Why I fight for social and economic justice
by State Representative Juliana Stratton, 5th District, @JulianaforLG

A little while back, I met a woman named Maria and she was kind and brave enough to share her story with me. Maria described her experience in the criminal justice system in a way that has stuck with me ever since: First she was in prison, then she went to prison, then she came home to prison.

I was struck by how many women in our prisons want to build better lives, but are fighting against a system that isn’t set up to help them. So together with a coalition of advocates, we introduced the Women’s Correctional Services Act to get women in prison the support they need. My work with Maria is an example of something I’ve seen proven true over and over again: when you bring people to the table and lift up the wisdom in the room, you can lay out a better path for the future.

As a legislator, I have fought to right the injustices in our state and bring true justice to our communities. It’s time we recognize that instead of giving Illinoisans a chance to reach their full potential, mass incarceration has left our communities weaker and too many of our young men and women without the opportunity to thrive.

I’ve fought to end the school to prison pipeline, introducing legislation to ban preschools from expelling children and banning school-based police booking stations from school grounds. Too often in our juvenile justice system, trauma is ignored and adolescent behavior is criminalized. We need to recognize this and focus on rehabilitative alternatives to prosecution and incarceration.

And just this week, I introduced a bill to make sure that people in county jails who can vote are actually able to exercise their right to do so. Voting is the most basic expression of our democratic values and I believe we need to do everything possible to guarantee that right.

We have to acknowledge how real opportunity is so often reserved for the few instead of the many. And we must recognize how our criminal justice system disproportionately targets people of color, reinforcing the systemic disinvestment that keeps so many communities of color from moving forward.

I’m running with JB Pritzker because he listens to the wisdom in the room that is found in all of our communities and understands these systemic injustices. He shares my values of social and economic justice, and will fight for a future that includes real opportunity and justice for all.

We’re at a critical moment right now as Democrats. We can let Bruce Rauner continue to exploit our communities and divide our state.

Or we can come together and elect a genuine leader who cares, someone who time and again has demonstrated the values that define him. I’m proud to stand with JB Pritzker in this fight for our state and I thank you for standing with us.