House Minority Leader Rep. Robert Reives and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue

North Carolina House Minority Leader Rep. Robert Reives II (center), D-Chatham, and North Carolina Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (right), D-Wake, along with other state Democrats, announce details of criminal justice reform legislation Tuesday, May 4, 2021, at the state Legislature in Raleigh, N.C.

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(The Center Square) – North Carolina legislative Democrats have introduced nearly three dozen bills to revamp the state’s criminal justice system.

The legislation calls for reforms to the cash bail system, law enforcement policy, court appearance penalties, the death penalty, sentencing and incarceration policies.

“We have filed a comprehensive list of bills that address inequities and injustices in our court and jails, reforms to law enforcement practices, as well as providing funding and guidelines for additional officer training,” Sen. Mujtaba Mohammed, D-Mecklenburg, said Tuesday during a news briefing.

The lawmakers also filed bills to decriminalize marijuana, increase the penalty for hate crimes and block no-knock warrants. The joint effort by House and Senate Democrats was announced a day after the funeral of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man killed last month by Pasquotank County deputies.

“Acts of violence such as these have reignited the conversation and the effort to enact meaningful criminal justice reform,” said Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake.

Some of the legislation resulted from Gov. Roy Cooper’s North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, which the governor launched last year in response to civil unrest over other police-involved killings.

Mohammed said Senate Bill 656 mirrors the comprehensive report from the bipartisan task force to address racial equity and criminal justice reform. The 34-page bill addresses issues with excessive force, prison conditions and education programs, police body-worn cameras, no-knock warrants and law enforcement training, among other things.

Democrats said Tuesday they expect bipartisan support for several of the measures. Republicans have co-sponsored House Bill 547 and House Bill 548. Both bills were drafted from House Speaker Tim Moore's Task Force on Justice, Law Enforcement and Community Relations and focus on law enforcement policy reforms.

“We’re providing a lot of options to the General Assembly to help move North Carolina forward as a state where every person can live free from fear of indignities and injustice,” Sen. Natalie Murdock, D-Durham, said. “But, if we’re going to make meaningful changes, we can’t be the only ones doing the talking.”

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