Prison Policy Initiative
In a new 50-state report, Correctional Control 2018: Incarceration and supervision by state, the Prison Policy Initiative calculates each state's rate of correctional control, including both incarceration and community supervision (probation and parole), and then presents the breakdown of each state's correctional population in over 100 charts. The report finds that some of the states with the lowest incarceration rates are among the most punitive when community supervision (especially probation) is taken into account. Using data visualization to draw attention to the massive scale of community supervision - with about 4.5 million people on probation and parole - the report emphasizes the need for greater attention to the ways community supervision harms individuals and widens the net of correctional control. Finally, the report suggests ways that probation and parole can be reformed to become more meaningful alternatives to incarceration. (For those interested in seeing their state's raw data, it's available in a data appendix.)
Life Comes From It
We are happy to announce the launch of Life Comes From It (LCFI), which is a first of its kind grantmaking circle where decisions over funding are made by people heavily steeped in restorative justice, transformative justice and indigenous peacemaking. They have come together around a shared vision of addressing harm through community solutions, without reliance on incarceration and punitive systems. The member's of the LCFI advisory circle are Robert Yazzie, Chief Justice Emeritus of the Navajo Nation; Sheryl Wilson, MLS, Director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution; Troy Williams, a media expert dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated people document their experiences; Johonna Turner, PhD, Co-Director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice; Sonya Shah, Director of The Ahimsa Collective; sujatha baliga, Director of Impact Justice's Restorative Justice Project, and Seth Lennon Nguyen-Weiner, Attorney. In November, the advisory circle chose twenty-two projects around the country from among 180 applicants to receive grants up to $25,000, for a total of $347,000. The first recipients included the American Indian Prison Project for Reentry Talking Circles, built on Dakota Kinship Teachings and the Anishanabe 7 Grandfather Teachings, to be held in Minnesota prisons; and the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, a group of queer, migrant, disabled, gender non conforming, indigenous, people of color who organize for Transformative Justice (TJ) towards ending child sexual abuse, to create a TJ Training Institute. Going forward, grants will be awarded on an annual basis.
The Right of Return Fellowship
Co-Chairs Jesse Krimes and Russell Craig with the support of The Soze Agency are proud to announce the second year of the Right of Return USA Fellowship. Founded in 2017, the Right of Return serves as the only fellowship opportunity exclusively for formerly incarcerated artists. Specifically tailored to facilitate the creation of work that challenges and supports reform of the U.S. Criminal Justice System, this year’s fellowship — generously funded once again by the Open Philanthropy project — will award a diverse collection of six artists $20,000 each. Applications are currently being accepted and the deadline is December 16th, 2018 11:59 pm (EST). The application and additional information can be found here.
Voice of the Experienced
This week, VOTE staff has been on a strategic retreat, visioning 2019 and beyond. We're gearing up for more major wins. We'll spend the beginning of the year hosting a massive voter registration drive for formerly incarcerated Louisiana citizens, who recently regained their voting rights thanks to the passage of Act 636. Then, we'll be launching a new iteration of the Ban the Box campaign, banning local landlords from discriminating against people returning home from prison. Finally, we're getting ready for the 2019 Legislative session, protecting our wins from 2017 and drafting a package of criminal justice reform bills that will make life easier for formerly incarcerated people statewide.
The Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice
The Restorative Justice Project team is hunkering down to finish a web-based resource we’re excited to launch in Spring 2019. Keep an eye out for "Moves Like Water: A Restorative Justice Diversion Toolkit for Communities." The toolkit will guide readers through the steps of building relationships with community members and with local juvenile legal system leaders in order to establish a case referral process. The technical and design aspects of this project have been supported by UX, design, and web development freelancers through Wethos. Here in Oakland, members of our team participated in the Restore Oakland retreat where local organizations came together to build relationships and develop a shared vision for a people-powered economy and accountability centered justice system. Last month, Georgia attended the 2018 Nonprofit Software Development Summit to start identifying a software developer to build a case management database for our RJD sites. Ashlee recently presented about RJD at the Mountain State Racial Justice Summit 2018 in West Virginia and weighed in for the final review of Yale School of Architecture's studio designing Community Justice Centers to accommodate restorative justice processes.
Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
While much attention is deservedly paid to re-enfranchising people with criminal records, another important voting bloc to engage with are those with criminal records who actually can vote but don’t know that because of a misunderstanding of the nuances of disenfranchisement laws in different states. In Colorado, most people with criminal records are eligible to vote but a recent statewide poll commissioned by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition showed significant public confusion surrounding the voting rights of individuals with a criminal record. The survey found that only a small majority of Coloradans (57%) know that individuals who have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor are eligible to vote once they have completed their prison sentencing, including parole. That number drops to only about one-third (36%) for respondents who identified as neither white nor Hispanic. Also, four out of 10 Coloradans (43%) do not know that individuals currently in jail for misdemeanor convictions are allowed to vote from jail, and only 41% were aware that individuals in jail awaiting trial are also eligible. This substantial misunderstanding raises concerns that some might sit out an election because they mistakenly believe—or are wrongly led to believe—they are not allowed to vote. CCJRC’s "Voting With Conviction" campaign includes public education on the law, voter registration at probation offices and in jails, door-to-door canvassing, paid advertising and other grassroots outreach efforts. You can read the full survey results here.
