What's wrong with WA's Gang Bill?

From Unite4Justice:

"Our state legislature is considering a gang bill,  HB 2712, that could be devastating to communities of color, especially youth of color, if it passes. In this 3-part video, Priest Amen of POCAAN and James Bible of the NAACP summarize the bill and their objections to it. Please consider lending your support by opposing this bill. Here are action steps we urge you to take:

  1. Send out email encouraging your people to watch this video and learn about HB 2712.
  2. Call the WA State Legislative Hotline 800-562-6000 to voice your opposition to HB 2712, the gang bill.
  3. Please come to the Public Hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 3:30 in Olympia at the Capital Building. A strong turnout is very important - voices concerned about racial profiling and the over-incarceration of people of color need to be heard. Going to the Public Hearing from Seattle? Join our Caravan, leaving Starbucks at 23rd and Jackson at 12 noon."

Policies that increase penalties without providing mitigation for the conditions that cause the unwanted behaviors, that separate already vulnerable families, and that increase hostility between law enforcement and young people are likely to increase, not decrease, violence.  This bill was created by legislators, law enforcement, and social workers.  Youth and community members were not brought to the table.  The motivation is good, but the process and approach are deeply flawed.

The main points made in the film is that the bill:

  1. Legitimizes racial profiling
  2. Falsely stereotypes common culturally-relevant non-violent behaviors as gang-related
  3. Is all about increasing arrests and harsher punishments
  4. Fails to address or even acknowledge the racism and poverty that put youth at risk for gang involvement
  5. Lacks any focus whatsoever on recovery ad prevention support for youth at risk
< John & Elizabeth Edwards launch Iraq/Recession Campaign today | For 1st time ever, more than 1 in every 100 Americans are currently incarcerated >
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Connie Rice, co-director of the Advancement Project in L.A. says in an interview with The Sun magazine recently, "We've got an epidemic of violence, and containment suppression won't work forever, because epidemics jump boundaries...Yes, with another 3,000 cops [we] could reduce the drive-by shootings and the street crime in L.A.  But we can't arrest our way out of the bigger problem.  Having more police does nothing to alter the mind-set of kids who are attracted to gangs...Right now we need a movement against violence, against hopelessness and despair, against the mind-set that says, 'I'm going to be dead at 19, so why bother?'"

This bill does nothing to curb the hopelessness and despair that might drive a youth to find identity in a gang.

by Sarah MK on Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 02:45:13 PM PST

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