The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, among others have awoken the nation to the injustices our Black colleagues, neighbors and friends have understood for far too long, especially when it comes to interactions with police Eugene recognizes the systemic racism faced by Black Americans here in PA-10 and across the country, has a long, entrenched history that will require significant reforms to begin to correct.
Throughout his time in public service, Eugene has been guided by the core principle that accountability makes people and institutions better. As Auditor General, Eugene released a slate of suggested reforms that would decrease rates of incarceration in the commonwealth, such as keeping nonviolent drug offenders out of prison, avoiding returning nonviolent parole violators to jail, and reforming the cash bail system that disproportionately keeps low income defendants behind bars. The suggested reforms would save Pennsylvania taxpayers $100 million that can be reinvested into reentry programs that help returning individuals successfully transition and reduce rates of recidivism.
The slate of recommended reforms include:
- Magisterial district justices should be trained on the current disparities and harmful outcomes of the cash bail system.
- Any use of a risk-assessment tool to determine pre-trial detention should be balanced by the use of a needs-assessment tool to determine what basic human needs a person has – such as the need for food, shelter or clothing — to be released pre-trial and not reoffend.
- Court officials must work with police, district attorneys, public defenders, health officials, probation and parole officers and more to create robust systems that identify defendants who need help, not punishment, to prevent recidivism.
- County courts should implement diversionary courts, especially those for drug treatment, mental health and veterans.
- County commissioners and prison boards should work together to standardize medical services based on best practices. For example, labor and delivery policies should be standardized so that a consistent level of care and safety is present across the state and so that care is guaranteed in case of complications.
- At the state and county levels, screenings for mental health histories, substance abuse histories and sexually transmitted diseases should be automatically performed at intake.
- Congress should expand the Second Chance Pell Program and provide for more federal student aid in prisons.
- The General Assembly should pass a law ensuring that people with criminal records cannot be automatically disqualified from obtaining professional licenses unless the crime committed relates to the practice of that profession.
- The General Assembly should reintroduce and pass the Pennsylvania Second Chance Jobs Act so that the Department of Labor and Industry can develop and maintain a website where formerly incarcerated people can search for and apply to jobs.
- County probation needs to be better funded so that probation officers can better support the people they supervise and help them meet the terms of their supervision. Probation should be about providing people with ways to address mistakes that amount to technical violations.
- State and county officials should work together to reallocate resources to counties so they can provide support services to people on probation or parole.
- The state Constitution should be amended so that the Board of Pardons requires, at minimum, a majority vote, not a unanimous vote, to send pardon and clemency recommendations to the governor in cases with sentences of life imprisonment or death.
Eugene has voiced his support for the passage in Congress of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. A framework of federal reforms to address disparities in policing of minority communities.
The Justice in Policing Act would ban the use of chokeholds by police officers, limit the transfer of military-grade weapons, like tanks, to local police departments, and reform qualified immunity, which shields police officers who engage in misconduct from accountability.
Key provisions of the bill include:
- Ban the use of chokeholds
- Ban the use of “no-knock” warrants
- Requires deadly force be used as a last resort
- Requires broader use of body cameras and dashboard cameras
- Reforms qualified immunity that shields bad police officers from accountability
- Limits the transfer of military-grade weapons to local police departments such as tanks
- Establishes a national registry of law enforcement misconduct
- Designates lynching as a federal crime
Eugene also supports the establishment of community review boards, with representatives appointed by local officials such as Mayors and City Councils, in consultation with community leaders. The review board would provide civilian oversight and guidance of law enforcement especially in cases of policing tactics, police brutality and excessive use of force.