Fair and Just Prosecution
In November, FJP staff traveled to Europe to meet with officials, community groups and justice system leaders, and observe more humane practices around drug policy, the treatment of youth and young adults, and models of sentencing and incarceration. In Portugal, FJP staff learned about the country’s decades-long drug policies, involving decriminalization, investment in treatment approaches, and response to substance use disorder through a public health approach. And, in Germany, they saw a model of incarceration premised on the preservation of human dignity—with more enlightened thinking around sentencing and how to address youth and young adults who come into contact with the justice system. FJP will return to Europe in the spring with a group of elected DAs eager to learn and implement new approaches. FJP also expanded its network of prosecutive leaders as the mid-term elections resulted in an increasing number of reform-minded DAs and Attorneys General around the nation. FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky joined with two of these forward-thinking DAs shortly after their election -- Satana Deberry, DA-elect of Durham, NC and Rachael Rollins, DA-elect of Suffolk County (Boston, MA) -- at NYU Law School for a panel on “21st Century Prosecutors: A Conversation about the Future of Prosecution and Criminal Justice Reform.” The panel was part of ongoing recruiting efforts for FJP’s Summer Fellows program.
Color of Change
For several months, Color of Change, Corrections Accountability Project, VOCAL, and other members of the Bail Bond Accountability Coalition have been running a successful campaign pushing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate and regulate the bail bond industry. In a recent op-ed in the New York Daily News, Rashad Robinson called on Cuomo to strengthen proposed regulations to explicitly limit bail agents' ability to jail people, restrict abusive contract terms and require real accountability from the insurance companies that back bail bond agents.
The new Mayor of New Orleans’ first budget included a tremendous win for Court Watch NOLA (CWN): it adds sufficient funding for the Orleans Criminal District Court to hire full-time language interpreters. This success is borne from CWN’s report that where an interpreter was needed but not requested by the Court, magistrate judges nonetheless ruled in defendants’ bail settings without the interpreter present in 87% of observations. CWN’s fight is not complete, however. We are still pushing stakeholders to earmark the funds strictly for language interpreters for the future.
Texas Advocates for Justice
Houston leaders Kirsten Ricketts, Sybil Sybille and Danny Snead participated in the Smart Justice Speakers Bureau, launched by the ACLU Texas, The Anthony Graves Foundation and Texas Southern University Urban Research & Resource Center in Houston, Texas. This is the first of its kind certification program to train individuals directly impacted by the criminal justice system to speak on public forums with state legislators, participate in city and county council meetings and effectively advocate for criminal justice reforms. Upon completion of the 12-week training, the graduates are certified advocates for criminal justice. We congratulate Kirsten, Sybil and Danny for stepping up and becoming a voice for so many impacted people across the state.
The #CLOSErikers campaign partnered in crucial conversations about how the criminal legal system harms youth and what advocates can do to change that. We supported a voter registration drive at Rikers that registered almost 900 voters, furthering our commitment to ensuring that the dignity of all incarcerated people at Rikers is preserved as much as possible even as we focus on shutting it down. We also increased the pressure on the Queens District Attorney: we signed onto and helped create the Queens DA Accountability Coalition. Steered by #CLOSErikers campaign partners, the Coalition aims to influence the next Queens DA's priorities. Additionally, we continued to support allies working to hold the NYPD accountable – a crucial component of our work to #CLOSErikers. Finally, the Mass Bailout, of which JLUSA was on the steering committee, wrapped up in November. We look forward to learning more about the success of the largest bailout ever in the US. The story so far: 105 women and children released from NYC jails with a court appearance rate of 98% – further supporting the idea that money bail is not needed to ensure return to court.
American Conservative Union Foundation
At its winter meeting, the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) Criminal Justice Task Force adopted landmark model legislation crafted and sponsored by The American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) related to dignity for incarcerated women. The model policy is intended to provide a template for state legislatures across the nation to improve policies for women behind bars, ensuring we maintain human dignity and family bonds throughout incarceration. The legislation focused on a number of issues specific to women in the criminal justice system, including banning the shackling of pregnant inmates; limiting the ability of male guards to view women in a state of undress; reserving the practice of invasive body cavity searches to medical professionals; and encouraging departments of corrections to place female offenders in prisons near family members to facilitate visitation by spouses. Now that the legislation has passed the ALEC task force unanimously, every state legislator will be given a copy of the model bill. With language already drafted and vetted, our advocates will have a “head start” as state legislatures go into session early next year. We look forward to working with our legislative allies in State Capitols across the country to pass and implement these important reforms. For more on ACUF’s work regarding Dignity for Incarcerated Women, read here.