The Movement for Black Lives coalition unveiled proposed federal legislation Tuesday seeking to radically transform the US criminal justice system.
The proposals, collectively referred to as the BREATHE Act, follow protests against the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Elijah McClain, as well as countless other individuals who perished at the hands of police years ago. This legislation seeks to “divest our taxpayer dollars from brutal and discriminatory policing and invests in a new vision of public safety—a vision that answers the call to defund the police and allows all communities to finally BREATHE free.”
The BREATHE Act has four main goals—divert federal resources from jails and police, invest in other methods of community safety, allot funds to rebuilding communities, and hold law enforcement officials accountable for civil rights violations. The act seeks to accomplish its first goal by eliminating federal programs used to support the criminal justice system. The policing, prosecution, sentencing, and jailing practices used in the criminal justice system adversely impact black and brown communities. Through this first goal, the BREATHE Act seeks to reverse the deleterious effects these communities experience on a daily basis. The second goal aims to provide community-led approaches to public safety by defunding local police forces. The act seeks to implement its third goal by promoting educational judgment, which would provide equal funding among all public institutions, close youth detention centers and replace them with community-based, rehabilitation focused centers and remove both armed police and security guards and surveillance equipment from schools. The last goal seeks to prevent voter suppression and disenfranchisement, which currently affects black and brown communities at a greater rate than white communities.
The four goals articulated in the BREATHE act seek to fulfill the Movement for Black Lives’ mission, which is:
“We are rising up against all the ways that the criminal-legal system has harmed and failed to protect Black communities. The current moment requires a solution that fundamentally shifts how we envision community-care and invest in our society. History is clear that we cannot achieve genuine safety and liberation until we abandon police, prisons, and all punishment paradigms.”
Members of Congress have yet to comment on whether they will introduce the BREATHE Act.