Category Archives: Policy Update

Tragedy of Amir Locke’s Death Demands Action from Our Elected Officials

Tragedy of Amir Locke’s Death Demands Action from Our Elected Officials

Min. Christian S. Watkins
February 18, 2022

On February 2, 2022, yet another Black person in the United States, 22-year-old Amir Locke, was shot and killed by the police. Amir Locke died with two wounds in the chest and one in the right wrist while lying on a couch just after 6:45 AM as Minneapolis Police Department and SWAT team members conducted a ‘no-knock’ warrant raid. Locke was not the subject of the warrant, and he should still be alive today. For how long must we wait for comprehensive policing systems reforms while Black and Brown lives lie in the wake?

This is yet another occurrence of police in the U.S. utilizing tactics that deny human dignity and sacred worth. Minneapolis was also home to George Floyd, who died while a police officer’s knee was placed on his neck for over 9 minutes, and Philando Castille, who was killed during an unwarranted traffic stop. Nationwide pleas for justice and meaningful change in the wake of Floyd and Castille’s deaths have seemingly gone unheard, unmet, unaddressed, as policing reform negotiations failed on Capitol Hill. Our elected officials on Capitol Hill and across the country must not fail to act now.

Cornell Law defines a “no-knock warrant” as, “A search warrant authorizing police officers to enter certain premises without first knocking and announcing their presence or purpose prior to entering the premises. Such warrants are issued where an entry pursuant to the knock-and-announce rule (i.e., an announcement prior to entry) would lead to the destruction of the objects for which the police are searching or would compromise the safety of the police or another individual.”

The ’no-knock’ raid that resulted in the death of Amir Locke is similar to what transpired with Breonna Taylor two years ago in Louisville, Kentucky. Ms. Taylor was an EMT who was shot and killed in her home during the execution of a no-knock warrant, of which she was not the intended focus. There is an ever-growing divide between law enforcement, local and federal government officials, and the public trust given the lack of action and transparency following so many deaths of Black people across the country at the hands of police.

Following Breonna Taylor’s death, activists have advanced  Breonna’s Law to end to the use of no-knock warrants, at the local, state, and federal level. However, more concrete steps and substantive legislation need to be enacted to make these changes real.

In solidarity with Amir’s parents, Andre Locke and Karen Wells, we ask for policing reform negotiations to resume, and for President Biden to include a federal ban on no-knock warrants as well as reforming the harmful 1033 and 1122 programs in his anticipated Executive Order on policing reform. As Democratic Senators Schatz, Wyden, Baldwin, Smith, Sanders, Brown, Van Hollen, Warren, Markey, and Casey recently wrote in a letter to President Biden, “Militarized law enforcement increases the prevalence of police violence without making our communities safer.”

A more perfect Union must establish justice in order to provide domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty that should be afforded us all. Congress and President Biden can – and must – implement these federal reforms to create a country where everyone, no matter our color, origin or gender, is safe and our human dignity is respected.

Learn About the Three Sentencing Reform Bills Moving Through the Senate

Learn About the Three Sentencing Reform Bills Moving Through the Senate

Min. Christian S. Watkins
February 11, 2022

Members of the US Senate are currently considering a package of three sentencing reform bills already approved on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate passage of The First Step Implementation Act (S. 1014), the Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act (S. 601), and the Covid-19 Safer Detention Act (S. 312) would make meaningful if incremental, progress toward a more just criminal legal system. Sentencing of those who have been found guilty of wrong-doing must be based on values that honor human dignity, sanctity, and the allowance for redemption. However, our system for sentencing those convicted of crimes has for too long borne no relation to these values, resulting in prisons that are heavily populated by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.

Over the last 30 years, the United States has come to rely on its criminal justice system and lengthy prison terms more than any other nation.  With just 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. holds nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners, including one-third of all women incarcerated worldwide.

