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PLBC Spring-Summer 2021 newsletter

Taking a stand against family-separation policy

(Jun 21, 2018)

The events that have been unfolding along the U.S.-Mexico border have been heartbreaking and unbearable to see. As a mother, I cannot fathom the idea of having my children taken away from me, let alone the devastating impact on the children. This separation is a vile and inhumane act. I am firmly against the administration’s zero tolerance, family-separation immigration policy. I joined some of my colleagues from the House and the Senate for a rally Thursday in opposition to these actions. I also co-sponsored House Resolution 1000 , which would urge the president to immediately reverse the policy. While the president signed an executive order into place Wednesday that would stop the separation of immigrant children and parents, we all must make sure he stands by it. Using children as political pawns is a tasteless and horrifying tactic to gain immigration policy changes. I hope Congress will work on sensible reform and to ensure these events do not occur again. This country is supposed to be the land of the free for everyone, not just for some. Read more


Legislative package would help incarcerated women, parents in Pa.

(Jun 21, 2018)

HARRISBURG, June 21 – State Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., and colleagues today unveiled a package of legislation that would help incarcerated women and parents in Pennsylvania. "I'm glad that we're having vital, bipartisan discussions about criminal justice reform. I think it's crucial for those discussions to include women and girls of color," said Cephas, chairwoman of the Women and Girls of Color Subcommittee of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. "Women are the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population. Since 1985, the rate of incarcerated women has increased at nearly double the male rate. The ACLU reports that African-American women and women of color are significantly overrepresented in the prison population. African-American women are 30 percent of incarcerated women in the United States, but only 13 percent of the female population. In addition, Hispanic women are 16 percent of incarcerated women but only 11 percent of all women in the U.S." Cephas plans to introduce a bill to create a Women and Girls Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. "I believe this would aid the commission in its work as it specifically relates to research and programs that will have a direct impact on women and girls." Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., chairman of the PLBC, said, “This package of legislation would help support incarcerated women in the commonwealth’s prison Read more


McClinton motion delays vote on sentence risk assessment tool

(Jun 14, 2018)

HARRISBURG, June 14 – State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, today lauded the vote by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to postpone a move on the controversial sentence risk assessment tool. McClinton, who serves on the commission, made the motion to delay the vote after receiving several pieces of testimony against implementing the tool. The commission voted unanimously to postpone any action. The General Assembly mandated the commission to adopt a sentence risk assessment instrument to serve as an aid in the sentencing process in an effort to reduce the prison population. It would provide judges with facts and information to ensure a defendant receives the proper punishment while indicating if they need help, such as a drug treatment program. McClinton said she believes the risk assessment tool is unfair because it would adversely impact people of color. “During three public hearings, including one in Philadelphia where 33 people testified, we heard from citizens, the Philadelphia Bar Association and advocate groups opposing the sentence risk assessment tool because of its racial implications,” McClinton said. “We cannot allow a judge to put someone in a box when they have a family to support and bills to pay. They should be granted another chance to put their best foot forward and work to become a productive member of society. “I am pleased the commission decided to take a step back, digest and evaluate the comments Read more


PLBC lauds commission’s delay on risk assessment tool vote

(Jun 14, 2018)

HARRISBURG, June 14 – Members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus released the following statement after the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing voted to postpone action on the sentence risk assessment tool: “I applaud the members of the commission for delaying their action to vote for a tool that is in no way a crystal ball of predicting whether a convicted offender will commit another crime after they have served their sentence,” said state Rep. Jordan Harris, chairman of the PLBC. “A tool of predictability has no place in the criminal justice system, especially in a program that could end badly for citizens of this commonwealth, particularly people of color. There is certainly no predictability to the degree of accuracy of this tool as a result, so we will continue to see bias against young black males who are incarcerated at a nine-to-one ratio than other races.” “As a former public defender in Philadelphia, I always encouraged judges to sentence the individuals who were in front of them. I often reminded these jurists that "sentencing guidelines" are simply "guidelines," state Rep. Joanna McClinton said. “Computer statistics should not determine one's sentence because they cannot accurately predict one's ability to be rehabilitated, make positive changes and be properly punished. I do not want to interfere with a judge's ability to fairly administer justice and will not be voting to Read more


McClinton: Risk Assessment Potentially Unjust

(Jun 14, 2018)

