The Grassroots Law Project: A Fix for America’s (in)Justice System?

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“Mass incarceration is a monster that took hundreds of years, with millions of laws and policies, to build. We need to dismantle it — piece by piece, structure by structure, and build something redemptive in its place.”

These are the words that preface the Grassroots Law Project plan of action for addressing issues within the United States’ police and incarceration system.

Defund Police and Invest in Communities

Framed by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who stated, “budgets are moral documents,” these policies seek to redirect the US’ massive policing and incarceration spending — around $200 billion annually — towards things like infrastructure, education, healthcare, and much more. This priority shift, both fiscal and therefore by their logic implicitly moral, is important, as it underpins the policy changes to come. Overall, this policy section seems to be focused on withdrawing the ‘police’ from policing, and replacing them with context-specific and community-focused treatment programs as opposed to the typical rule-by-law punishment system we have become accustomed to.

End Police Violence

This section focuses on reducing the likelihood of violence by police on the ground and on reflects the prevalence of de-escalation training in other countries around the world. The call for US police to receive greater training in this capacity has existed for a while, with the US adopting a more self-defensive approach for its officers, rather than one that prioritizes the public’s life as well.

Establish Independent Oversight

Many of the concerns regarding police conduct stem from the lack of accountability officers of the law experience in the US. In recent memory, part of the outrage that came as a result of the Ahmaud Arbery case was tied to the months-long delay on any criminal charges being placed on his attackers.

Hold Police Accountable

While the previous section is focused on investigating and sanctioning law enforcement agents in cases of misconduct, this subtitle covers the microlevel steps and procedures that could be put in place to prevent cover-ups, further assist the families of victims, and overcome barriers to police accountability.

Decarcerate: Pretrial, Sentencing, and Prosecutorial Reform

One of the more broad sections, with aims such as decriminalizing all drugs, ending the death penalty, and reducing penalties for a range of non-violent crimes, the ‘decacerate’ effort overall seeks to lessen the number of people being punished and increase the number of people being helped. One mode of thinking here includes reducing the number of things that can get people in jail; another mode of thinking involves helping people avoid excessive punishment once they are caught and increasing their rights even after convicted.

Reform Immigration

Touching on many hot debates that dominated news headlines over the past several years, immigration reform seems to be somewhat distanced from the other demands. However, in light of their mission statement to fight the “mass incarceration monster,” it still very much relevant.



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Thomas Brown

Thomas Brown

Student of politics and history. Enjoying the circus before the tent burns down. Founder of Practicing Politics —