This week is a tumultuous one, with multiple opportunities to promote social justice through communications and culture on criminal justice reform, immigration, and beyond.
On the criminal justice front, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an extraordinarily harmful memo last week directing federal prosecutors to charge people accused of crime with the most serious offense possible, carrying the harshest penalties and mandatory minimum sentences. This week, commentators and protestors are reacting to the directive.
In criticizing this wrongheaded action, we hope leaders will consult The Opportunity Agenda’s Ten Lessons for Talking about Criminal Justice Issues. Illustrative messaging includes:
The Department of Justice has the responsibility to promote public safety, prevent harm and uphold fairness under the law.
Attorney General Sessions’ action undermines those values, and will cause harm to families and communities across our nation. Experience and research show that inflexibly resorting to long prison terms, and particularly mandatory minimum sentences, results in injustice and inequity.
Public safety and fairness are best advanced by accountability and the opportunity for rehabilitation, not by inflexibly long prison sentences.
Fortunately, Attorney General Sessions’ memo also allows prosecutors to use their discretion to depart from this rigid approach. We urge U.S. Attorneys around the country to use their discretion to pursue fairness and true public safety rather than blind mass incarceration.
For more communications and policy ideas, check out The Opportunity Agenda’s report, Transforming the System.
Artist Alexandra Bell creates public art to raise awareness that #BlackLivesMatter in an era of fake news.
Superstar John Legend talks about why criminal justice reform is so personal for him and his new initiative called Unlocked Futures.
Relevant hashtags include #CriminalJusticeReform, #CJReform, and #BlackLivesMatter.
Regarding immigrants and refugees, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on May 15th on whether President Trump’s revised travel ban constitutes religious discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. As the argument proceeded, concerned Americans rallied outside of the federal courthouse in Seattle.
We hope advocates will use news coverage and social media buzz around the oral arguments to make the case for how welcoming immigrants and refugees, and combating discrimination, makes our country stronger. The Opportunity Agenda’s messaging memo on the original travel ban provides advice that remains relevant. In addition, effective messages emerging from The Opportunity Agenda’s new research with National Council of La Raza and Lake Research Partners includes:
Our country is changing, getting more and more diverse. It might make some of us uncomfortable, but it is our reality, and a constant throughout our history.
Politicians play on this fear, trying to divide us. They push unwise and divisive ideas like sending federal troops to police our cities, building a border wall, or singling out Muslim Americans because of their religion. If we take the bait on these, it makes our country weaker, not stronger.
Our nation is stronger when every one of us can contribute and share ideas, and when everyone’s basic rights and dignity are respected. We need to embrace ideas that unify us as a diverse people and make our country stronger, and we need to speak out against discrimination and prejudice when we see it.
Check out Welcoming America’s communications toolkit.
If you're looking for comic relief during this trying week, be sure to watch Season 2 of the Netflix series Master of None – a show with diverse characters and storylines that centers the varied experiences of Muslim immigrants.
Useful Twitter hashtags are #NoBanNoWallNoRaids, #NoMuslimBanEver, #HawaiivTrump, and #SeeYouInCourt