5,000 signatures reached
To: Prince George's County, MD Courts
Keep the PG County Courts Virtual
Keep and expand virtual access to the Prince George's County court system.
Why is this important?
(Para leer en Español: https://bit.ly/keeppgvirtual)
For the past four years, Life After Release has worked toward ensuring greater transparency and accountability in the Prince George’s County criminal legal system. We are going behind the curtain to shed light on how cash bail is used to cage Black women, Black, brown and poor people, and other marginalized individuals in PG County. By inviting community members to watch and document bond hearings, we aim to hold EVERY actor in the courts accountable for the racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-poor, and ableist practices. Courts are the most important –– and the least transparent –– part of our criminal legal system. That’s why watching the courts is a central part of Life After Release’s strategy to transform our hyper-carceral criminal injustice system.
To adhere to CDC guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person court and jail access was suspended, even for lawyers. However, arrests and bond hearings did not stop. Remote access to the court was made quickly available to its most powerful players. However, Life After Release and our partners mobilized to make Court Watch PG virtual, advocated for the immediate release of community members held in pretrial detention, and have continued to document the realities of bail and pretrial policy in PG County.
Remote court access has been crucial to community efforts to hold courtroom actors accountable and ensure our loved ones receive justice. Now, despite ongoing accessibility issues — related to and preceding the COVID-19 pandemic – judges in Maryland and around the nation want to end remote access to public court proceedings. Remote access has been shut down in the majority of Maryland courtrooms, while others are limited to low-quality, audio-only access that is hard to hear. We believe that the courts want to prevent community members from highlighting the injustices happening daily inside PG County courtrooms. What is PG County trying to hide?
Courts turning off virtual access is like cops turning off their body and dash cameras. Barring the public’s remote access violates our First Amendment right to observe and our loved ones’ Sixth Amendment right to public trials. Without transparency, there can be no accountability or justice.
Day in and day out, we see Black and brown people’s everyday lives criminalized, destroyed, and punished in PG County courts. We see judicial officials committed to harming our most vulnerable loved ones and our community as a whole — and they want to proceed in secret so we won't be encouraged to stand up against their egregious acts.
We need all hands-on deck to tell judges all around the country to ‘Keep Courts Virtual!’ We are putting a call out to the community to help us keep bond review hearings and all other hearings accessible via online platforms, phone, and video.
Expanding access to courts through remote court watching is the only way to ensure justice is taking place in our courthouses. We should be inviting, not limiting, access because injustice happens every day and across the nation in empty courtrooms.
Join us in our fight for transparency, accountability, and, most importantly, the protection of our communities. If you would like to stay involved in our campaign, please sign up using the form listed below.
Link for sign-up sheet: https://forms.gle/qx9Hj37rxKQYZnox9
Please donate to our cause: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/life-after-release-2
Until justice is won,
The Life After Release Team
How it will be delivered
Via Email or In Person (COVID-19 Permitting)