The past year has tested our resolve and magnified the injustices that have plagued our country for centuries. But it also demonstrated our strength and resilience in the face of adversity – not to mention a lot of creativity in finding new ways to push for civil rights in an ever-changing virtual world.
Here’s a look back at some of the highlights for the ACLU of Wyoming.
VICTORY: Wyoming won’t detain for private gain
That was the word in April when CoreCivic announced it would not be submitting a response to the U.S. Immigration and Customs agency to build an immigration prison in Uinta County.
For more than two years, the ACLU has fought alongside with organizations throughout the state as part of the grassroots WyoSayNo campaign, an effort to push back against the proposed immigration prison in Uinta County.
At times, the WyoSayNo campaign felt like a losing fight. Despite public opposition to the proposed immigration prison, Uinta County Commissioners continually worked to ensure the prison would be built while neglecting to inform the community about what exactly they were been doing.
Sometimes, it felt like no matter what we did or said, they kept pushing forward. Earlier this year, Uinta County Commissioners even unanimously voted to pass a land transfer resolution authorizing the sale of county property for the prison. So we’re thrilled that CoreCivic has withdrawn its plans to pursue an ICE contract to build an immigration prison outside of Evanston.
Private prison companies like CoreCivic put profit above lives, and an immigration prison would bring ICE closer to Wyoming’s Latino and immigrant communities, expanding its ability to prey on immigrants and break apart families in Wyoming.
CoreCivic is the second private prison company to rescind its plans to pursue a contract with ICE. Utah-based Management & Training Corporation withdrew its plans last summer. The immigration prison outside Evanston would have served ICE’s Utah-based operations and held up to 1,000 people as they awaited immigration court proceedings in Salt Lake City.
Know Your Rights Trainings Keep Wyomities Informed, Connected
Whether they’re demanding justice for George Floyd and brutality against Black people throughout the country, pushing back against ICE targeting Wyoming communities on a regular basis, or fighting for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit equality, activists throughout Wyoming are took to the streets to express their opinions, their outrage, and their demands for change throughout 2020.
From protesting to interacting with police to casting your ballot, everyone has basic rights that are protected by the U.S. Constitution and civil rights laws. But standing up for your rights can sometimes be challenging. That’s why the ACLU spent a significant amount of time educating and reminding people of their rights through educational materials and virtual know your rights workshops.
Get Out the Vote Efforts Bring More People to the Polls
In an unprecedented year, it was only natural that we had an unprecedented election.
The ACLU has a long history of helping voters understand and exercise their voting rights – and this year was no different. With misinformation flowing from the highest levels, we knew how important it was for voters to be prepared and make their plan for voting – either by absentee ballot or in person on Election Day. It was never more important to help educate voters on how, where and when they can vote, and how to advocate for their constitutional right to cast a ballot when obstacles are thrown in their way.
That’s why we launched an aggressive voting rights campaign – amplified through digital and outdoor advertising, direct mail, an expansive email program, interactive online tools, and social media outreach – and provided voting rights information, absentee ballot request forms, and instructions to people across the state. We even shared the stories of why Wyomingites vote on our social media channels.
Through these efforts and more, we helped thousands of Wyomingites vote safely by mail – and if people were comfortable, in person on Election Day – in the November election.
Support for Repealing the Death Penalty Continues to Grow
State by state, the United States is moving away from the death penalty because it’s racist, arbitrary, inhumane, and prone to error. With a growing number of state legislators supporting a repeal of the death penalty, Wyoming is headed in that direction, too.
More than 125 Wyoming residents and other repeal supporters from around the country – including Sister Helen Prejean, a leading advocate for the abolition of the death penalty – signed an open letter urging state legislators to support the repeal in the 2021 legislative session.
The letter reads, in part:
“As more information becomes available about the arbitrary and discriminatory manner in which these laws are applied — and as societal standards regarding the death penalty continue to evolve — it becomes increasingly difficult for capital punishment laws to avoid violating the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. … The death penalty is an intolerable denial of civil liberties and is inconsistent with the fundamental values of our democratic system. The time to take up a bill ending the death penalty in Wyoming is now. Let’s make a repeal happen in 2021.”
In the 2019 Wyoming legislative session, a bill to repeal the death penalty drew far more support from state lawmakers than ever before. The bill had 13 co-sponsors in the House and five in the Senate, and had the support of leadership in both chambers. Ultimately, the bill passed in the House but failed with an 18-12 vote in the Senate.
In 2020, the Wyoming House of Representatives narrowly missed meeting the 2/3 super majority of votes required to consider legislation that would repeal the death penalty during the legislature’s budget session.
Now, we are working with legislators on both sides of the aisle who agree that it’s time to end this injustice against people’s lives and unbearable strain on our state budget – legislators who will prioritize repealing the death penalty in early 2021.
Looking Ahead to 2021
Thank you for supporting civil rights and liberties. Moving forward, we’re more committed than ever to building a more just and equitable South Dakota for everyone. Thank you for joining us in the fight. You make progress possible.