Pa. state Rep. Joanna McClinton answered her community’s call for help. She stopped a new tool, intended to reduce the prison population, from moving forward because of its risk of using race to determine a person’s fate in the criminal justice system. Read more


Harris Keeping the PAPromise

(Jun 06, 2018)

Chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus state Rep. Jordan Harris is a lead sponsor of the PA Promise initiative that would make college free or more affordable for many students and give them the best chance to succeed in the classroom while paving the way for a brighter future. Read more


Harris, Roebuck and Sen. Hughes introduce legislation pushing for free and affordable college for Pa. college and university students

(Jun 06, 2018)

HARRISBURG – June 6, 2018 – State Reps. Jordan Harris and James Roebuck, both D-Phila., joined Sen. Vincent J. Hughes, D-Phila./Montgomery, to introduce legislation for the Pennsylvania Promise initiative, a program that would make college free and affordable to many students across the state. The legislators were joined by guests from the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) President Ken Mash, dozens of APSCUF members, a student and other members of the House and Senate announcing Senate Bill 1111 and House Bill 2444. “Helping our students should be priority number one,” Senator Hughes said. “I’ve heard from far too many college students who are struggling to make ends meet. They’re starving and some can’t maintain stable housing throughout the school year. They need something like PA Promise to make college reality.” The bills would: Cover up to four years of tuition and fees for any recent high school graduate enrolled full-time at one of the Commonwealth’s 14 public community colleges. Cover up to four years of tuition and fees for any recent high school graduate with a family income less than or equal to $110,000 per year at one of the 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education or a state-related university. Cover room and board for any recent high school graduate with a family income less than or equal to $48,000 per year at a Read more


McClinton welcomes 400 families to Southwest Community Day

(Jun 06, 2018)

PHILADELPHIA, June 6 – State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, welcomed 400 families of the 191 st Legislative District to her Southwest Community Day, where the whole family could enjoy a day of fun and entertainment. “The weather held up and it turned out to be a great day to celebrate our community and empower neighbors with resources,” McClinton said. “I love to hear first-hand what issues our constituents face in their daily lives, and my staff was able to provide on-the-spot assistance.” The event featured 35 vendors that provide community resources and giveaways; main stage entertainment by the African Dance and Drum Ensemble, local churches, local hip hop/R & B artists as well as physical fitness activities; children’s activities, food and refreshments. Attendees also had the opportunity to gather information on a variety of state programs such as CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), Medicaid, and the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. McClinton said she wanted to thank the community sponsors and partners, which included Greater Philadelphia Health Action, JEVS at Home, The Village, African Cultural Alliance of North America Inc. (ACANA), Africom, Mercy Health System, Giant, Cousin’s Supermarket, Shoprite, Philadelphia Water Ice Company, CoCo’s Chicken and Waffles and McDonald’s. “I am thrilled that we had 400 families in attendance. I cannot thank the vendors, sponsors Read more


Cruz: $1M grant awarded to Esperanza Health Center

(Jun 05, 2018)

PHILADELPHIA, June 5 – Following approval by the state Office of the Budget, state Rep. Angel Cruz announced a $1 million grant has been awarded to Esperanza Health Center to help fund construction for the new Kensington Health Center. The new facility will be built in the former bank building at 861 E. Allegheny Ave. and will be a state-of-the-art center providing primary medical and dental care as well as mental health and enabling services. “Anytime there is an opportunity to transform blight into some resourceful and sustainable in our community is a welcomed addition,” Cruz said. “I applaud Esperanza Health Center for making investments in our neighborhood that will not only improve the quality of life but also create jobs and help the economy.” "Esperanza Health Center is thrilled to receive this RACP award to help us build our comprehensive primary health care center. We are excited to invest in the health of this community and hope to be an anchor organization in the rebuilding of Kensington,” said Susan M. Post, executive director of Esperanza Health Center. “This project will allow us to provide high quality, faith-based primary health care and dental care to thousands of additional. We are thankful for this support to Esperanza Health Center and the people of Kensington." Construction is slated to begin this summer with the new health center expected to open in early 2019. RACP is administered by Read more


PLBC applauds PIAA vote to change headgear policy

(May 24, 2018)

HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Jordan Harris and state Sen. Shariff Street, both D-Phila., applauded the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association’s vote to change its policy on headgear following protest from the Muslim community. Harris, chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, along with Street and members of the PLBC, joined the protest after 16-year-old Nasihah Thompson-King was excluded from participating in a basketball game because she refused to remove her hijab. Harris said, “I applaud the PIAA for protecting the rights of children of all faiths in this commonwealth to participate in athletic events while maintaining their religious and cultural identities. I thank my colleague Senator Street for taking the lead on this issue on behalf of the Black Caucus. Additionally, I thank members of the Muslim community and of all faiths for standing up against this injustice, but lastly, and most importantly, I thank young Ms. Nasihah Thompson-King for the strength of her convictions." Street said, “The PIAA’s historic decision to remove guidelines that unduly burden the free exercise of religion for student athletes is in compliance with the law, morally sound and victory for American values, the foundation of which was established here in Philadelphia in our great commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The collective action of my colleagues, the Muslim community and, most importantly, the courage of Nasihah Read more


Dawkins Observes Ramadan With Pa. House

(May 24, 2018)

Pa. state Rep. Jason Dawkins thanks his colleagues in the House of Representatives for unanimous passage of his resolution observing the Holy Month of Ramadan, a month of reflection and prayer for the Muslim community, which runs from sunset on May 15, 2018, through sunset on June 14, 2018. Read more


Cruz resolution honors Puerto Rican service members killed in plane crash

(May 23, 2018)

HARRISBURG, May 23 – The House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution (H.R. 938) sponsored by state Rep. Angel Cruz which pays tribute to nine Puerto Rican service members who were killed in a noncombat-related military plane crash in Georgia on May 2. The service members were flying to Arizona to decommission the plane, a WC-130 attached to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard 156th Airlift Wing, when it crashed shortly after takeoff. The plane was used in relief efforts for several hurricanes in the Caribbean, including both Irma and Maria during the 2017 hurricane season. “These nine service members truly represent the commitment that Puerto Ricans living on the island and also here on the mainland have with our nation,” Cruz said. “We honor them for their service and dedication and hope not to repeat this tragedy ever again.” Cruz added the incident involving these service members brings the total number of noncombat-related crashes of military aircraft to seven, resulting in the deaths of 27 United States service members this year. Read more


Rabb fights to stop sexual assaults in police custody by closing dangerous loophole

(May 11, 2018)

HARRISBURG, May 11 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., is fighting to close a dangerous legal loophole in Pennsylvania’s sexual assault law by pushing legislation that would better protect all residents. Currently in Pennsylvania, a police officer who sexually assaults a person in custody can use sexual consent by the individual as a defense in court. Rabb plans to introduce a bill that would: Expand the commonwealth’s definition of institutional sexual assault to include law enforcement officers and any person in the officer’s custody. Eliminate sexual consent as a defense. Make any sexual contact between an officer and a person in custody a third-degree felony. “Police officers are supposed to use their authoritative power to protect the public, not prey on the innocent,” Rabb said. “I find it ludicrous that this major oversight in our legal system has received such minor attention. Everyone has rights and no one deserves this type of mistreatment, no matter what your criminal history.” Similar legislation has passed in New York state. According to a Buffalo News database , more than 700 allegations of sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers across the country, between 2006 and 2015, showed a repeating pattern of officers using their position to force women in custody to perform sexual acts. In at least 26 cases, charges were dropped or the officer was acquitted. Read more


Harris advocates for funding to find a cure for sickle cell disease

(May 07, 2018)

HARRISBURG, May 7 – A group of organizations joined state Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., to advocate for patients suffering from sickle cell disease and ask for support for science and clinical research. "People of color are suffering from sickle cell disease and their needs are going under the radar. We can no longer allow sickle cell to go unnoticed, questions to go unanswered and research to go unfunded," Harris said last week at the Capitol event. "My commitment, as the chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, is to provide support to individuals and their families whose lives have been touched by the disease." Sickle cell anemia is a serious blood disorder that causes acute pain, severe anemia, infections and vascular blockages that can lead to widespread organ damage and death. It is a genetic disease, affecting 2 million Americans, most often African-Americans and Hispanics. Until the past few decades, most people with sickle cell disease did not live beyond young adulthood, but advances in treatment have improved and lengthened the lives of patients who have access to good medical care. Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila, said, "This budget season, funding for sickle cell research is a priority. It’s our responsibility to provide the best health care available to patients when they need it and have it delivered in a way that provides the best outcomes because being born with sickle cell disease doesn’t mean Read more


