots, before it ever has a chance to grow.

Break the school-to-prison pipelineSchools increasingly rely on police officers to carry out discipline while neglecting services that are critical to the well being of students. At least fourteen million students attend schools with a police officer but without a single counselor, social worker, psychologist, or nurse. It’s no surprise that tens of thousands of students are arrested annually, many for minor infractions. Zero tolerance policies start early — on average 250 preschoolers are suspended or expelled every day — and, even in the youngest years, students of color bear the brunt. In later grades, Black and Brown students are disproportionately arrested in schools, while students with disabilities face an increased risk of disciplinary action.

Every child should have the opportunity to receive the support they need to thrive inside and outside of the classroom. Adverse childhood experiences such as poverty, violence at home, homelessness, family separation, or an incarcerated caretaker are proven to negatively impact child development. I will equip schools with resources to meet their students’ needs by providing access to health care to support the physical, mental, and social development of children, improve their overall school readiness and providing early intervention services. We should decriminalize truancy and instead increase the number of school mental health personnel and provide schools with resources to train teachers and administrators in positive behavioral interventions, trauma-informed alternative discipline practices, and implicit bias to limit suspensions, expulsions, and minor-infraction arrests. We should require that any police department receiving federal funds provide mandatory training in the scientific and psychological roots of discrimination, youth development, and de-escalation tactics to officers assigned to school campuses. I’ll rescind Trump’s executive order that allows school districts to participate in the 1033 program, giving them access to military-grade weapons. And I’ll fully fund the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education so that it can investigate school districts with dramatic disparities in school disciplinary actions.

Reduce homelessness and housing insecurityChildren that experience homelessness are more likely to drop out of school and more likely to become involved with the criminal system. But as housing and rental costs skyrocket and federal housing assistance doesn’t keep pace, housing insecurity is growing, particularly for families of color. A Warren administration will commit federal funding to the goal of ending homelessness in our country. My housing plan will help, by investing $500 billion over 10 years to build, preserve, and rehab affordable housing, creating 3.2 million new housing units and bringing down rental costs by 10%. It would also help families, especially families of color, buy homes and start to build wealth. Substantially improving housing affordability isn’t just good for the economy and for working families — it will also reduce homelessness and crime.

Invest in evidence-based interruption programsTo improve safety in our communities, we also need to invest in programs that prevent violence and divert criminal behavior. Models in cities like BostonOakland and Chicago demonstrate that we can successfully reduce homicide and gun violence rates through creating cross-community partnerships and focused deterrence on the small percentage of people most likely to commit violence. These programs are cost-effective and have multiplier effects: transforming community climate, improving health outcomes, and boosting local economies. My administration will invest in piloting similar programs at scale.

Decriminalize Mental Health CrisesThe solution for someone experiencing a mental health crisis should not be a badge and a gun, but police officers have become America’s de facto first mental health providers. Historically, 7–10% of police encounters involve a person affected by mental illness, and people with untreated severe mental illness are sixteen times more likely to be killed during a police encounter. People with mental illnesses are not incarcerated at higher rates because they are prone to violence. To the contrary, most are arrested for non-violent offenses, many because they lack access to necessary services. But incarcerating people with mental illness is more expensive as providing appropriate community-based treatment — instead of shuttling people into a system not built to meet their needs, we should invest in preventing people from reaching those crisis points in the first place. Medicare for All will provide continuous access to critical mental health care services, decreasing the likelihood that the police will be called as a matter of last resort. I’ll also increase funding for “co-responder” initiatives that connect law enforcement to mental health care providers and experts. And my administration will pilot evidence-based crisis response efforts to provide needed services to individuals struggling with mental illness.

Invest in diversion programs for substance abuse disorderPeople who struggle with addiction should not be incarcerated because of their disease. Mass incarceration has not reduced addiction rates or overdose deaths, because substance abuse disorder is a public health problem — and it’s long past time to treat it that way. We know that diversion programs are both more humane and a better investment than incarceration — for every dollar we invest in treatment programs, we can save $12 in future crime and health care costs. I’ll support evidence-based safe injection sites and needle exchanges, and expand the availability of buprenorphine to prevent overdoses. And my CARE Act would invest $100 billion over ten years to increase access to high quality treatment and support services. It would provide the regions most affected by the opioid crisis with the resources they need, and would allow state, local and tribal governments to use CARE Act funds to provide incarcerated individuals, and individuals in pre-trial detention, with substance use disorder treatment.

Change What We Choose to Criminalize

We face a crisis of overcriminalization. It has filled our prisons and devastated entire neighborhoods. Addressing the crisis starts by rethinking what we choose to criminalize. It is easy for legislators, fearful of being labeled soft on crime, to rubber stamp every new criminal and sentencing proposal, no matter how punitive. It’s equally easy for them to look the other way when the wealthy and well-connected abuse the rest of us. But from the Senate on down, elected lawmakers have an obligation to do better than that. Here’s where we can start.

Repeal the 1994 crime bill. The 1994 crime bill exacerbated incarceration rates in this country, punishing people more severely for even minor infractions, and limiting discretion in charging and sentencing in our judicial system. That punitive “tough on crime” approach was wrong, it was a mistake, and it needs to be repealed. There are some sections of law, like those relating to domestic violence, that should be retained — but the bulk of the law must go.

Address the legacy of the War on DrugsFor four decades, we’ve subscribed to a “War on Drugs” theory of crime, which has criminalized addiction, ripped apart families — and largely failed to curb drug use. This failure has been particularly harmful for communities of color, and we need a new approach. It starts with decriminalizing marijuana and erasing past convictions, and then eliminating the remaining disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. And rather than incarcerating individuals with substance abuse disorders, we should expand options that divert them into programs that provide real treatment.

Stop criminalizing homelessnessHousing provides safety and stability, but too many experience homelessness. To make matters worse, many cities have criminalized homelessness by banning behavior associated with it, like sleeping in public or living in vehicles. These laws draw people into the justice system instead of giving them access to the services they need. They disproportionately impact communities of colorLGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities, all of whom experience higher rates of homelessness. Rather than treating the homeless like criminals, we should get them with the resources they need to get back on their feet.

Stop criminalizing povertyA simple misdemeanor like a speeding ticket shouldn’t be enough to send someone to spiraling into poverty or worse — but often the fines and fees levied by our legal system bury low-income people who are unable to pay under court-related debt, with no way out. We abolished debtors prisons nearly two hundred years ago, but we’re still criminalizing poverty in this country — low-income individuals are more likely to find themselves entangled in the system and less likely to find their way out. There is no justification for imposing unreasonably high punitive burdens on those who are least able to bear them. As president, I will fight to:

End cash bail. Around 60% of the nearly 750,000 people in jail have not been convicted of a crime — and too often, those jails are overcrowded and inhumane. Our justice system forces its citizens to choose either to submit to the charges brought against them or be penalized for wanting to fight those charges. We should allow people to return to their jobs and families while they wait for trial, reserving preventive detention only for those cases that pose a true flight or safety risk.

Restrict fines and fees levied before adjudication. In many jurisdictions individuals are charged cost-prohibitive pre-trial fees, sending them into debt even if they are ultimately acquitted of a crime. In cases of pre-trial civil forfeiture, an individual often cannot recover property seized prior to conviction. I’ll reverse the Trump administration’s policy expanding pre-trial civil forfeiture at the federal level, and restrict the use of civil forfeiture overall.

Cap the assessment of fines and fees. Jailing someone who can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars in fines on an hourly minimum wage salary is not only cruel — it’s ineffective. Criminal debt collection should be capped at a percentage of income for low-income individuals. States should also eliminate the profit incentive that drives excessive fees and fines by capping the percentage of municipal revenues derived from the justice system, and diverting seized assets into a general fund.

Eliminate fees for necessary services. Private companies and contractors can charge incarcerated people for essential services, like phone calls, bank transfers, and health care. Private companies also profit from charging individuals for their own incarceration and supervision, including through fees for re-entry, supervision, and probation. As I detailed in my plan to end private prisons, I will end this practice and ensure that private companies don’t get rich from exploiting vulnerable people.

Accountability for the wealthy and the well-connectedEqual justice also means an end to the impunity enjoyed by those with money and power. Instead of criminalizing poverty and expanding mass incarceration, I’ve proposed a new criminal negligence standard for executives of corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue when their company is found guilty of a crime or their negligence causes severe harm to American families. Instead of locking up people for nonviolent marijuana crimes, I’ve proposed putting pharmaceutical executives on the hook to report suspicious orders for controlled substances that damage the lives of millions. And I’ve proposed new certification requirements for executives at giant financial institutions so that we can hold them criminally accountable if the banks they oversee commit fraud.

Reform How the Law Is Enforced

While reform begins with deciding what constitutes a crime, the authority to enforce the law includes tremendous discretion. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges make countless decisions every day that shape the reality of how our criminal justice system functions for the millions of Americans it comes into contact with. We must critically examine each aspect of the enforcement process to ensure that it is both just and consistent with public safety.

Law Enforcement ReformThe vast majority of police officers sign up so they can protect their communities. They are part of a profession that works tirelessly and takes risks every day to keep us safe. But we also know that many people of color, including Native Americans, disproportionately experience trauma at the hands of law enforcement, sometimes with life-altering consequences. On average, three people are shot and killed by the police every day, a disproportionate number of them young and Black. Others are arrested and entered into a system that unduly penalizes even minor infractions.

Everyone is less safe when trust erodes between the police and the communities they serve. Yet we’ve continued to allow policing practices that are both ineffective and discriminatory. It’s time to fundamentally change how police work is done in America: funding what works; replacing failed policies with effective, evidence-based practices that do not violate individual rights; and reframing our approach to public safety to prioritize prevention over punishment. Here’s how we do it.

Improve access to treatment and early intervention. For the third straight year, the number of suicides among law enforcement in 2018 outnumbered the line-of-duty deaths. Law enforcement officers experience higher rates of addiction, post-traumatic stress, and other trauma related disorders. I’ll invest in mental and emotional health support to help our officers do their job, including by expanding promising pilots like peer intervention and early warning programs.

Improve data collection and reporting. For nearly a century, we have measured crime in this country. It’s time we measure justice — and act when we don’t measure up. Today there is no comprehensive government database on fatal police shootings, ethics issues, misconduct complaints, or use of force incidents. My Justice Department will establish a rigorous and systematic process to collect this data, provide relevant data collection training to local law enforcement, and make data publicly available wherever possible. We’ll use that data to prioritize federal oversight and to hold police accountable for the portion of the bad policing outcomes for which they are responsible. And we’ll work with interested departments to use their own data to improve their legitimacy in the communities they serve and inform more just and effective policing.

Increase federal oversight capacity. The Obama Justice Department used its authority to investigate police departments with a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing — but resource constraints limited the number of interventions carried out. Meanwhile, the Trump administration hasn’t initiated any investigations at all. I’ll reverse the Sessions guidance limiting the use of consent decree investigations, and triple funding for the Office of Civil Rights to allow for increased investigations of departments with the highest rates of police violence and whenever there is a death in custody. In this way, we can further incentivize police departments with persistent issues to adopt best practices.

Empower State Attorneys General. Even an expanded DOJ will not be able to provide oversight for many thousands of law enforcement agencies in this country. And accountability for unconstitutional policing shouldn’t simply shut down under a hostile President like Trump. To build a more durable system, I’ll incentivize states to empower their attorneys general to conduct their own oversight of police behavior nationwide.

Demand increased civilian oversight. Community engagement can fill the gap and provide oversight where the federal government, even with increased capacity, cannot. Approximately 150 communities have civilian oversight boards, but that covers only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies in America. To expand local oversight and democratic engagement in policing, I will implement a competitive grant program that provides funding to communities that establish an independent civilian oversight mechanism for their police departments, such as a civilian oversight board or Office of Civilian Complaints. These boards should have a role in officer discipline and provide input on hiring police executives as well as hiring and promoting within the departments they oversee.

Establish a federal standard for the use of force. When cities employ more restrictive policies for police use of force, they improve both community trust and officer safety. I will direct my administration to develop and apply evidence-based standards for the use of force for federal law enforcement, incorporating proven approaches and strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives. At the federal level, I’ll prohibit permissive pursuit policies that often result in collateral damage, like high-speed chases and shooting at moving vehicles. And I’ll work with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that training and technology deployed at the federal level can be implemented at all levels of government, helping to limit the use of force while maintaining safety for officers and the communities they are sworn to protect.

Increase federal funding for law enforcement training. Improved training can reduce the number of police-involved shootings and improve perceptions of police legitimacy. But if If we want police practices to change, then the way we train our officers must change — both when they are hired and throughout their careers. My administration will provide incentives for cities and states that hire a diverse police force and provide tools and resources to ensure that best practices on law enforcement training are available across America, providing local police with what they need to meet federal training requirements, including training on implicit bias and the scientific and psychological roots of discrimination, cultural competency, and engaging individuals with cognitive or other disabilities. And we should support evidence-based continuing education for officers throughout their careers.

Restrict qualified immunity to hold police officers accountable. When an officer abuses the law, that’s bad for law enforcement, bad for victims, and bad for communities. Without access to justice and accountability for those abuses, we cannot make constitutional due process protections real. But today, police officers who violate someone’s constitutional rights are typically shielded from civil rights lawsuits by qualified immunity — a legal rule invented by the courts that blocks lawsuits against government officials for misconduct unless a court has previously decided that the same conduct in the same context was unconstitutional. Qualified immunity has shielded egregious police misconduct from accountability and drawn criticism from across the political spectrum. Last month, for example, a federal appeals court in Atlanta granted qualified immunity to a police officer who, while aiming at a family’s dog, shot a 10-year-old boy while the child was lying on the ground 18 inches away from the officer. Just two weeks ago, another federal court used qualified immunity to dismiss a lawsuit against a school police officer who handcuffed a sobbing seven-year-old boy for refusing to go to the principal’s office. This makes no sense. I support limiting qualified immunity for law enforcement officials who are found to have violated the Constitution, and allowing victims to sue police departments directly for negligently hiring officers despite prior misconduct.

End racially discriminatory policing. Policies like stop-and-frisk and “broken windows” policing have trampled the constitutional rights of countless Americans — particularly those from Black and Brown communities — without any measurable impact on violent crime. I’ll end stop-and-frisk by directing the Justice Department to withhold federal funding from law enforcement agencies that continue to employ it and other similar practices, and I’ll work with Congress to pass legislation to prohibit profiling at all levels of law enforcement.

Separate law enforcement from immigration enforcement. The data are clear. When local law enforcement is mixed with immigration enforcement, immigrants are less likely to report crimes, and public safety suffers. It’s time to stop directing law enforcement officers to do things that undermine their ability to keep communities safe. My immigration plan will address this by ending the 287(g) and “Secure Communities” programs, putting in guidelines to protect sensitive locations like hospitals and schools, and expanding protections for immigrant survivors of violent crimes that come forward and work with law enforcement.

Demilitarize local law enforcement. Officer safety is critically important. But we don’t build trust between police and communities when we arm local law enforcement as if they are going to war. Militarizing our police contributes to mutual fear and distrust, and there is evidence to suggest it can actually make officers themselves less safe. As President, I will eliminate the transfer of military-grade weapons and lethal equipment to local police via the 1033 program, prohibit local law enforcement from buying military equipment with federal funding, and create a buy-back program for equipment already in use in our communities.

Expand the responsible use of body cameras and protect citizen privacy. Body cameras don’t solve every problem, but used consistently and appropriately they can decrease the use of force and misconduct complaints. The federal government should expand funding for body cameras — especially for smaller jurisdictions that struggle to afford them — in exchange for departments implementing accountability policies that ensure consistent and responsible camera use. I’ll also establish a task force on digital privacy in public safety to establish guardrails and appropriate privacy protections for this and other surveillance technology, including the use of facial recognition technology and algorithms that exacerbate underlying bias. And I’ll make it clear that individuals have every right to record an interaction with the police.

Reduce gun violence. We’ve learned the hard way in Massachusetts that the job of our police is made exponentially harder by the weapons flooding our streets. Common sense gun reform and meaningful safeguards will improve safety for law enforcement and the communities they serve. In 2017, almost 40,000 people died from guns in the United States. I have a plan with the goal of reducing that number by 80%, including by expanding background checks, establishing a federal licensing system, and holding the gun industry accountable for the violence promoted by their products.

Prosecutorial and Judicial ReformOur current criminal system is complex and places enormous power in the hands of the state. The government controls what leads to pursue, what charges are levied, whether a plea is offered, and how long someone spends behind bars. It has massive resources at its disposal, and enjoys few obligations to share information and limited oversight of its actions. All of this makes it challenging to ensure that the accused can go to trial, can get a fair trial, and can receive a just and reasonable sentence if convicted. To make matters worse, race permeates every aspect of the system — people of color are twice as likely to be charged with crimes that carry a mandatory minimum sentence. Reform requires a transparent system that emphasizes justice, that gives people a fighting chance — and truly treats everyone equally, regardless of color. Here’s how we can start.

Strengthen public defenders and expand access to counsel. The Sixth Amendment provides every American accused of a crime with the right to an attorney — but too many defendants cannot afford one, and too often, public defenders are under-resourced, overworked, and overwhelmed. If we expect fair adversarial trials, we need to balance resources on both sides of each case in every jurisdiction. I’ll fund federal public defenders and expand targeted grant funding for public defenders at the state level, to ensure that they have the tools to effectively defend their clients. I’ll also reopen and expand DOJ’s Office for Access to Justice, which worked with state and local governments to expand access to counsel. We should ensure that our public defenders are paid a fair salary for their work, and that their caseloads allow for the comprehensive defense of their clients. Finally, I’ll provide funding for language and cultural competency training, including on gender identity and treatment of individuals with disabilities, so that public defenders are best able to serve their clients.

Rein in prosecutorial abuses. Prosecutors are enormously powerful and often not subject to scrutiny or accountability. I will support a set of reforms that would rein in the most egregious prosecutorial abuses and make the system fairer, including reducing the use of coercive plea bargaining by DOJ prosecutors at the federal level, establishing open-file discovery, and putting in place responsible standards for evidence gathering. I’ll establish a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct to make additional recommendations for best practices and monitor adoption of those recommendations. And I’ll create an independent prosecutorial integrity unit to hold accountable prosecutors who abuse their power.

Expand access to justice for people wrongfully imprisoned. Defendants who are wrongfully imprisoned have the right to challenge their detention in court through a procedure known as habeas corpus. The Framers believed this right was so important to achieving justice that they guaranteed it specifically in the Constitution. It’s particularly important for minority defendants — Black Americans, for example, make up only 13% of the population but a plurality of wrongful convictions. In 1996, at the height of harsh federal policies that drove mass incarceration, Congress made it absurdly difficult for wrongfully imprisoned individuals to bring these cases in federal court. Since then, conservative Supreme Court Justices have built on those restrictions — making it nearly impossible for defendants to receive habeas relief even when they have actual proof of innocence. We should repeal these overly restrictive habeas rules, make it harder for courts to dismiss these claims on procedural technicalities, and make it easier to apply new rules that emerge from these cases to people who were wrongfully imprisoned before those rules came into effect.

Protect the rights of survivors. Crime victims have the right to safety and justice, the right to be consulted and informed about the status of their case, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We should provide support for those who have experienced trauma, including medical care and safe housing. This is particularly true for those who have experienced sexual assault or violence at the hands of an intimate partner. I’ll also fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and provide full funding to eliminate the rape kit backlog across the country.

Appointing a diverse judicial bench. The justice system should reflect the country it serves. Judicial appointments are primarily white and male, and large numbers tend to have a prosecutorial background. Diversity of experience matters. That’s why I have pushed for increasing the professional diversity of our federal judiciary to insulate the courts from corporate capture, and why I support gender and racial diversity for judicial nominees. I’ll appoint a diverse slate of judges, including those who have a background defending civil liberties or as public defenders.

Take into account the views of those most impacted by the system.As President, I will establish an advisory board comprised of survivors of violence, along with formerly incarcerated individuals. I’ll consult with this advisory board and listen to the needs of those who have first-hand experience with the system as we find fair and just solutions to the challenges we face.

Reforming Incarceration

The federal prison population has grown 650% since 1980, and costs have ballooned by 685%. This explosion has been driven in large part by rules requiring mandatory minimum sentences and other excessively long sentencing practices. These harsh sentencing practices are not only immoral, there’s little evidence that they are effective. As president I will fight change them.

Reduce mandatory minimumsThe 1994 crime bill’s mandatory minimums and “truth-in-sentencing” provisions that require offenders to serve the vast majority of their sentences have not proven effective. Congress should reduce or eliminate these provisions, giving judges more flexibility in sentencing decisions, with the goal of reducing incarceration to mid-1990s levels. My administration will also reverse the Sessions memo that requires federal prosecutors to seek the most severe possible penalties, and allow federal prosecutors discretion to raise the charge standards for misdemeanors and seek shorter sentences for felony convictions.

Raise the age for criminal liability. We know that cognition and decision-making skills continue to develop beyond the teenage years. For that reason, many states have raised the age of adult criminal liability to at least 17, or granted additional discretion to prosecutors when charging offenders between the ages of 16 and 18. The federal government should do the same — raising the age of adult criminal liability to 18, eliminating life-without-parole sentences for minors, and diverting young adult offenders into rehabilitative programs wherever possible.

End the death penaltyStudies show that capital punishment is often applied in a manner biased against people of color and those with a mental illness. I oppose the death penalty. A Warren administration would reverse Attorney General Barr’s decision to move forward with federal executions, and Congress should abolish the death penalty.

Use the pardon and clemency powers broadly to right systemic injusticesThe president has significant powers to grant clemency and pardons, and historically presidents have used that power broadly. But today’s hierarchical process at DOJ results in relatively few and conservative clemency recommendations. I’ll remove the clemency process from DOJ, instead empowering a clemency board to make recommendations directly to the White House. I’ll direct the board to identify broad classes of potentially-deserving individuals for review, including those who would have benefited from retroactivity under the First Step Act, individuals who are jailed under outdated or discriminatory drug laws, or those serving mandatory minimums that should be abolished.

Improving conditions in prisonToday prisons are often understaffed and overcrowded, making them dangerous for both inmates and corrections officers. Even as we fight to reduce incarceration levels, we should support improved staffing levels and better training for corrections officers, and humane conditions for those behind bars. As president, I will:

Ensure that incarceration meets basic human rights standards. From inadequate health care to dangerous overcrowding, today our prison system is not meeting the government’s basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe. I’ll embrace a set of standards for the Bureau of Prisons to fix this. That includes accommodating religious practices, providing reasonable accommodations for prisoners with disabilities, and limiting restrictive housing in accordance with evidence-based best practices. We should ensure that trans people are assigned to facilities that align with their gender identity and provide the unique medical and psychiatric care they need, including access to hormone treatments and help with adjusting to their care. And we should eliminate solitary confinement, which provides little carcerative benefit and has been demonstrated to harm prisoners’ mental and physical health, in favor of safe alternatives.

Protect special populations. Vulnerable individuals like pregnant women, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ individuals often require special protections while behind bars. I’ll implement a rigorous auditing program to ensure that prisons are adhering to legal requirements to protect LGBTQ+ individuals and others from sexual violence and assault while incarcerated, and prosecute prison staff who engage in misconduct. I’ll ensure that juveniles are not housed in adult facilities. I’ll also eliminate the use of solitary confinement for protective purposes. Instead, I’ll direct the Bureau of Prisons to establish a set of standards and reforms to protect the most vulnerable in our prison system in a way that does not involve confining a person for more than 20 hours a day.

Invest in programs that facilitate rehabilitation. The evidence is clear: providing education and opportunity behind bars reduces recidivism when people leave prison. But when prison populations went up and budgets went down, rehabilitation services were often the first cuts. In a world where the vast majority of prisoners will eventually leave prison, this makes no sense. I’ll double grant funding for these services in our prisons, expanding programs focused on things like vocational training, anger management, and parenting skills.

Expand mental health and addiction treatment. 14% of prisoners meet the threshold for serious psychological distress, and many more struggle with addiction — but too often, they receive prison time rather than treatment. And instead of increasing access to treatment in prison, the Bureau of Prisons has reduced it. Providing mental health treatment during incarceration reduces recidivism. We must take a comprehensive approach to incarcerated people who face mental health and addiction challenges, including requiring an adequate number of counselors and addiction specialists, individualized treatment, and increased access to medication-assisted treatment.

Eliminate private prisons. I have called to eliminate private prisonsthat make millions off the backs of incarcerated people. We should also end all-foreign or “criminal alien requirement” facilities, which are reported to have higher negative outcomes.

Support Reentry

The period after release from prison can be challenging for returning citizens. During this critical period, they are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be rearrested, more likely to overdose, and more likely to die. Recidivism rates remain high, in part because our prisons have not fulfilled their rehabilitative function, and in part because lack of opportunity after release drives individuals to re-offend. On top of all of this, more than 60,000 inmates in our prisons are there because of technical violations of their parole — for offenses as minor as a speeding ticket. We need evidence-based programs and interventions to break the cycle of incarceration and set formerly incarcerated individuals up for success when they return to their families and their communities. This is particularly true for youth and minors, who are especially vulnerable when returning to an unstable environment. Here are some of the steps I will take.

Pressure states to eliminate collateral sanctionsMillions of Americans are currently on parole or probation. We know that reducing the barriers to full reintegration in society reduces recidivism, but the system is rife with collateral consequences that hamper reentry for formerly incarcerated people who have served their time — from restrictions on occupational licensing to housing to the disenfranchisement of over 3 million returning citizens. We should remove those barriers and allow those who have served their time to find work and fully rejoin their communities.

Reduce needlessly restrictive parole requirementsTechnical parole and probation violations make up a large number of all state prison admissions, sometimes for infractions as minor as a paperwork error. While many rules are made at the state level, the federal government should seek to remove those barriers wherever possible, reduce parole requirements for low-level offenders, and remove the threat of jail time for minor parole violations.

Reduce discrimination during reentryI’ll reverse the guidance that exempts privately run re-entry programs that contract with the Bureau of Prisons from anti-discrimination laws, restoring protections for individuals with disabilities and those that encounter discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Establish a federal expungement optionMany states provide a certificate of recovery for nonviolent offenders who have served their time and maintained a clean record for a certain number of years. This should be replicated at the federal level.

Ensuring Reform at the State and Local Level

The federal government oversees just 12% of the incarcerated population and only a small percentage of law enforcement and the overall criminal legal system. To achieve real criminal justice reform on a national scale, we must move the decisions of states and local governments as well.

My administration will work with state and local governments and incentivize adoption of new federal standards through the grantmaking process. Federal grants make up nearly one third of state budgets, and states and local authorities spend about 6% of their budget on law enforcement functions. My administration would reprioritize state and local grant making toward a restorative approach to justice, and expand grant funding through categorical grants that require funds to be used for criminal justice reform and project grants that require funding to be allocated to specific programs. When necessary, my plan would also use federal enforcement authority. My administration would expand on the Obama-era practice of using Department of Justice consent decrees and other judicial settlements to enforce federal standards and remedy constitutional violations at the state and local level. My plan would also leverage the federal government’s Spending Clause authority and ability to impose civil rights mandates using cross-cutting requirements to ensure that state and local governments comply with federal criminal justice reform standards.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Bernie Sanders Releases ‘Justice and Safety for All’ Plan to Reform Criminal Justice

Senator Bernie Sanders, at Second Democratic Debate, has released his plan to reform the criminal justice system.

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders released his plan to reform the entire criminal justice system. This is from the Sanders campaign:

Blueprint aims to reform every aspect of America’s dysfunctional criminal justice system, ridding it of institutional racism and corporate profiteering

COLUMBIA, SC – Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running to be the Democratic candidate for president, released a comprehensive plan to reform the entire American criminal justice system in a speech he delivered August 18 in the Greenview neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina. The plan is designed to root out the institutional racism and corporate profiteering that is plaguing the existing system.

“If we stand together, we can eliminate private prisons and detention centers.  No more profiteering from locking people up. If we stand together we can end the disastrous “war on drugs.” If we stand together we can end cash bail.  No more keeping people in jail because they’re too poor. If we stand together we can enact real police department reform and prosecute police brutality. If we stand together, there is nothing, nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish.”

Sanders has fought mass incarceration during his decades in Congress, and he campaigned for president in 2016 on a pledge to end for-profit prisons — a pledge that other Democrats have subsequently decided to support 4 years later. Sanders’ new plan reiterates his original call to ban for-profit prisons, and builds on his leadership on criminal justice with new proposals for a top-to-bottom reform of America’s law enforcement, judicial and incarceration systems. They include:

End for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to bottom

  • Ending for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to bottom, including banning cash bail and banning civil asset forfeiture, which allows police departments to seize property from people who have not been accused or convicted of a crime.
     
  • Ensure the criminal justice system is not the “best justice money can buy” by vastly increasing funding for public defenders and creating a federal formula to ensure populations have a minimum number of public defenders to meet their needs, and working with states to set a minimum starting salary for public defenders.

End Mass Incarceration and Excessive Sentencing and Inhumane Incarceration and Transform the Way We Police Communities

  • Reversing mass incarceration and setting a goal of cutting the incarcerated population in half.
     
  • Transforming the way we police our communities, creating an unarmed civilian corp of first responders to handle mental health emergencies, homelessness, and other low-level issues that should not require contact with the police and criminal justice system.
     
  • Creating national standards for use of police force that emphasize de-escalation rather than violence, and holding police misconduct to strict federal standards, including limiting qualified immunity for police officers, creating a federal deadly use of force database, and a registry of disreputable officers.
     
  • Ending the War on Drugs, including legalizing marijuana and expunging past convictions for marijuana-related offenses and finally ending the sentencing disparities for crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses.
     
  • Abolishing the death penalty and solitary confinement.
     
  • Enacting a Prisoner Bill of Rights for incarcerated individuals, including living wages, access to families, access to educational and vocational training, and the right to vote.
  • Reverse the Criminalization of Communities, End Cycles of Violence and Provide Support to Survivors of Crime

Reversing the criminalization of disability, addiction, and homelessness.  

  • Treat children in the criminal justice system as children. This means raising the age to charge children in adult court to 18, ending long mandatory minimum sentences and life without parole sentences for youth, decriminalizing truancy, and investing in youth diversion programs and alternatives to the court and prison system.
     
  • End cycles of violence and interrupt them before they begin. This means focusing law enforcement resources on solving homicides and other serious crimes, funding Cure Violence programs and similar proven violence interruption models, and ending the national rape kit backlog. 
     
  • Support the victims and survivors of crimes by providing sustained resources to survivors and their families, including mental health care, trauma recovery services, relocation services, and assistance with basic needs.


Read the full plan HERE.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan to End Private Prisons and Exploitation for Profit

Senator Elizabeth Warren, seeking to be the Democratic candidate for President, has released her plan to root out the profit incentives standing in the way of real reform of the criminal and immigration systems © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Prior to her appearance at the NALEO Presidential Candidate Forum, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to root out the profit incentives standing in the way of real reform of our criminal and immigration systems. Her plan would ban private prisons and detention facilities, stop contractors from charging service fees for essential services, and hold contractors accountable by expanding oversight, transparency and enforcement.

“Last month Caliburn International — a for-profit company whose subsidiary operates Homestead, the largest detention center for unaccompanied migrant children — hired John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff. Caliburn has profited directly off of the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies — while children at Homestead are reportedly kept in unsanitary, prison-like conditions, often for months. Now John Kelly is cashing in, too,” Warren stated.

“Rep. Pramila Jayapal and I have demanded answers. But this is just the latest example of private prison companies wringing billions out of federal taxpayers. I’ve been after these companies to come clean about their practices and human rights abuses. Every answer just raises more questions.

“We didn’t get here by chance. Washington works hand-in-hand with private prison companies, who spend millions on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and revolving-door hires — all to turn our criminal and immigration policies into ones that prioritize making them rich instead of keeping us safe. From 2000 to 2016, the private prison population grew five times as quickly as the overall prison population. And the profiteers multiplied, too: today, nearly 4,000corporations make money off mass incarceration.

“President Obama took steps to lower the incarceration rate and wind down private prisons, but these companies got their biggest break yet when Donald Trump landed in the White House. With Trump, private prison companies saw their chance to run the same playbook for our immigration system. They poured money into lobbying for “alternatives” to ICE detention centers. And boy, did it pay off. Private detention centers have made millions implementing Trump’s cruel immigration policies, as the number of detained children quintupled in just a single year. Today 73% of detained immigrants are held in private detention facilities.

“The companies running prisons and detention centers regularly sacrifice safety to boost their bottom line. Private facilities have higher rates of assaults than federal prisons. They violate federal rules by putting incarcerated people into solitary confinement to fit more bodies in the building. They impose forced laboron immigrants just to make a buck. Multiple detainees have committed suicide. And now, under Trump, babies are getting sick and dying from their detention centers.

“The government has also stood silently by while private contractors providing services in both public and private centers come up with extortive schemes to make millions off of the backs of incarcerated people. Prison phone companies charge as much as $25 for a 15-minute call, forcing families into debt just to stay connected to loved ones. Commissary contractors mark up prices, and companies coerce detainees to work for as little as a dollar a day just to afford basic necessities like toothpaste.

“While contractors getting paid taxpayer dollars cut corners to maximize margins, the government has turned a blind eye. Food companies make millions but serve bug-infested food to save cash. An investigation into a prison transport company that allowed at least five deaths and a sexual assault to occur under their watch has gone nowhere.

“And today, the exploitation doesn’t end when individuals emerge from prison or detention. Current law pushes money into the hands of for-profit supervision companies, many of which are run by the same private prison corporations. These companies get rich by making people just getting out of prison — often with huge debts — pay outrageous fees for monitoring and supervision services like ankle monitors. Some have gone so far as to threaten individuals with reincarceration.

