The United African American Ministerial Action Council (UAAMAC) is a non-profit, faith-based, 501 (3) (c) tax-exempt organization that was established in 1994. UAAMAC is committed to the construction of a Beloved Community of justice, with equitable access to opportunities in the pursuit of happiness, education, economic development, family stability, health, and peace and prosperity for all people. To this endeavor we invite the participation of all people of good will and their resources to work collectively in making The Beloved Community a reality in the 21st Century. We strive for the relief of the poor, and work toward systemic change, economic strength and political power, to educate people about the conditions, causes and eradication of poverty, to educate our children to be academically competent and socially and morally responsible. We are engaged in challenge and struggle to create institutional change that will lead to the empowerment of poor people, while assisting them in organizational and leadership development.
We are also engaged in the development policy initiatives and promote awareness of crucial African American issues. This opportunity to provide public comment on the Sentencing Guidelines for United States Courts is a part of our community organizing and advocacy work.
After a careful review of the Sentencing Commission’s Tentative Priorities, it has become very apparent to us that following the priorities – the role of federal sentencing guidelines; the continuation of its study of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; implementation of the directive of the Patient Protection and Affordable Act, regarding health care fraud offenses; continuation of its work with Congress and the other parties on cocaine policy; continuation of the multi-year study and guideline definitions of “crime of violence”, “aggravated felony” and “violent felony”; and the continued study of alternatives to incarceration – constitutes an aggregate of issues whereby African Americans and other communities of color find themselves to be disproportionately incarcerated in federal correctional facilities and/or victims of “legalized discrimination” in the areas of economic development, the public education system, employment, health care delivery, and the current judicial system.
Our public comments on the aforementioned tentative priorities are not intended to cite “applicable sentencing guidelines, statutes, case law or constitutional provisions”; we believe legal scholars and those grounded in jurisprudence can best handle those concerns. Our concern is that the Sentencing Commission began to take a look at how racial and ethnic discrimination in the current judicial system has played a fundamental role in the mass incarceration of Black males and the concomitant deterioration of communal life in many American cities. Furthermore, our concern is that work and function of the Sentencing Commission be viewed through a new prism, a prism which begins with Dr. Martin Luther King’s global vision – the Beloved Community – an ethical and moral vision that privileges the people over government-imposed order and restrictive judicial processes:
“In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.” (1)