Harris Shining Light on Sickle Cell

(May 02, 2018)

As chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, Pa. state Rep. Jordan Harris joined advocates to raise awareness about sickle cell disease. He specifically shined light on making sure people of color living with the illness don’t go under the radar and receive the treatment they need. Read more


Harris: Let's Get Real on SNAP

(May 01, 2018)

During House debate on instituting work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Chairman of the Pa. Legislative Black Caucus Rep. Jordan Harris condemns some of his colleagues using the rhetoric of people sitting at home collecting benefits. Harris says the real discussion goes much deeper than just not having a job. Read more


Policy Committee looks at Cephas bill to give second chances to students

(Apr 26, 2018)

PHILADELPHIA, April 25 – State Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., today hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing on her H.B. 2210 that would expunge student disciplinary records for nonviolent offenses. Cephas requested the hearing to discuss the importance of ensuring nonviolent offenses would not have long-term negative impacts on students’ future outcomes. Cephas was joined by state legislators from across the state, including Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster. “I am excited to have the House Democratic Policy Committee here in Philadelphia to discuss my legislation. Giving students the opportunity to make amends and seek redemption for past actions is important. When it relates to nonviolent offenses, allowing them the chance to show their community they are sorry for their actions and ready to learn and grow from those mistakes is a big step in growing up and should not have a permanent negative impact on their future,” Cephas explained. Sturla added, “Mistakes are a part of life and a nonviolent infraction should not have a long-term negative impact on kids’ lives. Rep. Cephas’ bill is a great chance for those who have made mistakes to do what the school district asks to give them a clean slate and not let those mistakes forever impact the course of their future.” Testifiers included: Jeff Hullrung, school board president, Unionsville-Chadds Ford School District; James Plunkett, Read more


Dawkins talks gun violence and domestic abuse at Policy Committee hearing

(Apr 24, 2018)

PHILADELPHIA, April 24 – As part of the House Democratic Caucus’ Plan4PA, state Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., today hosted a public hearing on gun violence and domestic abuse issues at the Northeast Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Dawkins was joined by House Democratic Policy Committee chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, and legislators from across the state to discuss how to reduce gun violence, protect victims of abuse and Dawkins' H.B. 2097 to create a statewide notification system to alert victims of domestic violence, the general public, and law enforcement agencies when a known domestic violence abuser attempts to purchase or transfer a gun at a licensed firearms dealer. “We have a responsibility to help protect victims of abuse. I am glad my colleagues could be a part of this open discussion with those who provide services to victims of abuse to understand the drastic need for our intervention,” Dawkins said. Sturla added, “Rep. Dawkins’ legislation is a great step in protecting victims of abuse. Victims and law enforcement have every right to be notified when perpetrators are arming themselves so that they can be on alert.” Testifiers included: Julie Brancroft, director of public affairs, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Patty McGlone, social worker and community education coordinator, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia; and Susan Pearlstein, supervising attorney of Family Law Unit, Read more


McClinton addresses urban gun violence before House Judiciary Committee

(Apr 20, 2018)

HARRISBURG, April 20 – During a series of hearings on gun violence this week before the House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, addressed the disparity in coverage of gun violence between low-income communities of color and more affluent majority-white communities. During her testimony, McClinton, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, called on the committee to acknowledge gun violence as a public health crisis just like opioids, immediately advance legislation that would keep guns out of the wrong hands, and provide adequate funding for prevention programs and to the Office of the Attorney General for its Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. She said, “While it took tragedies like the Parkland and Las Vegas shootings to gather us here today, I would like to remind everyone that communities of color in Philadelphia, Delaware, Berks, Dauphin, Cambria and Allegheny counties have been victims of gun violence for decades. “In fact, the Center for American Progress reports that African-Americans and Hispanics represent nearly 79 percent of all gun homicides in Pennsylvania. From 2005 to 2014, Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for the rate of gun deaths among African-Americans. Although African-Americans make up about 12 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, they account for nearly 70 percent of gun homicides in our commonwealth. Moreover, Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation for the highest gun death Read more


Harris Honors 40th Anniversary of Cheyney Champs

(Apr 17, 2018)

Pa. state Rep. Jordan Harris welcomed members of the NCAA Division II National Champion Men's Basketball team from Cheyney University on the 40th Anniversary of winning their title. Read more