The ACLU has reported [1] that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 2019, approximately 2.1 million people were in adult correctional jails and prisons around the United States. Many thousands of people, disproportionately people of color, are cycled in and out of state jails or prisons every day.

Extreme sentencing laws and practices are keeping people in prisons for far longer than ever before. The result is that more people are spending more of their lives in prison than at any point in U.S. history. Over-reliance on incarceration is fiscally unsustainable and has imposed a burdensome human toll and a disparate impact on African American and Latino persons and communities.

The federal prison population has increased nearly 800% since 1980 and more than doubled since 1994, with spending up 1700% during that time, and federal prisons are currently operating at 131% of capacity. This is due to a significant degree to the proliferation of mandatory minimum sentences.  Nearly half of all federal prisoners are serving sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. [2]

There is consensus across the political spectrum that our criminal justice system is out of balance and in need of significant reform. Many states have enacted bipartisan “smart-on-crime” reforms that achieve significant cost savings and reduce crime. Now, it is time for these reforms to be made at the federal level.


Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act of 2021 (S.79)

Introduced by Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) on January 28, 2021, this bipartisan legislation that seeks to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, established in 1986 when Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act–a major contributor to mass incarceration–and apply retroactively to those already convicted or sentenced. Congress set a 100:1 disparity, sentencing crack cocaine offenses at a higher level even though the drugs are nearly identical chemically and comparable in physiological and psychoactive effects. Although it did not address the disparity fully, Congress passed the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity to 18:1 for pending and future cases only. The change was not made retroactive until the bipartisan First Step Act of 2018.

Prospective Impact: The Sentencing Commission [3] estimates that approximately 827 offenders each year would benefit from this section of the bill.2 The current average sentence for those offenders is 74 months. The estimated new sentence for those offenders would be 43 months.

Retroactive Impact: Approximately 7,787 offenders in BOP custody would be eligible to seek a modification of their sentence based on this section of the bill. The Commission estimates that up to 7,644 offenders would receive a reduction in their sentence. [3] The current average sentence for these offenders is 173 months. The estimated new sentence for these offenders would be 100 months


First Step Implementation Act of 2021 (S. 1014)

Introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) on March 25, 2021, this bill would further the goals of the First Step Act of 2018 (FSA) by correcting unfairness that has resulted in implementation and interpretation errors that contravene the spirit of the FSA by:

  • Allowing courts to apply the FSA’s sentencing reform provisions to reduce sentences imposed prior to the enactment of the FSA;
  • Broadening the safety valve provision to allow courts to sentence below a mandatory minimum for nonviolent controlled substance offenses if the court finds the defendant’s criminal history over-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal record and the likelihood of recidivism;
  • Allowing courts to reduce sentences imposed on juvenile offenders who have served more than 20 years;
  • Providing for the sealing or expungement of records of nonviolent juvenile offenses; and,
  • Requiring the Attorney General to establish procedures ensuring that only accurate criminal records are shared for employment-related purposes.


Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act of 2021 (S. 601)

Introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) on March 4, 2021, this bill would end the perverse practice under which federal courts consider acquitted or dismissed charges as aggravating factors when imposing sentences for convictions. It would do so by:

  • Amending 18 U.S.C. § 3661 to preclude a court of the United States from considering, except for purposes of mitigating a sentence, acquitted conduct at sentencing, and
  • Defining “acquitted conduct” to include acts for which a person was criminally charged and adjudicated not guilty after trial in a Federal, State, Tribal, or Juvenile court, or acts underlying a criminal charge or juvenile information dismissed upon a motion for acquittal.