“This is exploitation, plain and simple. Our criminal and immigration systems are tearing apart communities of color and devastating the poor, including children. Women — especially women of color — are particularly saddled with the financial burden. We need significant reform in both criminal justice and in immigration, to end mass incarceration and all of the unnecessary, cruel, and punitive forms of immigration detention that have taken root in the Trump Administration.

“The first step is to end this private profiteering off cruelty.

“The government has a basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe — not to use their punishment as an opportunity for profit. That’s why today, I’m proposing my plan to root out once and for all the profit incentives perverting our criminal and immigration systems.

“Here’s what I’ll do:”

  • Ban private prisons and detention facilities. There should be no place in America for profiting off putting more people behind bars or in detention. That’s why I will shut down the use of federal private detention facilities by ending all contracts that the Bureau of Prisons, ICE, and the U.S. Marshals Service have with private detention providers. And I will extend these bans to states and localities by conditioning their receipt of federal public safety funding on their use of public facilities.
  • Stop contractors from charging service fees for essential services. Companies shouldn’t be able to treat incarcerated individuals as captive profit centers. We should prohibit contractors from charging incarcerated and detained people for basic services they need, like phone calls, bank transfers, and healthcare. I’ll also keep contractors from imposing exploitative price markups on other services they provide, like commissary or package services. And I’ll prohibit companies from charging for re-entry, supervision, and probation services, too — because no one should have to pay for their own incarceration, whether it’s inside a facility or outside of one.
  • Hold contractors accountable by expanding oversight, transparency and enforcement. It’s time to shine sunlight on the black box of private services that receive taxpayer dollars. I’ll close the ridiculous FOIA loophole that lets private prison subcontractors operate in the shadows. I will put in place an independent Prison Conditions Monitor within the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. The Monitor will keep contractors from cutting corners to make a quick buck by setting enforceable quality standards, regularly auditing and investigating contractors, and terminating their contracts if they fall short. I’ll direct the Department of Justice to prosecute companies that blatantly violate the law. And I’ll make sure companies are held accountable no matter who’s in the White House by allowing people to bring a lawsuit against abusive contractors who violate their rights.

“Washington hands billions over to corporations profiting off of inhumane detention and incarceration policies while ignoring the families that are destroyed in the process. We need to call that out for what it is: corruption. Incarcerating and detaining millions for profit doesn’t keep us safe. It’s time to do better,” Warren stated.

Read more about Warren’s plan to end private prisons here.

NYS Governor Cuomo Uses State of State Message to Define Justice Agenda

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This is what a progressive state looks like.

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all. 

In stark contrast to the federal government’s dysfunction and the self-destructive tactic of using the shutdown to extort a political prop, the Governor is laying out a blueprint to move forward, while shielding New Yorkers from Washington’s devastating federal attacks. It is aimed at strengthening the middle class, safeguards the environment, improves the health of communities and invests in building an infrastructure for the 21st century. For the ninth consecutive year, the Budget is balanced and holds spending growth below two percent.

“In December, in the face of the nation’s biggest social crisis, and with the federal government seeking to undo generations of progress, Governor Cuomo laid out his legislative agenda to enable the Legislature to commence action on these top priorities immediately upon convening.” In this State of the State Address, the Governor called on the Legislature to swiftly and immediately act on these priorities in the first 100 days of session.
 
“In the face of unprecedented challenges on a national level and a federal government at a complete standstill, New York will deliver on the most productive agenda in our history and build on our record of accomplishments,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a true Justice Agenda that ensures our neediest schools receive an equitable share of funds, advances historic criminal justice reform, safeguards our health care, protects the rights of women in our state from the federal government, and leads the nation in fight against climate change and contaminants in our environment and our water. While extreme conservatives in Washington govern by division and fuel dysfunction, New York State will raise the beacon of progress and take action to make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Here is a summary of the initiatives (it is long, but New Yorkers should see the detail of the agenda):

  • The FY 2020 Executive Budget is $175.2 billion on an All Funds basis.
  • State Operating Funds is $102.0 billion, growth of 1.9%
  • Health and Education spending grows at 3.6%, Executive Agencies at 0.8%.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE
  
Continue the Phase-In of Middle Class Tax Cuts: The Budget supports the phase-in of the middle class tax cuts. Under these reforms, rates will continue to drop to 5.5 percent and 6 percent when the cuts are fully phased in – an up to 20 percent cut in income tax rates for the middle class – and produce a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the State’s lowest middle-class tax rates in more than 70 years.
 
Extend the Millionaire’s Tax: To protect the progress that has been made in enhancing progressivity and ensuring tax fairness for New York’s middle-class, Governor Cuomo is proposing a five-year extension of the current tax rate on millionaires. This will preserve an estimated $4.4 billion annually otherwise unavailable to make vital investments in education and infrastructure to secure New York’s future economic prosperity.
 
Make Permanent the Property Tax Cap: Governor Cuomo made a first-ever property tax cap a hallmark of his first campaign for Governor and a priority of his administration’s first year. Since the implementation of the tax cap in 2012, growth has averaged approximately 2 percent and the tax cap has produced approximately $25 billion in taxpayers’ savings. The Governor proposes that New York preserve and make permanent the property tax cap, as he has advocated in the past.
 
Close the Carried Interest Loophole: Because of an egregious loophole in federal law, some of the wealthiest people in the country, including hedge fund managers and private equity investors, are paying lower tax rates on their income than many middle class families. This “carried interest” loophole results in a substantial cost to middle-class New Yorkers, with the State losing about $100 million every year. To ensure that the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share, Governor Cuomo will take a landmark step to close the carried interest loophole under New York State law and effectively eliminate the benefits of this loophole under the federal tax code.
 
Fight for the Full Deductibility of State and Local Taxes: Governor Cuomo fought the federal tax bill every step of the way while it was under consideration in Congress. After its passage, New York joined together with three other states to sue the federal government over this illegal and targeted assault. The Governor will continue to fight against this law and the threat that it poses to New York State, and he urges the new Democratic House of Representations stand together and demand that the SALT deduction is fully restored.
 
Continue Lawsuit Against Federal Government Challenging Unconstitutional Tax Law That Targets New York: Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood filed a lawsuit to protect New York and its taxpayers from Washington’s drastic curtailment of the SALT deduction. The lawsuit argues that the new SALT cap was enacted to target New York and similarly situated states, that it interferes with states’ rights to make their own fiscal decisions, and that it will disproportionately harm taxpayers in these states. The Governor and Attorney General Letitia James will continue in their fight to overturn the law’s unprecedented and unconstitutional limitations on SALT deductibility.
 
Building 21st Century Infrastructure
 
Invest an Additional $150 Billion in the Nation’s Largest Infrastructure Program: Governor Cuomo has made an unprecedented commitment to invest $150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years. Beginning in FY 2020, these capital projects will rebuild transportation and mass transit systems, drive economic and community development, create new environmental and park facilities, and support our sustainable energy future.
 
Reduce Traffic Congestion in NYC and Fund the MTA: This year, the Governor will implement congestion pricing to establish a reliable funding stream to transform the transit system and reduce congestion in Manhattan. By charging fees for vehicles to move within the most congested area of New York City and then reinvesting those funds into transit improvements, this plan will combat gridlock and deliver to New York City’s residents and visitors the world-class transit system they deserve. 
 
Establish Accountability for the MTA: The MTA is a bureaucracy that lacks any accountability. The board of 17 members gives no single person a clear majority of nominees and there are 32 unions representing MTA employees that exert significant political power over the elected officials who appoint the board members. To overhaul this bureaucracy and fix the system, the Governor will work with the Legislature to establish clear authority over the MTA, while continuing to solve the need for dedicated funding and splitting capital funding shortfalls between New York City and New York State. Only with clearly designated authority and adequate funding can the MTA can be overhauled into the efficient and effective transit system that New Yorkers deserve.
   
Expand Design-Build and Enact Other Efficiencies to Expedite Construction Projects: Governor Cuomo’s $100 billion infrastructure program is arguably the nation’s largest and boldest. Key to the program’s success is the Governor’s decision to deploy the design-build method on complex projects, saving taxpayers time and money by making a single contractor responsible for both a project’s design and its actual construction. To ensure efficiency across State projects, the Executive Budget includes legislation authorizing the use of state-of-the-art methods such as construction manager at-risk and construction manager-build, while expanding design-build to additional agencies.
 
Continuing New York’s Bottom-Up Economic Development Strategy
  
Invest $750 million for Round Nine of the Regional Economic Development Councils: In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) to develop long-term regional strategic economic development plans. Since then, the REDCs have awarded $6.1 billion to more than 7,300 projects. This strategy has resulted in 230,000 new or retained jobs in New York. The Executive Budget includes core capital and tax-credit funding that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for a ninth round of REDC awards totaling $750 million.
 
Invest in Communities Across the State Through the Fourth Downtown Revitalization Initiative: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise families. Participating communities are nominated by the State’s ten REDCs based on the downtown’s potential for transformation. Through three rounds of awards, each winning community was awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization. The Executive Budget provides $100 million for the Downtown Revitalization Program Round IV.
 
Ensuring A Quality Education for All
 
Require Districts to Distribute State Aid in a More Equitable Manner to Their Neediest Schools: Although the state distributes 70 percent of its funding to the neediest districts, the districts do not always distribute funding to their schools in an equitable manner. In fact, some school districts have schools with significantly higher needs receiving less than the average school in the district. Governor Cuomo proposes to require that these school districts devote a portion of their 2019-20 school aid to increase the per-pupil allocation in those high-need schools. This increase in allocation will help ensure that funding intended to help improve educational outcomes for the neediest students reaches those students.
 
$1 Billion Education Aid Increase: State support for school districts will have increased by $8.1 billion (42 percent) since FY 2012. Over 70 percent of this year’s increase goes to high-need school districts. Foundation Aid is increased by $338 million.
 
Expand Universal Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget includes an additional $15 million investment in pre-kindergarten to expand high-quality half-day and full-day prekindergarten instruction for three- and four-year-old children in high-need school districts.
 
Recruit 250 New Teachers in Shortage Areas through the We Teach NY Program: With the goals of diversifying and strengthening the teacher workforce pipeline, Governor Cuomo proposes to invest $3 million in the We Teach NY program, which will strategically recruit 250 new teachers to fill identified needed positions in New York classrooms in 2024.
 
Expand Master Teacher to High Poverty Schools to Increase Access to Advanced Courses: In 2013, Governor Cuomo launched the New York State Master Teacher Program to strengthen our nation’s STEM education, giving selected educators an annual $15,000 stipend for four years, professional development opportunities and a platform to foster a supportive environment for the next generation of STEM teachers. In order to recruit and retain outstanding educators in the highest poverty schools, the Executive Budget will provide $1.5 million to support 100 new Master Teachers who teach in high-poverty schools with high rates of teacher turnover or high rates of relatively inexperienced teachers.
  
Protect Student Loan Borrowers: There are approximately 2.8 million student loan borrowers in New York that have tens of billions of dollars in outstanding student loan debt, which is serviced by about 30 student loan servicers. The Governor will advance sweeping protections for student loan borrowers by requiring that companies servicing student loans held by New Yorkers obtain a state license and meet standards consistent with the laws and regulations governing other significant lending products such as mortgages; banning upfront fees; requiring fair contracts and clear and conspicuous disclosures to borrowers; and providing penalties for failing to comply with the law.
 
