Fighting Racism & Reimagining the Criminal Legal System in Indiana

Racism and anti-Blackness harm people of color every day. We see racism’s impact through clear acts of hate and violence. We see it underlying policies and practices throughout public life. Racism is institutional and it infected our police and criminal legal systems at their origins centuries ago, bound in America’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, and discrimination.  

The underlying problem with policing isn't just the lack of de-escalation training or accountability procedures. The problem is the outsized and ever-expanding scale of policing that leads inevitably to officers’ unlawful use of excessive force and the killing of Black men and women. It is not the result of one “bad apple” as so many people claim – the whole tree is rotten. 

Dismantling this system of oppression will take all of us. It will take intention and work. We have developed a list of anti-racist resources and actions you can commit to right now to make a difference. Be sure to keep checking back for new actions!

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In This Moment 

Our commitment to addressing racist and violent policing has been consistent yet it has not been enough and we must do more. We cosigned the Movement for Black Lives’ call to divest from police and reinvest in communities. 

City budget meetings are taking place across the state of Indiana in September. As mayors work with city councils to create 2021 budgets, we must shift resources away from law enforcement and towards Black and Brown community-based initiatives that support true safety, health, and well-being. As the policing presence in Black and Brown communities has expanded, so have police budgets — with state and local governments across the country allocating over $115 billion a year to law enforcement. 

Here’s what you can do immediately in this powerful moment.

  1. Find out when your city council will meet to discuss the 2021 budget.

  2. Tell your Mayor & city council members to stop allocating funds for more officers and more militarized equipment, and instead invest in health care, education and community-run violence-prevention programs.

Find your mayor's contact information on your city's website or use this tool to look yours up!

Stay up-to-date on ACLU of Indiana content related to recent protests and police reform:


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Support Organizations Led by People of Color 

Frontline local advocacy groups leading on racial justice issues in Indiana need your time, talent and treasure. Follow them on social media, center and lift them up at every opportunity, volunteer your talents to advance their mission, and donate. 

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Advocate for Anti-Racist Policy and Practices 

Elected officials have tremendous power to create equitable policies and practices. In Indiana, there is still so much work to do in this arena - especially now. The COVID-19 pandemic has put the disparities and injustices we see daily, specifically in the criminal legal system, on full display. 

Be an advocate for these changes at racial justice demonstrations while practicing safe social distancing or from the comfort of your couch. We’ve created an online guide to advocacy from home.

Here are some policies to watch during the 2021 session, and some actions to take right now. 

Stay connected with the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) and support their legislative agenda.

Sign the Hoosiers for Smart Justice Petition 

Every day, incarceration hurts families, communities, and economies in our state. Too often, fair treatment in the justice system depends on how much money you have or the color of your skin. We must require transparency and accountability of key decision makers — prosecutors, judges, lawmakers, and others — in order to break down these disparities. It's time for Hoosiers to speak out and let our elected officials know that we must end the fixation with incarceration and focus on strategies that will actually improve our communities, like prevention, rehabilitation, and helping people succeed to reduce the risk of repeat offenses. Sign the petition here. 

Protect Incarcerated Hoosiers  

People of color are grossly overrepresented at every juncture of our criminal legal system, perhaps most significantly in our overcrowded prisons. Chronic overcrowding and understaffing had already put the health and safety of everyone in these facilities at risk before the outbreak. COVID-19 just adds to concerns. Take action now to tell Governor Holcomb to take action to stop the spread of COVID in jails and prisons. 

The Indiana General Assembly has a habit of creating new crimes and new penalties in every legislative session. Tell your legislators to: 

Stop passing legislation that adds criminal offenses. The first step is for lawmakers to simply put down their pens. With rare exceptions, we don’t need any additional criminal offenses. Our current crimes code has more than enough tools for law enforcement to protect public safety. We don’t need new crimes, new offenses, new suboffenses, or new penalties. Make sure to check the ACLU of Indiana Bill Tracker during the 2021 Legislative Session to contact your legislators.

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Your Vote is Your Voice 

Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil rights and civil liberties rest. Our leaders are empowered by us and answer to us. Our democracy works best when more people participate, but make no mistake, dating back to Jim Crow and extending forward, voter suppression is real and it impacts voters of color the most. One method of voter suppression is revoking the right to vote from individuals who are in jail or prison. But in Indiana, If you were previously incarcerated, you have the right to vote. 

This November, vote for candidates you trust to listen and lead on racial justice and criminal legal system reform. Ask every candidate on the ballot about their record, platform, and plans to advance racial justice before you cast your vote. You can see how Indiana legislators voted on some key civil liberties issues during the 2020 session here. 

Likewise, democracy works best when everyone participates. It's highly possible that public health concerns will remain through Election Day on November 3, 2020. Let’s make sure everyone can vote by building on the positive vote-by-mail effort that Hoosiers embraced this May. Look out for ways to engage the Indiana Election Commission to ensure no one has to risk their health to vote. Start by checking and updating your voter registration.  

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Commit to Learning 

Stay connected with a local SURJ-Showing up for Racial Justice for trainings and workshops for individuals working to undermine white supremacy and to work for racial justice.  

There have never been more ways to explore how racism impacts us today and how our history led us here. It is on white people to do their homework. It is not enough to be not racist, each of us must be actively anti-racist. Book recommendations below: 

  • “How to be an Antiracist,” Ibram X. Kendi 
  • “The Color of Law,” Richard Rothstein  
  • “The History of White People,” Nell Irvin Painter 
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In the Age of Colorblindness,” Michelle Alexander  
  • “Teaching to Transgress: Education As the Practice of Freedom,” Bell Hooks 
  • “Just Mercy,” Bryan Stevenson 
  • “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates  
  • “Citizen: An American Lyric,” Claudia Rankine  
  • “Stamped from the Beginning,” Ibram X. Kendi  
  • "Tears We Cannot Stop,” Michael Eric Dyson  
  • “The Fire Next Time,” James Baldwin  
  • “White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” Robin DiAngelo 
  • “Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?,” Beverly Daniel Tatum 
  • “Women Race and Class,” Angela Davis 

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