By Aaron Talley, BYP 100 Chicago
One would think that it goes without saying that we should meet the complex problems of violence in Chicago with equally complex solutions. One would think, or rather one should think, that reducing violence requires creative, expansive, and thoughtful solutions. However, time proves again and again that lawmakers choose to fix the complex problems facing Black and Brown communities in Chicago with hollow and rickety solutions. Accordingly, we challenge the latest in ill-conceived and dis-proven policy—SB1342–a law that would increase mandatory minimum sentences for weapons-related offenses. Or put another way, any person caught with an illegal firearm would automatically receive at least a mandatory 1-year sentencing and charged with a felony.
Now of course a mandatory sentencing might seem to be a useful deterrent against the possession of illegal firearms. However, this sort of solution has already proven to be narrow-minded and ineffective. A recent study out of Northwestern cites several studies in which mandatory sentencing on gun possession served only to fill up prisons, rather than actually deter crime. Instead, violence was more substantially reduced through focused and responsible policing coupled with targeted community programs.
And so let’s be clear, like the “war on drugs,” this law will disproportionately criminalize Black and Brown bodies. Communities of color who are already targets of racial profiling and brutal policing will continue to be fed into prisons, rather than being met with compassionate and creative solutions to solving the interweaving problems of violence and poverty. If there is ample evidence that suggests that this mode of punishment does not work, why then would it continue to be employed?
Against these dangerous and insufficient laws, it is incumbent that we who challenge ourselves to see violence as a complex issue rooted in a lack of social, political, and economic opportunity must also challenge those in power to treat this issue with the same integrity and care. We should be angry and incensed when lawmakers choose to solve the traumas facing Black and Brown communities thorough harsh penalties that will only serve to eviscerate us, rather than keep us safe.
In an effort to protect Black and Brown bodies, in an effort to challenge policymakers to craft real solutions, and in an effort to exercise our voice and radical love, the BYP100 urges you to join us in signing this petition to stop SB1342.
Our communities are complex, and therefore should be treated as such.