Creating Economic Opportunity for Every New Yorker
 

Launch the $175 Million Workforce Initiative: Governor Cuomo will launch a new Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments that will support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of growing industries — with a particular focus on emerging fields with growing demand for jobs like clean energy, health technology, and computer science. These funds will also support efforts to improve the economic security of women, youth, and other populations that face significant barriers to career advancement.  

Expand Employer-Driven Training Opportunities by Enhancing the Employee Training Incentive Program: Governor Cuomo proposes to expand the Employee Training Incentive Program to provide more training options to more industries by enabling employers with dedicated training shops to draw on in-house expertise in delivering approved training, and by extending ETIP tax credits to internship opportunities in additional high-tech industries.
 
Protect Workers from Union-Busting Activity by Codifying EO 183 into Law and Expanding its Protections to Local Governments: New York State has a long and distinguished history of standing by union workers. This year, Governor Cuomo will continue to advance his support for unions by introducing legislation that not only codifies EO 183 into law, but expands its protections to local governments to ensure that more union workers are protected.
 
Increase Criminal Penalties for Wage Theft: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to increase criminal penalties for employers who knowingly or intentionally commit wage theft violations to more closely align with other forms of theft.
   
Ensuring Access to Affordable Housing
 
Enact Historic Legislation to Strengthen Rent Regulation: This year, the Governor proposes aggressive rent regulation reforms, including ending vacancy decontrol, repealing preferential rent, and limiting building and apartment improvement charges. These changes will preserve the rent regulated housing stock, strengthen tenants’ rights to affordable housing, and ensure New Yorkers safe, quality affordable housing.
 
Limit Security Deposits to Reduce Housing Barriers: Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to limit security deposits to a maximum of one month’s rent across New York State, making New York’s security deposit limits among the strongest in the nation This law will serve to ensure that burdensome security deposits will no longer serve as a barrier to entry for anyone trying to find a new place to live.  

Help Families Build Credit and Holistically Evaluate Credit Scores: In New York State, most landlords conduct background credit checks on potential tenants, which often leads to rejecting applicants with low credit scores or an insufficient credit history. To ensure all New Yorkers have a fair shot of accessing affordable, quality housing, Governor Cuomo will issue regulations prohibiting state-funded housing operators from automatically turning away applicants with poor credit or histories of bankruptcy. Instead, the State will require that all potential tenants and homeowners be holistically evaluated to determine the circumstances behind their credit history and their ability to pay rent on a forward-looking basis.  

Enact Source of Income Protections to Support Fair Housing for All: In certain parts of New York State, landlords can reject applicants based on their lawful source of income, disproportionately impacting households that rely on non-wage income or income assistance and those who use vouchers to obtain housing for their families. The Governor will work with the legislature to amend the New York State Human Rights Law to prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income statewide to ensure that such lawful income is not a blanket barrier to housing, reducing financial instability for New York’s most economically vulnerable individuals.
 
Combating Poverty
  
Support ESPRI Communities and Establish ESPRI Representation on REDC Workforce Development Committees:  In 2016, Governor Cuomo created the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI) to combat poverty and reduce inequality. ESPRI is an important component of the Governor’s anti-poverty agenda, and this year Governor Cuomo proposes to build on the success of these State and local partnerships to address poverty, supporting more community-based efforts through continued funding of ESPRI. Governor Cuomo will also continue to support efforts by the REDCs and the economic development community to broaden and deepen their commitments to local anti-poverty efforts and he will ensure an ESPRI representative is included on each region’s Workforce Development Committee and involved in the review process for the Governor’s new Workforce Development Initiative.
  
Reduce Hunger and Food Insecurity: Building on historic investments to combat food insecurity, Governor Cuomo will establish a goal to reduce household food insecurity in New York State by 10 percent by 2024. In order to achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo is directing the following actions: create a food and anti-hunger policy coordinator; simplify access to SNAP for older and disabled adults; enhanced resources and referrals in clinical settings; participate in SNAP online purchasing pilot; and expand food access in Central Brooklyn.
 
Supporting the Rural and Agricultural Economy
  
Continue the Revitalization of the Great New York State Fairgrounds: The State Fair drives $100 million a year in economic activity in Central New York and thousands of jobs. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has invested more than $120 million dollars in two phases over the last three years to remake the New York State Fairgrounds. To continue the transformation of the State Fairgrounds, the State will make additional renovations and upgrades to enhance user experience. The Governor’s commitment continues to make the fairgrounds a year-round destination.
 
Fund Key Programs to Support New York’s Farmers: The agricultural industry is full of variability and uncertainty. As a reflection of the Governor’s resolve to support New York’s farmers, this year’s Executive Budget will continue funding the specialized technical assistance, industry promotion, and research investments statewide to reduce farms’ exposure to economic and climate inconsistency.
 
SOCIAL JUSTICE
 
Advancing Criminal Justice for All
 
Bail and Pretrial Detention Reform: Governor Cuomo is advancing legislation that will end cash bail once and for all, significantly reduce the number of people held in jail pretrial, and ensure due process for anyone awaiting trial behind bars. This series of reforms will include a mandate that police issue appearance tickets instead of making arrests in low-level cases, eliminate money as a means of determining freedom, and institute a new procedure whereby a district attorney can move for a hearing to determine whether eligible defendants may be held in jail pretrial, for which the judge must find reasonable cause to believe the individual is a danger to themselves or others.
 
Improve Transparency in the Discovery Process: As only one of ten states where prosecutors can withhold basic evidence until the day a trial begins, Governor Cuomo’s plan will bring New York’s discovery process into the 21st century by requiring both prosecutors and defendants to share all information in their possession well in advance of trial.  Defendants will also be allowed the opportunity to review whatever evidence is in the prosecution’s possession prior to pleading guilty to a crime.
 
Ensure the Right to a Speedy Trial: Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation that ensures criminal cases no longer drag on without accountability. With this proposal, Governor Cuomo will guarantee that all necessary discovery procedures are completed quickly, and that no New Yorker is unduly held in custody as they await their day in court.
 
Abolish the Death Penalty: Although the New York Court of Appeals ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 2004, capital punishment was never fully repealed in statute.  To address this disparity, Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation to permanently strike capital punishment from the law to guarantee that this draconian punishment is never again practiced in the State of New York.
 
Transform the Use of Solitary Confinement in State Prisons:  New York has dramatically reformed and reduced the use of solitary confinement for people who engage in misconduct within state prisons. The Governor is directing DOCCS to accelerate the momentum of solitary confinement reform by limiting the length of time spent in separation, building dedicated housing units for rehabilitation and integration following a disciplinary sanction, and expanding therapeutic programming to reinforce positive and social behavior.
 
Establish Compassionate Release: The Governor will establish a process of compassionate release for incarcerated individuals over the age of 55 who have incapacitating medical conditions exacerbated by their age.
 
Enact a Comprehensive Re-entry Package to Improve Outcomes for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals: Governor Cuomo will enact a four-point plan to ease the burdens placed on individuals who have paid their debt to society and provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed.
 
Legalizing Adult Use Cannabis
 
In January 2018, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to launch a multi-agency study to review the potential impact of regulated cannabis in New York. The study, issued last July, concluded that the positive impact of a regulated cannabis program in New York State outweighs the potential negative aspects. Building on extensive outreach and research, Governor Cuomo is proposing the establishment of a regulated cannabis program for adults 21 and over in the FY 2020 budget that protects public health, provides consumer protection, ensures public safety, addresses social justice concerns, and invests tax revenue.  Specifically, the program will: 

  • Reduce impacts of criminalization affecting communities of color.
  • Automatically seal certain cannabis-related criminal records.
  • Implement quality control and consumer protections to safeguard public health.
  • Counties and large cities can opt out.
  • Restrict access to anyone under 21.
  • Generate approximately $300 million in tax revenue and create jobs.

Advancing Reproductive Justice and Women’s Equality
  
Pass the Reproductive Health Act and Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act and Enshrine Roe v. Wade into the New York State Constitution: Governor Cuomo will work with the legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act within the first 30 days of the 2019 Legislative Session, codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade into State law. This law will ensure the right of people to make personal health care decisions to protect their health, in addition to their life, and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. Upon passage of the RHA, the Governor will advance a concurrent resolution to enshrine the principles of Roe v Wade into the New York State Constitution. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to codify affordable access to contraception, including emergency contraception, into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
 
Improve Access to In-Vitro Fertilization and Fertility Preservation Coverage: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to expand access to coverage for IVF, as well as medically-necessary fertility preservation services. This legislation will specifically mandate that large group insurance providers cover IVF and will also require large, small, and individual group insurance providers to cover egg-freezing services for women with certain health conditions, including those undergoing cancer treatment.
 
Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Racial Disparities: Based on recommendations from the Maternal Mortality Taskforce established by Governor Cuomo in 2018, the Governor will advance a series of policies to reduce maternal mortality and racial disparities in New York State, including creating an education and training program to reduce implicit racial bias in health care institutions statewide, expand Community Health Worker programs, enacting legislation to create a statewide Maternal Mortality Review Board, creating a data warehouse to provide near real-time information on maternal mortality and morbidity and to inform targeted quality initiatives, and convening an Expert Workgroup on Postpartum Care to develop recommendations targeting the critical time immediately after birth.
 
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment: Governor Cuomo will push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class to Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution. With this change, Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution will read: No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this State or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, sex, creed or religion, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation or institution, or by the State or any agency or subdivision of the state.
 
Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act: Governor Cuomo will advance the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which will build on Jenna’s Law to include more meaningful sentence reductions and encompass crimes committed not only against, but also at the behest of, abusers. The Act will also permit a small population of currently incarcerated survivors to apply for re-sentencing and earlier release due to their prior victimization.
 
Eliminate the Statute of Limitations for Rape: While New York removed the statute of limitations for Rape in the First Degree, a five-year statute of limitations remains for Rape in the Second Degree and Rape in the Third Degree. Therefore, in 2019 Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to remove the statute of limitations for Rape in the Second Degree and Third Degree.
 
Increase Protections Against Harassment in the Workplace: Building on the nation’s most comprehensive sexual harassment package signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2018, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to lower the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment, protect employees’ rights to pursue complaints, and ensure workers know their rights, by requiring all employers to conspicuously post a sexual harassment educational poster in their workplace.
 
Modernize New York’s Pay Equity Law: Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively to close the gender pay gap in New York. This year, Governor Cuomo will build upon that effort by championing the passage of a salary history ban. In addition, the Governor will advance legislation to expand the definition of “equal pay for equal work” to require equal pay on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, and other protected characteristics, and expand the requirement that equal pay be provided for all substantially similar work, adding flexibility in recognition of the complexity of the issue.
 
If You Can See It, You Can Be It 2019—Girls in Government: Governor Cuomo will create an opportunity for girls to learn about the impact they can have through politics through the new Girls in Government initiative, a non-partisan program to encourage girls in grades 8 through 12 to get involved in government and public policy. The program will introduce girls to the machinery of advocacy and public policy and teach young girls about public affairs and issues that matter to them personally and in their community. They will witness first-hand the inner workings of state government and meet with elected officials and senior staff.
 
Creating a Safer New York
 
Establish Extreme Risk Protection Orders to Save Lives: Governor Cuomo will continue to champion the Red Flag Bill, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill, which would prevent individuals determined by a court to have the potential to cause themselves or others serious harm from purchasing, possessing, or attempting to purchase or possess any type of firearm, including handguns, rifles, or shotguns. This legislation builds on New York’s strongest-in-the-nation gun laws, and, if passed, would make New York the first state to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention.
 
Extend the Background Check Waiting Period: Governor Cuomo continues to support legislation to establish a 10-day waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
 
Ban Bump Stocks: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to close existing statutory loopholes to prohibit ownership or sale of a bump stock. As evidenced by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, bump stocks can be equipped to semi-automatic weapons to simulate machine gun fire with deadly consequences. Bump stocks serve no legitimate purposes for hunters or sportsmen and only cause unpredictable and accelerated gun fire, and there is no reason to allow for their continued sale in New York State.  

Pass the Child Victims Act: Having advanced the Child Victims Act, Governor Cuomo is fighting to enact the bill and provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice. This legislation will increase the length of time during which a child sex abuser may be held criminally accountable, allow abuse victims to commence a civil lawsuit at any time until they reach age 50, and ensure that each and every survivor has an opportunity to seek justice by creating a one-year window for victims whose claims have previously been time-barred to bring suit.  

Enact Comprehensive Safety Reforms for Large Passenger Vehicles: The horrific tragedies involving modified stretched limousines in Schoharie County in 2018 and Suffolk County in 2015 filled every New Yorker with a deep sense of empathy and sorrow for the victims and their loved ones. Governor Cuomo proposes a number of statutory reforms to both protect passengers and hold those accountable who seek to flout the law, including an outright ban on the registration of remanufactured limousines, prohibiting their operation in New York State.
 
Authorize Speed Cameras: In order to reinstate the bill signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2013 authorizing the City of New York to develop a system to advance school zone highway safety utilizing camera technology to record and enforce speeding violations, the Governor will put forward a proposal to reinstate and expand the speed camera program in New York City.
 
Enacting the Democracy Agenda
 
Allow Universal Absentee Voting: Governor Cuomo will push to amend the constitution to make absentee ballots available to any eligible voter, no matter their reason for wanting one. 
 
Enact Statewide Early Voting: This proposal would combine early voting with electronic poll books, making make it easier for poll workers to keep track of voting records and verify voter identity and registration status. 
 
Permit Same-Day Registration: Governor Cuomo is proposing amending the constitution to eliminate this outdated but formidable barrier to the ballot box. 
 
Automatic Registration: Today New Yorkers are given the opportunity to register to vote when interacting with State agencies and they must affirmatively ask to be registered. The budget will include a proposal to reverse that process and register eligible New Yorkers to vote unless they affirmatively ask not to be registered. Automatic voter registration will not only boost voter registration and turnout in this state, it will also strengthen our democratic process. 
 
Make It Easier to Register to Vote: In order to ensure voter registration is as simple as possible, the Governor is proposing that all automatic voter registration opportunities be available online, and that New Yorkers are able to apply to register to vote on the State Board of Elections website if they choose to do so. 
 
Make Election Day a Holiday: An inability to take off of work should never be a barrier to voting. For this reason, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to ensure that every worker in New York State receives, as of right, paid time off to vote on Election Day.
 
Eliminate Restrictions on Voting Before Noon in Upstate Primaries: Governor Cuomo will fix unequal ballot access across the state by ensuring that voting hours are extended for primary elections upstate to match those voting hours across the rest of the state. 
 
Fight to Ensure that All New Yorkers Are Counted in the 2020 Census: In 2019, Governor Cuomo will launch a comprehensive campaign to protect the integrity of the 2020 Census and to ensure that every New Yorker is counted.
 
Enacting Ethics Reform
 
Adopt Campaign Finance Reform: Governor Cuomo will advance a comprehensive package of campaign finance reform legislation to combat the unprecedented influence of big money in politics and empower the voices of all New Yorkers.

  • Public Financing of Elections: There is no incentive in today’s campaign finance system for candidates to focus on ordinary donors. Large donors provide large donations which drown out the voices of ordinary people. Public campaign financing is the remedy to this problem. By enacting a 6:1 public financing matching ratio for small donations, candidates will be incentivized to focus on small donors.
  • Lowering Campaign Contribution Limits: Governor Cuomo is proposing lowering contribution limits for all candidates. By implementing these reforms, and creating a strong public financing system, New York will dramatically reduce the influence of money in politics and return to a government by the people and for the people.
  • Ban Corporate Contributions and Fully Close the LLC Loophole: Ever since the Citizens United decision in 2010, corporate money has overtaken our elections system. It is time for New York State to finally say enough is enough. Governor Cuomo will fix this problem once and for all by banning all corporate and LLC contributions. It is time to restore the power to the people, and take it out of the hands of dark money and special interest donors.
  • Strengthen Disclosure Laws that Expose Dark Money in Politics : In June 2016, Governor Cuomo advanced ethics reform legislation to address the impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). The Governor cautioned about the increase of dark money in politics and promised to “strengthen disclosure requirements and mandate that groups report the identity of anyone exerting control over them.” In August 2016, the Governor signed into law New York Executive Law § 172, which requires disclosures of political relationships and behaviors widely recognized to be influential but which operate in the shadows. Now, with the lessons of the 2018 election in hand, the Governor proposes strengthening this law in a variety of ways to assure all New Yorkers have critical information about who is actually speaking to them. Further, the Governor is seeking to streamline the reporting process for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations, including by providing a mechanism for organizations to apply for a statutory exemption before the start of a reporting period.

Require Financial Disclosures by Local Elected Officials: This proposal will require these local elected officials to submit basic financial disclosure information to JCOPE, just like their state counterparts, so that the people of New York State can have the information they need about the people they choose to represent them at all levels of government.
 
Build a Dynamic, User-Friendly Database of Economic Development Projects: In an effort to increase transparency and modernize the information available on State economic development efforts, the Governor is directing Empire State Development (ESD) to build and host a searchable online database that will give the public more current and relevant information on projects that receive ESD assistance. When deployed, the new database will provide the public with more recent information on projects and combine the data from many static, program-specific reports into one dynamic, user-friendly website.
 
Ensuring Immigrant Rights
 
Pass the Jose Peralta DREAM Act: Governor Cuomo will pass the Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act to finally open the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers. The Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act will give undocumented New York students, who are deserving of the same advantages given to their citizen peers, access to the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as state administered scholarships. 
 
Codify Executive Order Prohibiting State Agencies from Inquiring About Immigration Status: In 2017, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 170, prohibiting State agencies and officers from inquiring about or disclosing an individual’s immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service. Building upon further amendments to the Executive Order, Governor Cuomo proposes codifying the protection of the amended EO 170 into law.
 
Protecting LGBTQ Rights
  
Pass the Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Act:Governor Cuomo supports the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), solidifying protections against discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes against people on the basis of gender identity.
 
Banning Conversion Therapy: Governor Cuomo supports legislation to expand the definition of professional misconduct for professions licensed under the education law to include engaging in, advertising for, or allowing someone under one’s direction or oversight to engage in conversion therapy with a patient under the age of eighteen years. 
 
Ban the “Gay Panic” Defense: Governor Cuomo will again push to close the loophole in New York State by passing legislation to ban gay and trans panic defenses.
 
Make Surrogacy Legal in New York State: New York State law presently bans the practice of gestational surrogacy, and creates destabilizing uncertainty about who the legal parents are when a child is conceived via other reproductive technology like artificial insemination or egg donation. The Governor is proposing legislation to lift the ban on surrogacy contracts to permit gestational carrier agreements.
 
Serving Our Veterans
 
Support for Transgender Troops: New York will stand with all veterans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This year, all New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs staff will receive LGBTQ cultural competency training to help understand how to best serve LGBTQ veterans. DVA will also work with LGBTQ-focused organizations to make sure that each and every LGBTQ veteran receives individualized assistance in a safe and supportive environment, including by helping LGBTQ veterans upgrade their service discharges so that these brave veterans will be able to access healthcare, education, financial compensation, and other benefits they have earned.
 
JUSTICE FOR ALL NEW YORKERS
  
Protecting Quality, Affordable Health Care
 
Codify Health Care Protections and Coverage Guarantees for New Yorkers: In light of the continued federal attacks on the ACA, Governor Cuomo believes it is essential that New York codify key ACA provisions, including the state’s health insurance marketplace, as well as enhanced State regulatory protections into State law. This is critical to stabilizing the health insurance market and inoculating New York from any further federal attacks on the health care system.
 
Take Action to Achieve Universal Access to Health Care: Governor Cuomo is establishing a Commission on universal health care to be supported by Department of Health and Department of Financial Services, and comprised of health policy and insurance experts to develop options for achieving universal access to high-quality, affordable health care in New York. This review process will consider all options for expanding access to care, including strengthening New York’s commercial insurance market, expanding programs to include populations that are currently ineligible or cannot afford coverage, as well as innovative reimbursement models to improve efficiency and generate savings to support expanded coverage.
 
Fighting to End the Opioid Epidemic
 
Protect New Yorkers from Predatory Practices: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to 1) require that out-of-state facilities be licensed in their home state and accredited by a nationally recognized organization, and 2) prevent predatory out-of-state providers from targeting justice involved individuals by working with courts to immediately connect individuals to in-state treatment programs and by advancing legislation to protect in-state court ordered treatment. He will also direct OASAS to implement regulations that require out-of-state marketers comply with OASAS requirements when marketing in New York State. With these actions, New York will implement the strongest practices in the nation to protect its residents, forcing predatory treatment programs to look elsewhere to fill their facility quotas.
 
Expand Access to Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is an important advance in Medication Assisted Treatment, which, like methadone and injectable naltrexone, is used in combination with counseling as appropriate to help people reach and sustain recovery from Opioid Use Disorder. To expand use of buprenorphine, Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Health to require all hospitals statewide to develop protocols for their Emergency Departments to address Opioid Use Disorder based on the standard of care for treatment or referral for treatment.
 
Expand Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Criminal Justice Settings: To expand access to treatment in prisons and jails, Governor Cuomo has directed OASAS to distribute over $4 million to support addiction treatment services in over 50 facilities. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will expand access to Medication Assisted Treatment by providing $1.2 million to support the establishment of up to three new MAT programs in State prisons.
 
Increase Access to Naloxone: Governor Cuomo will direct DOH to advance legislation that expands Good Samaritan laws to apply to workers in restaurants, bars, and other retail establishments. In addition, Governor Cuomo will increase access to naloxone at SUNY and CUNY by ensuring that naloxone is provided as part of every dorm first aid kit, or available for the Resident Assistant on duty every night in every SUNY and CUNY dorm.
 
Launch a Comprehensive Substance Use Prevention Blueprint for Schools: At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York State will launch a statewide collaborative to streamline all prevention resources and develop best practices, standards, and metrics for substance use prevention into a focused “Prevention Blueprint” that will assist schools to follow a comprehensive, evidence-based and data-driven approach to prevention. OASAS shall work in collaboration with the State Education Department, Department of Health and the Office of Mental Health to develop the Prevention Blueprint for use in the 2020-21 school year.
 
Creating Healthy Communities
  
Protect New Yorkers from Unknown Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: Governor Cuomo will introduce new legislation authorizing the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health and the Department of State to develop regulations establishing an on-package labeling requirement for designated products, indicating the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals, developing a list of the more than 1,000 carcinogens and other chemicals that will trigger labeling, and identifying the types of consumer products that will be subject to the new regime. DEC and DOH will be further empowered to require manufacturers to disclose the chemical contents of consumer products in sold or distributed in New York State and explore possible additional measures to protect consumers.
 