Covid-19 Safer Detention Act of 2021 (S. 312)

Introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) on February 12, 2021, this bill would clarify and expand the eligibility for the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program (introduced by the FSA), including explicitly naming COVID-19 vulnerability as a basis for compassionate release under this program. It would do so by:

  • Clarifying that the percentage of time served required for the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program should be calculated based on an inmate’s sentence, including reductions for good time credits (H.R. 4018, which passed the House by voice vote last Congress);
  • Expanding the eligibility criteria for the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program to include nonviolent offenders who have served at least two-thirds of their term of imprisonment;
  • Clarifying that elderly nonviolent D.C. Code offenders in BOP custody are eligible for the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program and that federal prisoners sentenced before November 1, 1987 are eligible for compassionate release;
  • Subjecting elderly home detention eligibility decisions to judicial review (based on the First Step Act’s compassionate release provision); and
  • Providing that, during the period of the pandemic, COVID-19 vulnerability is a basis for compassionate release and shortening the period prisoners must wait for judicial review for elderly home detention and compassionate release from 30 to 10 days.

There are too many people in prison serving unnecessarily long sentences.  These people are not a threat to the public and serving inhumanely long sentences actually reduces their chances of becoming productive law-abiding citizens.  We must support shorter sentences when appropriate.  These bills are not only appropriate, but also imperative.

Events of the past few years have illuminated the systemic inequalities in our country’s criminal legal system. At NETWORK, we cannot continue to tolerate racial profiling, police brutality, the loss of another generation to mass incarceration, or the perpetuation of poverty. As we Build Anew, we affirm the truth that every person is entitled to dignity and equal justice under law. It is time for Congress to act and take a firm stance against institutional racism embedded within the criminal legal system bypassing the First Step Implementation Act, the Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act, and the Covid-19 Safer Detention Act.

[1] Sentencing Reform | American Civil Liberties Union (

[2] Federal Sentencing Reform (

[3] Prison and Sentencing Impact Assessment for the EQUAL Act of 2021 (

All I Want for Christmas is a Faithful Democracy

All I Want for Christmas is a Faithful Democracy

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
December 22, 2021

As some of you may know, there are swirling rumors about the possibility that voting rights could move as soon as the Senate returns in January. With that in mind, it is the right moment for us to pull no punches in urging the White House to push the Democratic Caucus to finally pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis VRAA.

After the historical Senate floor address by Sen. Warnock earlier this month demanding action on voting rights, a very real energy is building among Senate Democrats.  The timing of consideration between Build Back Better and voting rights bill has been in flux in recent days, but there was a tangible pivot towards the latter with Manchin’s unexpected rejection of BBB negotiations on Fox News. It was a setback, for sure, but one that can be overcome.

In the meantime, what we are seeing is a problematic lack of enthusiasm by the Biden Administration to meet the level of energy in the Senate move on voting rights. We know his influence on Democratic Senators is powerful.  I chose to get arrested in front of the White House and to write about the moral call to pass these bills because we know President Biden also cares and listens when the faith community weighs in clear and strong.

In a faithful democracy, elections, campaigns, and voting are all mechanisms for a collective wisdom to shape truly representative leadership and empower accountable decision-makers. This is the open-loop system that, at its best, brings about a more perfect union. Transformational reforms are needed now to get us there, and cannot wait for another election cycle to pass.

Hampering voter participation has become campaign strategy in Republican led states. Gerrymandered districts are being drawn to lock in power for another decade rather than reflect the will of constituents. Dark money is already flooding the airwaves and internet with campaign attack ads and fear-mongering half-truths. All the while, a coordinated misinformation campaign is dangerously undermining voters’ trust in elections.

Leader Schumer has announced his intent to consider these bills as the first order of business in January—and to reform the filibuster rule if needed to have the debate and a vote. The White House must match his determination by encouraging the Senate Democrats to move on voting rights and adjust their rules as needed, even as they continue negotiating Build Back Better.

For now, make sure you stay updated with NETWORK here.

We look forward to what I hope is the final push to passage in the New Year and to welcoming Rev. Christian Watkins into the voting rights struggle on behalf of NETWORK. Take this holiday to rest so that you, too, will be ready to engage anew when the time is right.


