We are only halfway through 2020 and we have faced challenges that will surely affect us for years. As our community heals and we adapt to a new normal, we are pressed to take a hard look at another epidemic that has gone ignored for far too long.
George Floyd was murdered by men sworn to protect him and others in his community. He was not the first. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in February. Breonna Taylor in March. Three lives among many that have lost their lives as a consequence of the systematic racism that plagues our country.
Those of us working in the criminal justice system know that punishment is not equally delivered. The disparity in sentences imposed against blacks compared to sentences imposed against whites for violations of the same crime must be recognized. Black and Brown have been marginalized by a system built on unequally delivered punishment without a focus on change, healing, and restoration.
We do not know all the answers. But we know that one thing is true. Black Lives Matter. The value of Black lives does not decrease by someone’s inability to see its worth. Racism may take lives, but it will not break the spirit of a resilient people, who have withstood appalling acts of cruelty, abuse, and neglect for centuries and are still fighting for a world who sees them as equals. We must choose to see and act in accordance.
Advocate Program is a social justice agency which focuses on the safety and wellbeing of our clients, and all who reside in and visit our community. This agency was created to provide the criminal justice system an alternative to incarceration along with an opportunity for each individual to reexamine their actions, begin to heal, and learn how to navigate a world that is filled with challenges. Not everyone can do this work. You must see people for who they are and who they are trying to be. We stand with the Black community. We will continue to use our voice and platform to advocate for justice, shelter, and safety for all people. We will continue to have dialogues and learn. We will continue to be better and be accountable when we fail.
We are proud to partner with so many who are standing together and fighting for Black Lives to be seen and treated as equal. As a community, we must elevate beyond dialogue and institute new ways to ensure our mission in public safety does not over criminalize Black lives. Now is not the time to stay silent. Now is not the time to hide behind the falsehoods of politics. This is not a political statement. This is a human one. We must be vocal and strive to abolish all traces of racism. Only then can we reach the ideals of the Nation we are meant to be.
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Isabel Perez-Morina, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer • Advocate Program Inc.
President, Florida Association of Community Corrections