Rep. Mark Pocan (D) published a statement yesterday in Cap Times telling readers why they should vote to re-elect him to Congress. He called himself a “strong progressive voice” who fought for higher wages, better public education funding, help for low-income college students, prevention of gun violence, and stronger labor unions. Here is his statement.
Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of efforts to address criminal justice reform. That issue captured national attention and continues to be very important to many of Pocan’s constituents in Dane County. In the summer of 2015, three work groups appointed by the Dane County Board of Supervisors came up with an extensive report, “Investigating Solutions to Racial Disparities and Mental Health Challenges in the Dane County Jail and Throughout Dane County’s Criminal Justice System.” Board members are working to implement its 30 recommendations.
Moses, an interfaith organization concerned with criminal justice reform, hosts monthly meetings, develops policy and informational materials, testifies, and works with the county board and state legislators to bring about change. Dane County was one of 50 applicants selected to send representatives to the Stepping Up Summit in Washington, D.C. The Stepping Up Initiative is a multi-year effort by three national organizations to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails and prisons.
Pocan has had nearly a year to take a simple and obvious step in support of the work of his constituents. He could join 59 Democrats and 43 Republicans as a co-sponsor of the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015 (HR 1854). An identical bill, originally sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, passed the Senate in December of 2015 with strong bipartisan support. It was reported out of committee to the full House the next month. Representatives continue to join as co-sponsors, with the most recent addition in September.
The bill would authorize funds for a “sequential intercept” model, which provides interventions for dealing with people with mental illness at various stages of the criminal justice process. It would also provide grants for emergency and crisis services, alternatives to jail, and training for police.
Contact Pocan here and tell him to join other “progressives” such as Elijah Cummings, Charlie Rangel and Joseph Kennedy, and work with his constituents to bring about criminal justice reform.