Last month, Worth Rises and the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund released a new report: Paying for Jail: How County Jails Extract Wealth from New York Communities. Based on data obtained through open records requests made to all 57 New York counties outside of New York City, the report reveals that county jails extract $50 million from New York families each year. The report is intended to expose many of the economic costs individuals and their families bear while incarcerated in county jails, including the cost of phone calls, commissary, and disciplinary tickets. The report also exposes the lucrative partnerships between county governments and private, for-profit jail service contractors that exploit disproportionately low-income residents. You can read the full report here and we would really appreciate if everyone would help share the report on social media with this toolkit.
Coalition to End Money Bond
On Thursday, January 9th, Illinois Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced that his administration will be working to end money bond in 2020! We are ecstatic that Governor Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton have made ending money bond an immediate policy priority. During the announcement, they both spoke clearly about the ways that money bond punishes people for their poverty and how jailing people hurts them, their families, and their communities. The Coalition to End Money Bond is committed to working with our partners in the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice to abolish money bond in Illinois. Above all, we are committed to ensuring that any policy changes adopted dramatically reduce the number of people incarcerated pretrial across Illinois. You can read news coverage of the announcement here.
Texas Organizing Project
In Bexar County, home to San Antonio, the seventh-largest city in the U.S, the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) is winning on bail reform. Approximately 61 percent of people held in Bexar County jails have not been convicted of a crime, they simply are unable to afford their bail. TOP held town halls, rallies and pressured elected officials to do better. The county commissioners responded. They appointed a new slate of magistrate judges committed to bail reform policies. People arrested on most misdemeanor charges will be released on PR bonds with few exceptions, and bonds will now be considered in failure to appear and motion to revoke probation cases. TOP also won representation on the Magistrate Oversight Committee, and will work with other stakeholders to hold these judges accountable to fulfilling these new mandates. Now it’s on to felony bail reform in 2020 and beyond. Join TOP’s fight for justice by signing up here.
Prison Policy Initiative
The Prison Policy Initiative published our annual “winnable criminal justice reforms” report, with a list of 24 legislative solutions to urgent problems in the criminal justice system. The report focuses on five key issue areas: reducing the size of the prison population, eliminating burdensome costs for incarcerated people and their families, promoting physical and mental health in prisons and jails, supporting reentry and success on supervision, and curbing the effects of prison gerrymandering. We also sent this report to over six hundred reform-friendly state legislators, to encourage and inform new criminal justice reform legislation in the year to come.
Alliance for Safety and Justice
From hard-fought policy wins, to the incredible growth of our Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ) and TimeDone constituencies, 2019 was an incredible year for the Alliance for Safety and Justice. Here are a few highlights. We advanced critical reforms across the country, including four bills in California - AB 1076 and AB 1331 to expand automated expungement, SB 375 to expand victim compensation and a data-collection and accountability bill to advance SB 10 implementation. In Florida, we championed HB 7125, an omnibus package that included raising the felony threshold for petty theft, reducing returns to prison for technical violations of probation, expanding access to victim compensation and reducing occupational licensing exclusions for people with convictions. In Ohio, we’re championing SB 3, a bill to reduce penalties for drug possession, and HB 1, a bill to expand diversion for people with addiction and eligibility for record sealing. CSSJ membership grew to 30,000+ members across ten states, and, we scaled Survivors Speak to five states, engaging more than 2,000 survivors. TimeDone, a network of people living with past convictions, also grew by more than 20,000 members in just one year. Finally, thirty justice reformers completed the inaugural year of the Campaign Academy for Safety and Justice - a new program focused on campaigning, communications, negotiations and somatic leadership development.
Fair and Just Prosecution
Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP) closed out the year with its annual convening in Durham, NC. Over two dozen elected prosecutors, including many elected this November, discussed with experts issues ranging from immigration to the death penalty to disparities in jury selection; identified challenges they face as they seek to move reform; and shared innovations they are implementing to create a fair and just future for all. Over the last two months, FJP also launched two initiatives designed to help prosecutors understand the impact of incarceration. Over 40 elected prosecutors signed a statement pledging to visit their local correctional facilities and to require their staff to do so as part of ongoing job training. In partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia, FJP also announced the selection of James “Yaya” Hough as the first artist-in-residence at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Finally, FJP’s Executive Director Miriam Krinsky coauthored an op-ed with Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby on proposed reforms of youth interrogation practices and wrote an article in the American Bar Association Journal on the need for prosecutors to be courageous leaders in ever-challenging times.
Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice
We’re excited to share that the book Space for Restorative Justice was released in November! The book features a chapter by Ashlee George, Associate Director of the Restorative Justice Project, titled “Circle by Design.” Co-published with the Yale University School of Architecture, this book is the product of a ground-breaking studio at Yale run in collaboration with Impact Justice. The studio explored the design of community justice centers as antidotes to the harm that mass criminalization causes to Black and Brown communities. The book is accessible for free at SpaceForRestorativeJustice.org, and we encourage you to please share it widely. Our staff attended the Statewide Restorative Justice in California Schools Convening hosted by our friends at Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth. We also held a community building circle with Q&A on restorative justice during the Healing In/Justice Convening hosted by the California Wellness Foundation. The convening featured brilliant leaders in community-led violence prevention, including Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, who is the co-founder of RYSE, our restorative justice diversion community partner in Contra Costa County. Last month, we attended the A New Vision on Pretrial Justice Symposium hosted by Justice LA and Vera Institute of Justice.
Community Justice Exchange
Community Justice Exchange released a new resource in December - An Organizer's Guide to Confronting Pretrial Risk Assessment Tools in Decarceration Campaigns. The guide, developed in collaboration with Media Mobilizing Project, is available here. The guide was created as we contend with the fact that we are at a crossroads where campaigns to end money bail and pretrial incarceration must also contend with the broad and insidious introduction and use of risk assessment tools (RATs) as one of the “replacement” interventions the system wants to claim as “reform.” We created this guide for organizers contending with this tension -- how to engage with risk assessment tools in their work to end pretrial incarceration and mass supervision. Instead of focusing on abolishing risk assessments as an endpoint, we propose that targeting risk assessments is a tactic within a larger campaign strategy to end pretrial incarceration and mass supervision with clear decarceral goals. This guide provides tools for opposing RATs, and an analysis that our opposition to them is one part of a larger organizing strategy to end pretrial incarceration and mass supervision.
Promise of Justice Initiative
Last week, Louisiana marked 10 years without an execution. The Promise of Justice Initiative, Sister Helen Prejean, Louisiana Repeal, the French Consulate, and other community members are marking this occasion statewide to ask Louisiana’s leaders to end the costly, unjust, and reprehensible death penalty in the state.
Dignity and Power Now
Dignity and Power Now and JusticeLA's pretrial workgroup partnered with VERA Institute to hold its first pretrial symposium on December 6th. The event focused on the following key issue areas: 1. the role of the Office of the District Attorney on pretrial incarceration 2. risk assessment instruments 3. alternative models of pretrial justice 4. needs assessments. Pretrial experts from across the country were brought in to speak on these pressing issues and engage in discussion on what LA County can learn from different strategies employed in other jurisdictions. The event successfully gathered LA County and State leadership, local community-members and out of state organizers, candidates for LA District Attorney, and public defenders and law enforcement representatives. The event was featured by the LA Times and has elevated the pretrial reform conversation across the county.
Texas Advocates for Justice
Grassroots Leadership and Texas Advocates for Justice started 2020 off by releasing the Care Not Cages Report, which revealed significant racial disparities in policing and jailing in Harris County. The reasons for these disparities are varied and complex, but undoubtedly two of the most significant factors are biased policing that feeds Black people into the criminal legal system, and well-chronicled wealth-based bail practices that keep poor, and largely Black, people in jail pretrial, coercing guilty pleas resulting in longer confinement, and creating or adding to criminal records subsequently used to justify the next arrest, pretrial detention and conviction. The report found that Black people comprised 19.7% of the Harris County population in 2017, yet from March 1, 2015 through March 1, 2018 made up 45.4% of bookings into the Harris County jail and served 51% of the nights in jail — over 3.9 million combined nights. "Harris County must stop wasting tax dollars arresting, incarcerating, and funneling people through the criminal court system,” said Monique Joseph, field organizer for Texas Advocates for Justice. “We demand investment in community-based response to substance use and recovery rather than punishment. Our communities deserve better than this.”
