The political activist group Black Lives Matter (BLM) is pressuring the Democratic party to back the BREATH Act, which contains "a roadmap for prison abolition." Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of BLM, wrote a letter to presumed-President-Elect Joe Biden, asking that his administration make the passage of BREATH a priority within his first hundred days in office.
In an op-ed she wrote for Teen Vogue, Cullors said that she sees the bill as a racial turning point in United States' criminal system.
"Practically speaking, the BREATHE Act is a landmark civil rights bill," Cullors said. "It takes bold, progressive steps to build public safety systems that work for all of us, no matter what community we come from."
The bill, made up of four sections, has a few main goals. Firstly, it calls for de-funding and reallocating police department resources, and the federal legalization of certain drugs. It proposes investing in alternatives to policing for safeguarding communities. The bill calls for higher levels of accountability and scrutiny law enforcement personnel. And finally, BREATH proposes making reparations to the black community in America.
"We want the next Presidential administration to prioritize the passing of this powerful modern day civil rights legislation," Cullors said. "We built the roadmap to take us away from harm and towards health and healing—now, we hope they follow it."
Although the bill is championed from within Congress by junior representatives Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, it is a controversial piece of legislation, maybe going a little farther than many Democrats would be comfortable in voting for. Not everyone is at ease with the idea of reparations or of defunding the police. Most notable among these might be Joe Biden himself.
In the first presidential debate back in September, Biden said that he adamantly opposed allocating resources away from law enforcement.
"I am totally opposed to de-funding the police offices,” Biden had said. "They need more assistance."
But with a large portion of BLM votes resolutely behind BREATH, there's pressure on a Biden administration to change that stance. It's not one that a new administration can sweep under the rug either.
A significant part of the national conversation has put a spotlight on racial problems within law enforcement since the death of George Floyd back in May, one of the central topics of conversation headed into the 2020 presidential election.
So far, Biden has refused to say where he stands on BREATH. As of yet, the bill has not been formally introduced for legislative review; the president elect has a bit of time to decide what he will say about the bill’s contents.