Sr. Quincy Howard, OP

Title 42 Livestream

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Confronting the Inflation Scare

Confronting the Inflation Scare

Jarrett Smith
November 24, 2021

There is a new scare tactic corporations and their lobbyists are using to maintain the status quo of hoarding their profits for themselves. They are manufacturing a false and misleading panic about inflation to scare elected officials away from supporting policies that require corporations and the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share.

We cannot let a disingenuous panic over inflation get in the way of passing our common-good agenda.

Here are the facts about our economy:

1.) COVID-19 is the driver of recent inflation, not public investments. Resolving supply-chain problems and making progress on COVID-19 will reduce inflation.
-Consumers shifted their buying patterns during the pandemic, spending more on goods than on services. This is temporarily squeezing capacity and driving up prices.
-On the supply side, supply-chain bottlenecks are the result of initial shutdown of production and ongoing disruptions from the pandemic around the globe.

2.) The Build Back Better plan will help reduce inflationary pressures in the long term.
-Build Back Better (and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) will create jobs and make it easier for workers to keep them, expand our capacity to produce goods and services in the medium- to long-term, and reduce the risk of inflation.

3.) In the short-term, the Build Back Better plan will help families deal with rising costs by:
-Providing families with children up to $300 per month per child to help afford the basics and get ahead
– Helping families cover the rising cost of childcare – one of families’ biggest costs
– Lowering the cost of prescription drugs and making health insurance more affordable
– Helping people with low incomes afford housing and avoid evictions and homelessness

It is deceptive to look only at rising prices, without taking into account recent wage gains and income boosts from the American Rescue Plan. Seventeen Nobel Prize-winning economists refuted inflation panic and supported President Biden’s economic agenda in a joint letter, saying,

“Because this agenda invests in long-term economic capacity and will enhance the ability of more Americans to participate productively in the economy, it will ease longer-term inflationary pressures.”

Build Back Better will help our communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic equitably. The Build Back Better Act just passed the House; now we must urge the Senate to pass the bill and send it to President Biden’s desk.

Thank you for your help confronting inflation-panic scare tactics and advocating for Build Back Better!

John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act Cannot Wait

Julia Morris
November 17, 2021

Rep. John Lewis died over a year ago, in the midst of his passing senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle shared kind words about him and honoring his legacy. However, sentiment does not seem to align with congressional action.

On three occasions in the past month, Senate Republicans have blocked discussing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4).

What’s in the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act?

  • The John Lewis Voting Rights Act (VRAA) would restore the full power and protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
  • In 2013, in the disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court struck down the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act. This provision required states with a history of enacting racist anti-voter laws to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before their state’s election laws could be changed.
  • This bill would restore the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act and hopefully expand the list of covered states.
  • This would prevent future discriminatory laws from being allowed on the books — like we are seeing proliferate across the country now.

Suppression tactics to hamper voter participation have become campaign strategy. Gerrymandered districts reflect the needs of the party in power, not the constituents. It is often impossible to know the sources of campaign attacks and fear-mongering half-truths. While these weaknesses were on full display, a coordinated misinformation campaign by the loser’s party is dangerously undermining voters’ trust in elections.

In a faithful democracy, elections, campaigns, and voting are all mechanisms for a collective wisdom to break through which shapes truly representative leadership and empowers accountable decision-makers. This is the open-loop system that, at its best, brings about a more perfect union. Transformational reforms are needed to get us there, and they cannot wait another election cycle.

What’s In the Latest Build Back Better Framework?

What’s In the Latest Build Back Better Framework?

Audrey Carroll
November 10, 2021

On October 28, President Biden unveiled the framework for his Build Back Better Plan. The $1.75 trillion package includes key provisions such as permanent refundability of the Child Tax Credit, closing the Medicaid coverage gap in the 12 non-expansion states, a $150 billion investment in affordable housing and vouchers, $100 billion for immigration system reforms, four weeks of paid family leave, and more.