Control Health Threats from Tobacco: Governor Cuomo is proposing comprehensive legislation to combat the rising use of tobacco products. This legislation includes:

  • Raising the Minimum Sales Age for Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Products from 18 to 21: Most underage youth obtain tobacco and vapor products from friends who are over 18 and can legally purchase products. Raising the minimum age will remove sources of tobacco from high schools.
  • Ending the Sale of Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Products in Pharmacies: Health care related entities should not be in the business of selling tobacco, the leading cause of preventable death in New York State. Ending the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies will reduce the availability, visibility, and social acceptability of tobacco use, especially to youth.
  • Clarify the Department of Health’s Authority to Ban the Sale of Certain Flavored E-Cigarette Liquids: Flavored combustible cigarettes, except menthol, were banned by the FDA in 2009 to reduce youth smoking as they were frequently used as a starter product.  Most e-cigarette users said their first e-cigarette was flavored. Flavors, such as sweet tart, toffee, and bubble gum, make e-cigarettes more attractive and make e-cigarettes more attractive to youth. Legislation is being introduced to provide the Department of Health the authority to ban the sale of flavored liquids that target youth use of e-cigarettes.
  • Restricting Available Discounts Provided by Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Retailers: New York has the highest cigarette tax in the nation, but manufacturers and retailers have developed tactics to reduce prices, such as “buy one, get one free” discounts. These tactics directly target price-sensitive consumers, including youth. Restricting discounts on tobacco and vapor products will strengthen the impact of New York’s tax on tobacco and disincentivize tobacco use.
  • Introduce a Tax on E-Cigarettes: Tobacco use is reduced or prevented when the price of tobacco products is high. Youth are particularly sensitive to price increases on tobacco products. New York State has one of the highest taxes on combustible cigarettes and one of the lowest youth smoking rates in the country. The same rationale is expected to apply to taxation and youth use of electronic cigarettes and e-liquids.
  • Require E-Cigarettes to Be Sold Only Through Licensed Retailers: Currently the sale of e-cigarettes is almost entirely unregulated. Restricting the sale to licensed retailers will allow the current enforcement infrastructure to ensure that minors do not purchase tobacco products.

Invest in Community-Based Supports for Aging New Yorkers: Governor Cuomo proposes investing $15 million in community-based supports for aging New Yorkers. This needed targeted investment in NYSOFA’s programs and services will help serve more older adults and will help them maintain their autonomy, support family and friends in their caregiving roles, and delay future Medicaid costs. Working with the Department of Health, NYSOFA will develop specific metrics to evaluate the success of this investment.
 
Create the Family First Transition Fund: The state will leverage the investment of private foundation funding to create a Family First Transition fund that will provide resources to local departments of social services and foster care agencies to have the resources needed to prepare for the implementation of the Family First federal legislation. This investment will allow New York State to adequately prepare for the implementation of Family First and will position New York to continue to prioritize the needs of its most vulnerable children and families and ensure the local departments of social services are fully equipped to meet those needs while maintaining compliance with important federal benchmarks.
 
Continuing New York’s Environmental Leadership
 
Launching the Green New Deal:  Amidst the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment and in order to continue New York’s progress in the fight against climate change, Governor Cuomo is announcing New York’s Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy. At the Governor’s direction, New York will move boldly to achieve this goal with specific near-term actions and long-term strategies to spur unparalleled innovation and transform the state’s electric, transportation, and building infrastructure while prioritizing the needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. This landmark initiative will further drive the growth of New York’s clean energy economy, create tens of thousands of high-quality 21st century jobs, provide all New Yorkers with cleaner air and water by reducing harmful emissions, and set an example of climate leadership for the rest of the nation and world to follow.  
 
Establish $10 Billion Green Future Fund: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance a $10 billion Green Future Fund to support clean water infrastructure, renewable energy and clean transportation, and open space and resiliency. This fund includes $5 billion in total for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure—building upon the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and effectively doubling the state’s investment in clean water over the next five years.
 
Continue Historic $300 Million Environmental Protection Fund: Governor Cuomo proposes maintaining the State’s historic $300 million EPF. This investment will prioritize programs to protect New York’s water bodies, promote stewardship projects in parks and on other state lands, revitalize municipal waterfronts, and build community resilience to climate change—all while creating jobs and stimulating local economies.
 
Expanding the Bottle Bill to Include Most Nonalcoholic Drinks: In order to reduce litter and provide relief to overburdened municipal recycling entities who are struggling amidst changes to the global recycling markets, Governor Cuomo will expand the Bottle Bill to make most non-alcoholic beverage containers eligible for 5 cent redemption, including those for sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages and ready-to-drink teas and coffee. 
 
Prohibiting the Use of Plastic Bags: To address the environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags, Governor Cuomo proposes a statewide plastic bag prohibition with certain exceptions.

2019 State of the State Book Available Here

With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19

Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March Alliance with board members including Sulma Arzu-Brown, Debra Dixon-Anderson, and Freedom Shannon and Giovanni Taveras of the New York State Veteran’s Chamber. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Women’s March Alliance, the official organizer of the March on NYC since 2017, will stage its third annual march on Saturday, January 19. Line up begins at 10 a.m. with the march kicking off at 11 a.m. on 61st Street and Central Park West (main entrance on 72nd and Columbus). The march, which is expected to draw 100,000 participants, will run along Central Park West south around Columbus Circle, east on 59th Street then south on 6th Avenue.

The complete map route is available at https://womensmarchalliance.org/2019-womens-march-on-nyc.

The theme for this year’s Woman’s March, taking place in New York City on Saturday Jan 19, could well be “I am woman. Hear me roar,” especially after the dramatic successes culminating in the 2018 elections that saw a record number of women running for office and elected – women now one-fourth of Congress, and there are four more women governors.

And in New York, the successful takeover of the Senate gives new hope for a progressive agenda, topped with the Women’s Reproductive Health Act.

But the Women’s March Alliance organizers worry that sheer exhaustion and complacency might rightly set in after all that happened to produce the success of  2018, but that there still so much work to be done, not the least is: Now you have heard our roar, act.

“We want to make sure we don’t stop fighting. We are half way there. We can’t stop now. We have to move forward,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March Alliance. “The theme for the march is ‘Your Voice Your Power.’ We have seen what happened in 2018  Elections. New York cannot stand back. New York leads nation in progress.” (The actual hashtag for the march is #YourVoiceYourPower)

Indeed, that there is still so much work to be done is reflected in the cavalier attitude Trump and Republicans have to shutting down government, with no clue and no care of the ramifications on women and families that go beyond withholding pay to 800,000 federal workers as well as contractors,from food safety to food stamps, from mortgages to small business loans, from housing vouchers to veterans benefits. They even stood by while the Violence Against Women Act expired.

And then there is the unbelievable cruelty being inflicted on millions of families across the nation who may have an undocumented immigrant among them but American citizen spouse or children, or the four million Dreamers whose lives are in limbo. Think of the desperate migrants as the Trump Administration tries to overturn domestic violence and gang violence as a basis for asylum; the forced separation of families; the families of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees here for decades under Temporary Protected Status who have been told they will be deported. Think of the families ripped apart. That’s a woman’s issue, too.

Now Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to take funds allocated for rebuilding communities devastated by climate disasters in Puerto Rico afflicted by Maria, in California after the wildfires, in Florida and South Carolina after Michael. And then there is the humanitarian crisis created by Trump’s anti-immigrant policy that has led to two children dying while in US custody, and hundreds of children rendered orphans, thousands more traumatized by their condition.

But this is New York State, and thankfully, there is finally full control by Democrats. On January 22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the State Legislature is expected to pass the Reproductive Health Act, strengthening abortion access by codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade in state law, after 12 years of trying but failing. But this action cannot be taken for granted. There is still need to push the politicians to act –and not take such landmark for granted..

This is no time to be complacent – the regressive forces are not complacent, they are seizing the opportunity of a hard-religious right majority on the Supreme Court, to push through personhood amendments that essentially give more rights to a fetus than the mother carrying it. Women have actually been prosecuted for miscarrying and such laws could be applied to punish women for behaviors that are deemed harmful to a fetus. Essentially, women would become slaves of the state, not considered entitled to the same right of self-determination as a man. Big Brother doesn’t begin to describe government’s intervention..

If Roberts’ Court rules that the fetus has “personhood” rights under the Constitution,  all abortions would be illegal — even in states like New York that overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to choose.  (See the full series of editorials in the New York Times, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/28/opinion/abortion-law-pro-life.html).

So this year’s march has its own urgency: to cement and recommit, to make sure that the electeds carry out what could be called a woman’s agenda but encompasses so much because women’s issues are so broad.

Here’s a partial list: gun violence prevention, universal health care, universal pre-K, affordable college, climate action and environmental justice, immigration reform, pay equity, parental leave, criminal justice reform… Way too many to fit into a soundbite,  a poster or a tweet.

But if you still need a motivation, consider this: the 2020 presidential election is already underway, and the way women candidates for office are once again being evaluated according to a different standard (“likeability,” “shrill”).

The danger of complacency needs to be recalled: that’s what happened in 2016, when too many believed that Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman to head a major party ticket meant that America had entered a post-feminist era, just as Obama’s election was supposedly a post-racist era. Okay to stay home out of some manufactured outrage, just because you could; okay to throw a vote away on an independent candidate, because of course the most qualified candidate, who stood for gender rights, civil rights, criminal justice, environmental justice, economic justice, would win. We saw how that went.

The march, which will include opportunities to register to vote (and local elections in 2019 are important), is a call to action to get things done while we have the “honeymoon” of the new electeds and the fear of God in the incumbents – because they think they can do anything they want and ignore the voices of 2018 because the electorate won’t remember in 2020.

It is important, as well, to keep the networks and the alliances intact, for the affirmation and validation that the marchers give to one another. And because 2020 is right around the corner.

Indeed, the greatest threat to the Women’s movement is complacency (and fatigue) after the hard-won victories of 2018.

“We must be fearful that people have become comfortable, because that’s what happened in 2016 – we were the popular vote, we still are the popular vote, we don’t want to get comfortable and let the crazy seem like the status quo & normal,” said Freedom Shannon, a member of the board of WMA which describes itself as “a nonprofit alliance of human rights supporters who seek to close the social, political and economic gender divide.”

“We are changing what it means to be a woman in our society. We have marched to being one in five in Congress, but we need to come out January 19 to honor those who have come before us, to show those in countries that cannot assemble, what democracy looks like, and pave the way for future generations,” Shannon said. “On January 19, we will unify our voices so we amplify enough to be heard by the people in power and soften their hearts so they can act without prejudice.”

The organizers at a press conference introducing the event stressed that WMA is completely separate from Womens March Inc. which organized the Washington March in 2017 and is holding a rally in New York City also on January 19. That organization raised controversy of being anti-Semitic when leaders expressed support for Louis Farrakhan.

Siemionko notedWe are a local grassroots team of volunteers hosting this event for the third year in a row, and we do not have nor have we ever had an association with Women’s March, Inc. or its founders.”

She continued, “Our mission is to include and advance women regardless of faith, sexual identity and preference, race, cultural and religious background or political affiliation.”

Siemionko was firm on insisting that WMA is inclusive, and that like all the other sister marches that took place in 2017 and 2018 in cities across the nation, all grew organically, as local grassroots organizations reflecting their communities.

She stressed how WMA went out of its way to accommodate the Jewish community, including organizing the march so it would start within walking distance of a large segment of the community on the Upper West Side. “We wanted to honor those Jews who want to honor Sabbath without taking public transportation, but can march to support women’s rights.” In addition, Siemionko will be participating in a panel on January 17 at the Stephen Wise Synagogue.

