I am Amelia Mae Paradise and I am one of the people who started the New Mexico Chapter of Bend the Arc in 2018. About 18 months ago, BTANM embarked on an 10-month study of abolition organizing with the intent of building a local Jewish abolition campaign.  Twenty people took a deep dive together and built a bond that has continued to enliven our ongoing work.  Today, I want to connect our current work to the visionary framework and four points of the BREATHE ACT

In its design, the BREATHE Act framework seeks to:
1. END federal criminal-legal system harms
2. Invest in new approaches to community safety
3. Allocate new money to build healthy, sustainable & equitable communities
And 4. Hold officials accountable

Ok, so first,I’ll connect our local work to the first point: Ending criminal-legal system harms

BTA NM works with Fines & Fees Justice Project to address the criminalization of poverty in New Mexico.  Across New Mexico, courts impose fines & fees as a punishment for minor violations. If you’re not able to pay the cost of fines and fees, you risk losing your driver’s license and being arrested and jailed. Thousands of New Mexicans are trapped in the justice system just because they cannot afford to pay. 

Fines and Fees Justice Center New Mexico has helped to develop and support two bills that focus on ending discrimination against low income people and BTANM members have attended committee hearings and spoken on behalf of both bills which have good momentum. And we just found out today (Monday Feb 13) that HB47 which ends the practice of suspending a person’s driver’s license for unpaid fines and fees bill passed in the senate!  The bill also prevents bench warrants for non payment.

Next, the BREATHE ACT compels us to Invest in new approaches to community safety

We’ve been working in conjunction with the Racial Justice Committee of Nahalat Shalom (a local Jewish Renewal congregation) to form  a “community safety without police” campaign.  Our vision was to divorce the congregation from armed police and private security and make our space more safe and welcoming across race, class, ability, and more! 

To share with you the impact of our first successful High Holidays without police, I’d like to share a few quotes directly from members of our community:

“Members of my family who are Jews of Color said they never before felt the congregation was as welcoming.”
“The whole congregation calmed down.  The sense of community is contagious.  I felt like it permeated the whole high holiday experience for everybody.”

And we do lots of de-escalation practice and training.  Here’s what one member said about that part of our work:

“The fact that we were trained and practiced, then present as a team led some of us to poll monitor in Arizona on election day.  I think we started with something manageable and then we were able to move on.  It makes me feel we have a future and movement.”

The work of the Community Safety team at Nahalat Shalom is ongoing and we’ve been present  for many services and events at Nahalat Shalom and the police and private security have not been present!

The Third BREATHE ACT foundation, Allocate new money to build healthy, sustainable & equitable communities

This is where the BTA funding and resourcing for our work comes in!  We’ve been grateful for the resourcing of BTA National, both in terms of the excellent support from field staff (thank you Hannah & Enzi for all of your inspiring partnership) as well as the grant we were awarded to support local on the ground training for our Community Safety without Police campaign. Keep it coming!

And finally, Hold officials accountable

We also work with The NM Immigrant Law Center which has introduced the Dignity Not Detention bill to 
halt the opening of new ICE detention facilities
prevent the expansion of existing ICE detention facilities
Implement community oversight of existing ICE detention facilities until contracts expire and facilities close.

As part of Dignity Not Detention’s efforts to hold elected officials accountable, BTANM is attuned to reformist-reform potential and collaborating with Northern NM SURJ to participate in a day of action at the Roundhouse (our legislative center) on Wed., Feb. 15 (the day you’ll be listening to this recorded statement.) We host online Action Hours applying pressure to officials to shut down Torrance County Detention Facility and release migrants immediately.

I am honored to be a part of BTANM bringing our Jewish abolitionist vision to life as a direct reflection of the visionary framework of the BREATHE Act.  Thank you for your time hearing our story today.