Here’s a breakdown of the NETWORK priorities included in the Build Back Better framework:

Health Care

*Expand Medicaid coverage in 12 non-expansion states
*Address the Black maternal health crisis

The $130 billion health care investments in the Build Back Better framework will expand Medicaid coverage to 4 million uninsured people in 12 non-expansion states. Medicaid expansion will help elders, rural communities, low-income communities, and other folks with health care accessibility issues receive care. Also included in the package are historic maternal health equity investments to address the Black maternal health crisis.

Tax Credits

*Permanent refundability of the Child Tax Credit
*One-year extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit

The proposed Build Back Better framework includes permanent refundability of the Child Tax Credit, and will provide more than 35 million households with the expanded Child Tax Credit of up to $3,600 per child for one year. Full refundability of the Child Tax Credit means that low-income families who do not typically file a tax return will still qualify for the credit and get the support they need.

The framework also extends the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for about 17 million low-wage workers. The American Rescue Plan tripled the credit for childless workers, many who  are essential workers, and the Build Back Better framework will extend this provision to work towards alleviating poverty.


*$150 billion for housing investments including: $25 billion in new rental assistance; $65 billion to preserve public housing infrastructure; and $15 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund 

President Biden’s plan would invest $150 billion in housing affordability, especially for rural communities. These investments will fund more than 1 million new affordable homes, rental assistance, public housing, and expand housing vouchers to hundreds of thousands of families in the U.S. This is one of the biggest affordable housing investments in history and will help eliminate the racial wealth and income gap by allowing first-generation homebuyers to build wealth.

Paid Leave

*Four weeks of paid family and medical leave

After initially being gutted from the original Build Back Better framework, four weeks of paid family and medical leave is now included thanks to the tireless advocacy of workers and families across the country. The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world without a national paid family and medical leave program. A federal paid leave program will allow low-income workers and workers of color to access paid leave for the first time. Workers will no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or their family members.


*Reforms to our immigration systems
*Work permits and deportation protection for undocumented people in the U.S. 10 years or longer

The Build Back Better framework includes a $100 billion investment for immigration systems reforms, contingent on a Senate parliamentarian ruling. While the current framework includes access to work permits and deportation protections for nearly 7 million undocumented people living in the U.S. for a decade or longer, it disappointingly does not include a pathway to citizenship Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and other essential workers despite strong bipartisan support.

Additional Investments in Children, Families, and Our Communities

In addition to these NETWORK priorities, additional investments the Build Back Better plan will establish universal and free preschool for more than 6 million 3- and 4-year-olds, expand access to high-quality, affordable child care, improve Medicaid coverage for home care services for seniors and people with disabilities while improving the quality of caregiving jobs, and provide $550 billion of investments in clean energy and other climate change initiatives.

How will the Build Back Better plan be paid for?

The Build Back Better plan will be paid for by requiring ultra-wealthy millionaires and billionaires and corporations to pay their fair share. The framework reverses some of the 2017 Trump-era tax cuts for the wealthy to raise revenue for families and workers in the U.S. The tax justice provisions include:

  • A surtax of 5% on personal income above $10 million, and 3% on income above $25 million.
  • A 15% minimum tax on corporate profits of large corporations with over $1 billion in profits.
  • A 1% tax on stock buybacks.
  • A 50% minimum tax on foreign profits of U.S. corporations.
  • Closing loopholes that allow wealthy taxpayers to avoid Medicare taxes, and more.

Unfortunately, the Billionaires Income Tax was left out of the framework. With the tax changes in the Build Back Better framework, we will raise more than enough revenue to pay for the $1.75 trillion plan.

It’s time to pass Build Back Better!

The Build Back Better framework outlines transformational investments in workers and families that will work towards eliminating the racial wealth and income gap and building a new, equitable society. The framework falls short by not including a pathway to citizenship, but is overall a significant step towards dismantling systemic racism in our federal systems. House Democrats are currently working on moving the Build Back Better plan across the finish line before the end of the year. Email your Representative today or dial 888-738-3058 to call your Representative and tell them you support the Build Back Better framework!

