Attacks on civil liberties are coming from all directions. With new, outrageous developments occurring daily, it’s hard to keep up with the deluge. As a civil liberties organization, we feel this too. We often feel like we are jumping from one crisis to the next, putting out fires as quickly as they arise. As the ACLU, our mission is not only to protect civil liberties, but to advance them. And to do this effectively, we need to focus our work and have a plan.
Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of WV is unveiling three campaigns to guide our work for the next decade. With these campaigns we aim to fundamentally change West Virginia. We seek to invest in our children—all of them. We seek to end the scourge of mass incarceration. We seek to give people real power over their government. Ultimately, we seek to make WV a more just and compassionate home for all.
We have serious problems in West Virginia. The time for half measures is over. We need big, bold ideas if we want to live up to the ideals embodied in our state’s motto---montani semper liberi. These campaigns are an effort to fulfill a long-term vision in which mountaineers truly are always free.
We have chosen to focus our work on three areas for the next decade: juvenile justice reform, criminal justice reform, and defending democracy. Each campaign will integrate our legal, outreach, and policy work. They will be driven by clear, ambitious, but achievable goals. We will use data-driven, evidence-based practices to reach these goals.
Juvenile Justice Reform
Juvenile Justice has been a focus area of the ACLU-WV for many years already. It’s driven by the belief that children don’t belong in cages; that families should not be separated; and that we are failing to address the mental and emotional health needs of at-risk youth. Our Juvenile Justice Reform campaign will measure success by the following goals:
- Reducing juveniles in detention by 75%
- Reducing juveniles in out-of-home placement by 65%
- Reducing out-of-home placement for status offenses by 90%
- Reducing referrals to the juvenile justice system from schools by 50%
- Eliminating disparate minority contact in schools and the community
Criminal Justice Reform
Protecting the rights of those accused and convicted of crimes has been another long-standing mission of the ACLU. Recently, the ACLU unveiled a Smart Justice campaign aimed at reducing incarceration in the US by 50%. Blueprints for achieving this goal are being crafted for every state, and the WV blueprint is here. The ACLU-WV’s Criminal Justice Reform campaign incorporates and expands on this goal. We recognize that our broken criminal justice system needs reforms at every point, from initial contact with law enforcement, to reentry. With this in mind, the campaign’s goals are:
- Reducing the number of people incarcerated by 50%
- Reducing the number of people in pretrial detention by 90%
- Reducing complaints of excessive force by 50%
- Eliminating disparate rates of arrest and incarceration for people of color.
Since 2010, 25 states, including West Virginia, have passed over 35 laws restricting voting rights. To fight back against this trend, the final campaign is Defending Democracy. The goals of this campaign are to increase participation, promote informed voters, and foster civic engagement. Unlike the other campaigns, many of these things are difficult to measure and control. Instead, this is our goal:
- To create a political landscape in which there are no serious threats to limiting participation, and there are serious efforts to expand participation.
Over the next few months, we will be traveling around the state to give a more in-depth explanation of these campaigns, the goals and the plans to move the campaigns forward. Stay tuned for information about when an event will be in a city near you. You can find more information about the campaigns and sign up to volunteer with them here. Let’s make history.