For almost 30 years, IJ has defended the constitutional rights of everyday people—not just inside courtrooms but also within the communities where family homes are cherished, livelihoods are built, and dreams are pursued. Our commitment has not wavered during this tumultuous year. On the contrary, IJ is working harder and more creatively than ever to respond to the twin crises of this year: the pandemic and its economic and health consequences, along with the current debate concerning law enforcement misconduct and the lack of accountability for government officials.
The 2021 Initiative: IJ’s Customized Legislative Service is a new effort dedicated to providing real-world, effective solutions in IJ’s areas of expertise.
COVID-19 continues to cost Americans their lives and their livelihoods. Unemployment has skyrocketed, and small businesses have shrunk or shuttered. At the same time, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the nation is grappling anew with the lack of accountability for law enforcement officers and other officials when they violate fundamental constitutional rights.
Longstanding policies have exacerbated these crises. The 2021 Initiative is designed to help state and local lawmakers and their staff identify those policies and
then develop and implement solutions to forge a path toward recovery.
Through this initiative, IJ will work directly with policymakers on solutions tailored for their state or city. Our efforts will be guided by existing or newly conducted IJ research and surveys coupled with on-the-ground conversations and information gathering about demands for change that exist in the jurisdiction. We will then draft tailored, impactful, and responsive legislation. We will also provide collateral support as necessary, including legislative testimony, grassroots or media support, one-pagers, and additional research.
Through this initiative, we will help lawmakers:
Create Economic Opportunity
We will help policymakers reduce barriers to work in their jurisdictions that are making it difficult or impossible for people to find new jobs or for small businesses to stay afloat in the wake of the pandemic.
Increase Availability of Health Care
We have done the research and can tell policymakers if their state has laws on the books that are restricting the ability of medical practitioners to provide much-needed care in the wake of COVID-19—and give them specific, concrete steps and customized bill language to make positive change.
Instill Accountability in Government
There are practical steps lawmakers can take to fix fundamental flaws in policing and regulatory policy, including qualified immunity and financially driven civil forfeiture and fines and fees schemes. These systems sow misconduct and distrust between officers and the populations they are supposed to serve and permit officials to act with impunity.
IJ will ensure that reforms are highly responsive to needs on the ground—not just models off the shelf. State reforms span all three areas, and local reforms focus on creating economic opportunity.
We are excited to get to work and facilitate our nation’s recovery, empowering hardworking Americans to get back on their feet. We look forward to reporting the results of this new initiative in the year ahead.
Christina Walsh is IJ’s senior director of activism and coalitions.