Legislative Update: Build Back Better

Our Work to Pass Build Back Better Continues

Julia Morris
November 9, 2021

While we have been talking about the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill (H.R.3684) and Build Back Better Act for months, last Friday, the Bipartisan Infrastructure package passed the House and became law and a deal was struck between moderates and progressives on Build Back Better. While the Bipartisan Infrastructure plan includes important investments in affordable housing, safe drinking water, and broadband access, we need Congress to also pass the social investments in the Build Back Better plan to support families and communities. You can read more about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal on the White House website. 

Together, both bills will make a spectacular investment to improve lives, create good union jobs, add a more sustainable environment, and more! Last week’s vote, agreeing on the rule for Build Back Better, will pave the way for investment in the care economy, a clean environment, and having the wealthiest pay more of their fair share for it all. 

Five Democrats: Representatives Ed Case (HI-1), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Stephanie Murphy (FL-7), Kathleen Rice (NY-4) and Kurt Schrader (OR-5); offered their tentative support for Build Back Better. If the cost estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is “consistent with the toplines for revenues and investments” outlined in the White House estimate, they will vote in support. With this commitment, the House went forward and passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill. This is in large part thanks to the Congressional Black Caucus’s two-step solution: passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill along with the rule governing floor debate for Build Back Better (H.Res.774). 

NETWORK applauds President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, the Progressive Caucus and Moderates who are moving the whole package, both bills, forward.  Now, we urge Congress to vote before Thanksgiving to begin making transformational investments that prioritize vulnerable communities.  As the Build Back Better plan continues advancing in the House, we have to keep pressure on Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, neither of whom have yet to support the plan publicly. 

Make your voice heard! Join us in emailing the Senate and House to show your support for Build Back Better. 

Or write a letter to the editor supporting the Build Back Better plan here! 

As Pope Francis said at the beginning of the pandemic, “it is necessary to build tomorrow, look to the future, and for this we need the commitment, strength and dedication of all.” 

NETWORK Urges Representatives to vote YES on the Build Back Better Act

NETWORK Urges all Members of Congress to vote YES on the Build Back Better Act

Julia Morris
November 4, 2021

Ahead of a vote on the Build Back Better Act (H.R.5376), NETWORK Executive Director Mary J. Novak sent a vote recommendation to the Hill urging Representatives to vote yes. This historic legislation reflects values inherent in Catholic Social Teaching as it embodies love of neighbor, care for vulnerable communities, and care for the earth. As importantly, this transformative bill requires those who have the most to contribute their fair share to advancing the common good.

The Build Back Better Act takes critical and necessary steps toward addressing long-standing injustices by:

  • Cutting childhood poverty in half by providing a permanently refundable Child Tax Credit and ensuring no worker is taxed into poverty by extending the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Expanding life-saving health care by closing the Medicaid coverage gap, investing in programs to end the Black maternal health crisis, extending premium tax credits to improve affordability for low-income workers and families, making the Childrens Health Insurance Program permanent, ensuring returning citizens have access to Medicaid, and making medicine more affordable.
  • Expanding Medicaid home care to keep older Americans and people with disabilities in their homes while paying care workers a fair wage.
  • Supporting working families navigate the challenges of raising children and taking care of loved ones when they are sick without risking their economic security by implementing a national paid family and medical leave program.
  •  Providing protections to some of our immigrant sisters and brothers.
  • Ensuring improved access to stable housing by expanding housing choice vouchers and invest in building new affordable housing; at the same time remediating years of deferred maintenance at public housing properties.
  • Closing the digital divide and expanding opportunity by making high-speed internet accessible and affordable for low-income urban and rural communities.

The time to act is now. NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges all elected officials to seize this moment as a critical opportunity to act faithfully and make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and all communities.

Read NETWORK’s Vote Recommendation on Build Back Better Act (H.R.5376).