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?
(To read a Spanish version of this text, go to https://bit.ly/keeppgvirtual)
For the past three years, Life After Release has worked toward transparency and accountability in Prince George’s County’s criminal legal system. We are going behind the curtain to shine light on how cash bail is used to cage Black women, Black, brown and poor people, and other marginalized people in PG County. By inviting community members to watch and document bond (a.k.a. bail) 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 punishment system. That’s why watching the courts is a central part of Life After Release’s strategy to transform our carceral criminal injustice system.
To adhere to CDC guidelines during COVID, court and jail access –– even by lawyers –– was suspended. However, arrests and bond hearings have not stopped. Virtual access to the court was made quickly available to its most powerful players. Life After Release and our partners mobilized to make Courtwatch PG virtual, advocated for the immediate release of community members held in pretrial detention, and have continued to document the realities of bail policy in PG County.
Now, this access is being threatened by judges who want to expel community members from shining a light on the injustices happening every day inside of PG County courtrooms.
Even with more transmittable variants of COVID-19 still raging –– PG County’s Chief Judge and other Chief Judges around the nation want to end virtual access to public court proceedings. Barring the public’s virtual access violates our First Amendment right to observe our loved ones’ Sixth Amendment right to public trials.
Courts turning off virtual access is like cops turning off their body and dash cameras. Without transparency, there can be no accountability or justice. What is PG County trying to hide?
Day in and day out, we see Black, brown and working 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 you won't be encouraged to stand up against their egregious acts. PG Courts is baking oppression bread and Black & Latinx folks are their main ingredients.
We want to hold the bakers accountable.
Taking away virtual access to the courts undermines the integrity of the courts and denies the public the ability to have confidence in the judicial process, which is a requirement for our court system. Transparency and accessibility to bond review hearings is vital. We need all hands on deck to tell Chief Judges all around the country to ‘Keep Courts Virtual!’ and we’re 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 by virtual courtwatching is the only way to ensure justice is taking place in our courthouses. We should be inviting, not limiting access because injustice happens everyday, all around the nation in empty courtrooms.
Join us in our crusade for transparency, accountability, and most importantly, the protection of our communities. If you would like to get or stay involved in our campaign please sign up on the form listed below.
Link for Sign-Up Sheet: https://forms.gle/qx9Hj37rxKQYZnox9
Please Donate to our crusade: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/life-after-release-2
Until justice is won,
Life After Release Team
How it will be delivered
Via Email or In Person (COVID-19 Permitting)