FWD Statement: Defend Black Lives

Senior Criminal Justice Reform Director Zoë Towns issued the following statement today on the killings of Black men and women across the country:

Always, and now certainly, it is critical that we listen to and support Black organizers – those with U.S. citizenship and those without – who are demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others. We stand with them in fighting for accountability from the criminal justice systems that have failed on so many fronts, and which consistently target rather than protect Black people.

That more than 4,000 protestors have been arrested this weekend is a particularly dark irony with extremely scary due process, bail, detention, deportation, and imprisonment consequences that only perpetuate the patterns that protestors have bravely called out. The fact that these arrests are occurring when COVID-19 is spreading through jails, prisons, and detention centers is chilling, and makes all of us less safe.

In the brazen killing of George Floyd, we recognize the same presumptions of dangerousness and guilt and the same incentives handed down by federal, state, and local governments for bigger enforcement systems with increasingly punitive approaches which have opened the doors to the criminal justice system wider and wider to Black people. Across this country, Black people are more likely to be stopped, searched, and killed by law enforcement, as well as arrested, jailed, convicted, and sentenced to prison. Black people are the least likely to be paroled home.

In our work at FWD.us, we will continue to hold that public safety cannot mean “protecting” white communities at the expense of Black communities. We hold that freedom, justice, and safety collapse when they are placed in competition with each other, and that instead they must be advanced collectively toward a dramatic downsizing of the scale and influence of the American criminal justice system – from police to prosecution to prisons.

What gives us hope is the rallying cry, growing louder and more organized every day, that true public safety will not be achieved in America until we reckon with the ways the criminal justice system has harmed Black people, Black families, and Black communities, and until we commit to advance the policies and investments that defend Black lives.

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