In case you missed it, yesterday, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) formally endorsed the Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, which would reform the military justice system by moving the decision to prosecute serious crimes in the military from the chain of command to trained military prosecutors. The Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act is the House companion to Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA), which has 66 co-sponsors.
In addition to tackling the serious issue of sexual assault in the military and holding service members accountable for their crimes, the legislation would address systemic barriers to justice for service members of color. Black and Hispanic service members are more likely than white members to be tried in general and special courts-martial in all military services, and Black service members are up to two and a half times as likely to face disciplinary action as their fellow white service members. While 43% of our service members are people of color, only two of the 46 most senior admirals and generals are Black. Moving prosecution decisions to professionals could help to reduce this bias.
See below for quotes from members of the CBC:
“The brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces deserve a system that protects survivors of sexual assault. I am proud to join my House and Senate colleagues in endorsing this critical piece of legislation that will help address the epidemic of military sexual assault while also dismantling the many barriers that prevent servicemembers from attaining justice.” – Senator Cory Booker
“Our military justice system is failing servicemembers of color and survivors of sexual assault. The young women and men who wear the uniform and protect our country deserve a system that provides fairness and equal justice. Our military connects our communities, that’s why this fight is critical to our broader efforts reforming and transforming our broader justice system for all Americans.” – Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04)
“We must not forget Vanessa Guillén. Her story gained national attention from my colleagues and people across the country, who were outraged and protested in her honor. The time is now to pass legislation that will reform the military justice system and prosecute egregious crimes like the one that led to her death. As Chair of the CBC, I will ensure that we focus on the neglectful treatment of servicemembers of color and survivors of sexual assault. The Congressional Black Caucus, will stay focused on closing the longstanding racial inequities in our country and, as the conscience of the Congress we will keep fighting for justice.” – CBC Chairwoman Joyce Beatty
“The murder of Vanessa Guillén shocked the nation and exposed the long-standing failures of our military justice system to protect servicemembers of color and survivors of sexual assault,” said Congressman Horsford. “The Congressional Black Caucus is honored to use our power and our message to push for the passage of this bipartisan legislation, which will make important reforms to reduce bias in our military justice system, stamp out sexual harassment and assault, and ensure that survivors can receive the justice they deserve. We need to create a culture in our military and its justice system that protects all those who answer the call to serve and reflects our values. We owe it to our servicemembers to get this done.” – CBC First Vice-Chair Steven Horsford
“Vanessa Guillén’s tragic death has been a call to action for the country regarding what must be done to protect our young soldiers from harassment and sexual assault, especially because women soldiers and soldiers of color face disproportionate punishment, as well as service-wide disparities in the way their cases are handled. While nothing can bring Vanessa back, we must do all we can to provide justice and accountability. The Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act will do this by reforming the military justice system by removing the decision to prosecute serious crimes in the military from the chain of command. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill, and I will continue to use my role on the Armed Services Committee to continue to fight for equal rights under the law for all servicemembers.” – Congressman Marc Veasey
“The Vanessa Guillén Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act is a crucial step to ensure that our government and our military are stepping up to protect the brave servicemembers, women, and people of color who step up to protect and defend us every day. We must honor SPC Guillén with action by reforming our military justice system to better uphold our values and making the changes that survivors of sexual assault have been calling for.” – Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland