Racial Justice

Criminal Justice Reform

The United States has the largest prison population of any country in the world, and African Americans are disproportionately targeted and locked up for non-violent offenses just as likely to be committed by their white peers. It’s time to right these wrongs. 

Jerry supports abolishing  private prisons, banning solitary confinement, investing in restorative justice and rehabilitative programs and advocates for greater accountability of law enforcement, including body cams and independent review boards. Jerry also supports reforming federal sentencing guidelines, incentivizing local governments to end cash bail, decriminalizing recreational marijuana use, limiting federal civil asset forfeitures, banning federal executions and halting the militarization of local police forces. Jerry also believes Congress has a role to play in justice for incarcerated mothers, and supports the creation of federal programs aimed at addressing the harms imposed on incarcerated individuals in the prenatal or postpartum periods and outlawing inhumane prison practices that affect mothers.

Police Reform

Jerry will introduce federal legislation to make it a crime for law enforcement to “recklessly deprive” and “negligently deprive” a person of her constitutional rights. This would make it easier for the Department of Justice to ensure that police officers are prosecuted and convicted when they engage in conduct they know will cause or they reasonably can foresee causing physical  harm or death. Likewise, as a constitutional law professor, Jerry will strongly advocate for the US Attorney’s office of the Western District of Pennsylvania to focus its investigative efforts on unconstitutional police practices in Black and Brown communities.

Currently, Jerry and his law students at the University of Pittsburgh are providing legal counsel to activist groups in Pittsburgh to create the nation’s first democratically-elected public body overseeing a police department. This unprecedented project will transform police accountability nationwide. As Congressman, Jerry plans to take this initiative to the next level by   introducing legislation that would incentivize local governments with federal funding to form elected independent police review boards to hold police departments and/or police officers accountable that violates constitutional rights. 

Jerry also supports ending federal laws that permit the federal government to send military surplus to local law enforcement agencies. The practice has caused local police forces to look and act like soldiers going to war, instead of community partners. The civil unrest we see from communities after the death of community members at the hands of police is exacerbated by the presence and use of military-style force and weapons by police. 

Jerry believes provisions in collective bargaining agreements that shield officers with a violent history from liability are unlawful and repugnant to the public health and safety. Jerry will create a program incentivizing local police unions and municipalities to abolish those provisions to ensure violent officers are held accountable and can no longer hide behind contract provisions that shield them from punishment. 

Jerry will introduce legislation to reform the federal civil rights statute, Section 1983, by abolishing the qualified immunity defense, which allows officers to escape liability if the officer “reasonably” believes his conduct was lawful, regardless of whether his actual conduct was unlawful. This is unjust. Constitutional violations by police should allow victims and victim families to win lawsuits, not give the bad actor the ability to escape liability. Jerry also strongly supports requiring local governments to pay damages to victims who have been mistreated by police employed by the local government.

Jerry also strongly supports diverting federal funding away from States and localities that facilitate the presence of police in schools. Instead, Jerry believes we need to move towards evidence-based and trauma informed services that address the needs of students.

Finally, to bring justice, Jerry will introduce legislation that would allow local U.S. Attorneys to bring suit under Section 1983. If federal laws have been violated by law enforcement, then the federal government should act on behalf of the victim to bring recourse and justice, rather than just the victim bringing suit herself.

Reparations

Jerry believes the federal government has an important role to play in ameliorating past discrimination against Black and Brown communities, the lingering effects of slavery and the legacy of Jim Crow laws. As a civil rights lawyer and law professor, Jerry serves as legal counsel to an historic Black church in Pittsburgh in requesting and negotiating reparations with public and private stakeholders to remedy past discrimination as a result of an urban renewal project. As Congressman, Jerry would support federal legislation to create a reparations commission to study the issue and would take the lead in crafting legislation to implement a nationwide reparations program.

Jerry's Priorities

  1. Climate Change
  2. Closing the Wage Gap
  3. Education
  4. Gentrification and Affordable Housing
  5. Gun Reform
  6. Health Care
  7. Jobs, Wages, and the Economy
  8. LGBTQI+ Rights
  9. Money in Politics
  10. Racial Justice
  11. Voting Rights and Elections
  12. Women’s Equality
  13. Youth Engagement
  14. Immigration