“The confusion happened when Womens March Inc, the official march of DC, decided to break ground here in NYC. Unfortunately that happened at time when irresponsible wording was used to insult different communities.

“One of the reasons we became part of WMA since its inception is that anti-Semitism, racial discrimination, LGBT discrimination had no place here, especially in New York City, the most diverse place in the nation, in the world,” said Debra Dixon Anderson, director of operations of the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a WMA board member, “and we appreciate all different walks of life.”

WMA is the only organization that has a permit from New York City for a march on January 19.

Enter at 72nd Street to Central Park West, or enter from Central Park. There will be a 15-minute kickoff at 11 am (not a rally), then the march will get underway at 11:15, go south past Columbus Circle, east on 59, then south to 44 Street. Check the site for details.

There will be a female Indian chief to bless the march, female drum bands, brass bands, acrobats, DJs, and activists.

In conjunction with the event, people will have a chance to see “Eyes of the World,” a giant, collaborative mosaic, 5 ft tall and 18 feet wide, produced by thousands of contributors since the first Women’s March on New York City in 2017. that is on view at the Newburger Gallery in the lobby of SUNY Optometry (33 West 42nd Street), across from Bryant Park, noon to 9 pm.

“’Eyes of the World’ is a tangible and permanent reminder to the United States government that our eyes are constantly watching to ensure all policies embody human rights, advance civil rights, and promote the highest degree of equality,” write Joanne and Bruce Hunter, artists and creators of public art.

The message of the 2019 Women’s March should be: We won. Now act.

WMA 2019 Women’s March on NYC official Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1823403231077663/
WMA website: https://womensmarchalliance.org/
WMA 2019 Women’s March on NYC registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/womens-march-on-nyc-official-tickets-49313994485
WMA donation link: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/womensmarchalliance

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Designates Nassau County DA Singas Special Prosecutor in Eric Schneiderman Case

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas speaks to county Democratic legislators on ways to improve the County’s procurement process © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Governor Andrew Cuomo has designated Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas as Special Prosecutor to investigate, and if warranted, prosecute, “any and all matters” concerning the public allegations against Eric Schneiderman, who has resigned as the state’s Attorney General after being accused by four women of sexual assault.

In a letter to Acting Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood, who was formerly the state’s Solicitor General, and Singas, Governor Cuomo referenced the New Yorker article dated May 7, 2018 titled “Four Women Accuse New York’s Attorney General of Physical Abuse.”.

Singas is the former head of the Special Victims’ Bureau at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the founding member of the Domestic Violence Bureau at the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, so she has specific and extensive expertise in this area, the Governor noted.

“In addition to investigating the specific allegations outlined against Schneiderman in the article, the Special Prosecutor shall investigate facts in the article suggesting that the Attorney General staff and office resources may have been used to facilitate alleged abusive liaisons referenced in the article.

“The Special Prosecutor shall have the powers and duties specified in subdivision 2 of section 63 of the Executive Law for purposes of this review, and shall possess and exercise all the prosecutorial powers necessary to investigate, and if warranted, prosecute the alleged incidents.”

The Special Prosecutor is also charged with working with District Attorney Tim Sini of Suffolk County regarding the incident that reportedly occurred in the Hamptons located in Suffolk County, as well as with any other District Attorneys who have relevant fact patterns.

“The Special Prosecutor’s jurisdiction will displace and supersede the jurisdiction of the New York County District Attorney’s Office (“DANY”), as there appears, at a minimum, an appearance of a conflict of interest with the Attorney General’s Office, which is currently investigating the relationship and actions between DANY and the New York Police Department and their handling of alleged illegal acts including sexual harassment and assault, by producer Harvey Weinstein.

“There can be no suggestion of any possibility of the reality or appearance of any conflict or anything less than a full, complete and unbiased investigation. The victims deserve nothing less.”

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NYCLU, ACLU, BDS File Class Action Suit Challenging Trump Administration’s Indefinite Detention of Immigrants

2018 Womens March NYC: Protesting to stop raids on immigrant families, save DACA © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

NEW YORK –The New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union and Brooklyn Defender Services filed a federal class action lawsuit today challenging the recent cessation of bond hearings for immigrant detainees and the Trump administration’s indefinite detention of immigrants.

The administration’s halting of bond hearings in New York follows a February Supreme Court decision in a case from California, Jennings v. Rodriguez, holding that a federal immigration statute does not entitle immigrants to bond hearings. In that case, the Supreme Court chose not to decide whether the U.S. Constitution independently requires bond hearings and instead sent the case back to the appeals court in California to address that question. In New York, however, the federal appeals court already recognized that the Constitution requires such hearings in a 2015 case, Lora v. Shanahan. Nonetheless, the federal government has stopped providing them to immigrant detainees in New York. Today’s lawsuit seeks to restore bond hearings and due process protections for jailed immigrant New Yorkers.

“In the pursuit of its anti-immigrant agenda the Trump regime seeks to do away with basic legal protections that are fundamental to any notion of justice,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Immigrants are entitled to due process, and bond hearings are a vital safeguard against the unjustified and prolonged imprisonment that the Trump regime seeks to impose on all immigrants. The New York Civil Liberties Union and our partners will fight to ensure immigrant New Yorkers can rely on the rule of law even under the Trump regime. ”

Hundreds of thousands of people both with and without lawful status are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) each year. Immigration detention can last months or even years, as people fight their deportation cases through a slow and backlogged immigration court system. Bond hearings are an essential opportunity to demonstrate to a judge that incarceration is not necessary to ensure that someone returns to court. Without a hearing, immigrants, including asylum seekers and green card holders, may remain locked up indefinitely while they fight their cases.

“Without the opportunity to request release, our clients, including asylum seekers and long-time green card holders, are indefinitely detained and separated from their families, their jobs, and their communities in horrific detention centers,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services. “Indefinite detention is contrary to our most basic constitutional principles and we are proud to continue the fight for due process and justice for our clients and their communities.”

The lead plaintiff in the class action, Augustin Sajous, is a 60-year-old Haitian man who has lived in the US for 46 years, since he became a permanent resident as a child in the 1970s. He studied engineering, bought a house, and helped raise a family, but in recent years he has struggled with mental health issues, which led to bouts of homelessness. Mr. Sajous was arrested by ICE in September 2017 and is subject to deportation because of two 2015 misdemeanor convictions for bending MetroCards in order to use them with zero balance.

“The Supreme Court’s recent ruling does nothing to undermine the fact that the Constitution ensures that all people in the U.S. are entitled to due process protections,” said Jordan Wells, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We are taking action now to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers who are currently detained get a fair opportunity to secure their freedom.”

In addition to Wells, counsel on the case include NYCLU staff attorneys Robert Hodgson, Paige Austin, and Aadhithi Padmanabhan, associate legal director Christopher Dunn and paralegal Maria Rafael, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project staff attorney Michael Tan and deputy director Judy Rabinowitz, and BDS attorneys Andrea Saenz, Brooke Menschel, Zoey Jones and Bridget Kessler.

Trump: Go Nuclear on SCOTUS Nominee Neil Gorsuch; Meets with Groups Who Advocated for Nominee

The US Supreme Court Building, Washington DC. Trump is insisting that Democrats swiftly confirm his nominee to fill Scalia’s seat, Neil Gorsuch, even though Republicans blocked any confirmation hearing for Obama’s nominee for nearly a year and threatened to refuse to consider any nominee if Hillary Clinton would have become President © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The US Supreme Court Building, Washington DC. Trump is insisting that Democrats swiftly confirm his nominee to fill Scalia’s seat, Neil Gorsuch, even though Republicans blocked any confirmation hearing for Obama’s nominee for nearly a year and threatened to refuse to consider any nominee if Hillary Clinton would have become President © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This is pool reporting from John Bennett at CQ Rollcall (cqrollcall.com), about Trump’s meeting on his nominee to Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch. Note the people in attendance, and how he is perfectly fine with the “nuclear option” – going to a 51 vote threshold instead of 60 (intended to get a more mainstream candidate for a lifetime appointment intended to make them independent of partisan politics):

POTUS entered the Roosevelt Room at 11:45 a.m., greeting guests from groups the White House worked with while selecting a SCOTUS nominee and will be working with to get Judge Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court. He shook hands with several attendees before urging them to sit around the large table.

The news first, to review last Pool report for those who might have missed it. In response to a question from Fox’s John Roberts, the president endorsed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell using the so-called “nuclear option” to get Gorsuch confirmed with 50 votes, rather than the 60 needed now to end debate and move to an up-or-down floor vote. Here is POTUS’s response:

“Yes, if we end up with the same gridlock we’ve had in Washington for longer than neight years, in all fairness to President Obama, a lot longer than eight years. If we end up with that gridlock I would say, ‘If you can, Mitch, go nuclear.’ Because that would would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was put up to that neglect. I would say it’s up to Mitch, but I would say, ‘Go for it.”

About six minutes before endorsing the “nuclear option,” POTUS began the session by holding Florida-based televangelist Paula White’s chair.

Of Gorsuch, Trump said he doesn’t “know how anyone can oppose him at all.”

“He’s a terrific person, by the way. I got to know him reasonably well. … He is just a spectacular man, and I think he’s going to be a spectacular [justice]. … He’s perfect in just about every way.”

POTUS said, nearly two weeks into the job, that defending the country is the office’s most important function. No. 2 would be selecting a Supreme Court nominee. Trump took a shot at President Obama, saying, ““We have problems that are a lot bigger than people understood. I was left something…with a lot of problems.” He vowed to “straighten them out very strongly.”

Trump predicted Senate Democrats will “look for the “almosts” in Gorsuch’s legal background, but he did not elaborate on any concerns he might have or a strategy to counter such a line of attack.

He called his nominee an “exceptionally qualified person from the standpoint of experience and education – Columbia University with honors, Harvard Law School with honors, Oxford at the highest level. … Great intellect.”

“We want to watch him go through an elegant process as opposed to a demeaning process. They’re very demeaning on the other side. They want to make him look as bad as possible. Of course, the media can very demeaning, as well. … I really think he’s a very dignified man, and I would like to see him go through a dignified process. I think he deserves that. And hopefully it will go quickly. And we will see what happens….

“I think there’s a certain dishonesty if they go against their vote from not very long ago. He did get a unanimous endorsement. … You can’t do it better, from an educational…from any standpoint. A great judge, he’ll be a great justice. I feel it’s very dishonest if they go back [on their previous votes].”

During the SCOTUS meeting, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus sat at the far end of the table with a stern facial expression, just as he did in the morning’s “listening session.” There was no senior adviser Jared Kushner in this meeting with SCOTUS groups, but White House counselor Kellyanne Conway sat a few seats to Trump’s right, near Priebus. Vice President Mike Pence stood to the left of the table in a dark suit, white shirt and bright red tie, his arms crossed at his chest for a few minutes.

Full list of attendees, per the White House:
Mr. Morton Blackwell, The Leadership Institute
Mr. Tom Collamore, U.S. Chamber of Commerce — attendance TBD
Ms. Marjorie Dannenfelser, Susan B. Anthony List
Ms. Juanita D. Duggan, National Federation of Independent Business
Mr. Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association
Mr. Leonard Leo, Federalist Society
Ms. Penny Nance, Concerned Women for America
Mr. Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
Mr. David O’Steen, National Right to Life
Ms. Paula White, New Destiny Christian Center
Ms. Charmaine Yoest, American Values