New Commission Targets Misconduct in the Criminal Justice System

By Shani Saxon Jul 02, 2020

Civil rights advocacy group The Grassroots Law Project (GLP) on Wednesday (July 1) announced a partnership with district attorneys in three major cities to create the "Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commissions,” CNN reports. The goal of the commission, which is launching in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Boston, is to “listen to victims of past misconduct within the criminal justice system and try to right the wrongs,” according to CNN.

In their statement about the commission, GLP stated:

The first three local commissions will address the serious trauma inflicted by a legal system that has gone largely unchecked for generations. They will begin as pilot projects that will create a process for District Attorneys and their communities to hear from victims of police and prosecutor misconduct and find ways for those victims to heal. This critical project is at its early stages, and the District Attorneys will begin dialogue with their communities—including persons impacted by police violence—and develop policies and structures to help communities heal from the generational trauma resulting from police violence and racial injustice. Each commission will be responsive to the individualized needs of the community. 

GLP co-founders, federal civil rights attorney Lee Merritt and activist Shaun King, released a statement obtained by CNN explaining that the purpose of the commission is to bring justice to victims of racial and ethnic injustice. "This system is not broken," King said in the statement. "It’s functioning exactly the way those who designed and built it intended it to function. It was not built to give marginalized communities justice. It was built to oppress them. And moving forward, we must build brand new pathways for truth, justice, and reconciliation. The old ones will never get us there."

Merritt, one of the attorney’s representing the family of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police on May 25 sparked global protests against police violence, said in the statement that the commission is focused on creating change. "Creating new institutions to address historic atrocities and modern inequities embedded in the fabric of society is essential if we are ever going to turn the page on America’s bloody legacy," he said.

Reports CNN:

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins will all establish commissions over the next several months to get community feedback on policing and prosecution to reform current policy.

"Each Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission will develop processes and plans to allow persons who have experienced current and former instances of harm at the hands of law enforcement to raise concerns, share experiences and achieve justice in a process that will be built with marginalized and oppressed groups at the center," Rollins said in a statement.

Merritt and King are working with district attorneys in more than 10 other states and plan to expand the commission throughout the country, according to CNN. Leaders of the pilot programs are expected to announce next steps in the fall. At that point, individuals and families will be able to formally submit cases for consideration, according to the commission’s web site