Columbia Justice Lab
In November 2019, the Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC) announced their Elevate Justice Act, which included a proposal to raise the upper age of California's juvenile jurisdiction from 18 to 20. Columbia University Justice Lab Co-Director Vincent Schiraldi published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times supporting CPOC’s proposal and providing recommendations for its improvement. Selen Siringil Perker and Lael Chester of the Emerging Adult Justice Project (EAJP) authored a fact sheet explaining that neither the federal Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) nor the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) pose obstacles to states’ proposals to raise the upper age of juvenile jurisdiction over 18. With support from the EAJP and Citizens for Juvenile Justice, Jane Tewksbury, former Commissioner of Massachusetts’s Department of Youth Services, Assistant Attorney General, and Assistant District Attorney, published an op-ed endorsing An Act to Promote Public Safety and Better Outcomes for Young Adults, legislation pending in Massachusetts that would raise the Commonwealth's upper age of jurisdiction to the 22st. Finally, Florida’s “Second Look Act” (SB 1308), which would provide a means for those incarcerated for crimes committed under age 25 to apply to have their sentences reviewed and potentially reduced, is progressing.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Beginning in 2014, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in partnership with several other organizations (All of Us or None, ACLU, NELP, JLUSA and many others) launched a campaign to urge the Obama Administration to issue an executive order to ban the box and implement fair chance hiring policies for federal agencies and contractors. Our advocacy resulted in the Obama administration issuing a final rule to ease access to employment for individuals seeking jobs within the federal government in 2016. Unfortunately the rule failed to provide applicants for federal contracting jobs with the same protections. To address this issue, key champions on the hill, namely the late Rep. Elijah Cummings and Senator Cory Booker worked with The Leadership Conference, the ACLU and NELP to draft and introduce the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2015. Since that time, The Leadership Conference has been working in partnership with our coalition to advance the bill, ultimately garnering support from Reps. Doug Collins and Senator Ron Johnson. This congress we were successful in using elevated communication strategies, legislative advocacy, field and constituent-based outreach, and coalition engagement to finally pass this important piece of legislation. In December, the President signed the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act into law. This legislation will prevent the federal government and federal contractors from requesting criminal history information from applicants until they reach the conditional offer stage. An estimated 70 million adults in the U.S. – almost one in three adults – have arrests or convictions that will show up on routine background checks. Our work on increasing access to employment opportunities for directly impacted individuals will continue as we push for a regulations to implement the bill over the next 18 months.
Center for Story-Based Strategy
Center for Story-based Strategy invites you to join our upcoming trainings: (1) Intro to Story-based Strategy training in Durham, NC on March 20, 2020! At this full-day session, we will explore what it means to apply a “narrative analysis of power” to social change work and share the story-based strategy approach for developing campaign narratives. Applications due by February 3, 2020. Info and application here. (2) Five-day Advanced Training in Corbett, OR June 1–5, 2020: The Advanced Training is a residential training with a sophisticated learning community exclusively focused on CSS's story-based strategy methodology and model of narrative and campaign development for movement organizations and alliances. Applications due by February 17, 2020. Info and AT Application here. (3) Core Concepts Online in English/Spanish, a 90-minute self-paced workshop that will introduce you to Story-based Strategy Core Concepts in theory and use. Participants will be provided with a practical framework for understanding the power of using Story-based Strategy in their work. Free for OP grantees through July 31, 2020. Enroll here with the code: OPGFREE (English) or OPGGRATIS (Spanish) and (4) The 4th Box for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is FREE until January 17, 2020 (this training will then be available at its Regular Price of $100). In this 90-minute self-paced workshop, we will explore what it means to apply a “Narrative Analysis of Power” to DEI work and share the Story-based Strategy approach for assessing and developing work to address organizational and interpersonal work. Enroll here.
Citizens for Juvenile Justice
Citizens for Juvenile Justice continues push for legislation to gradually add 18-to-20-year-olds to the juvenile system, which offers better access to education and other rehabilitative activities. Operating with the backdrop of opposition from the chief of the Juvenile Court, we continued to build our campaign’s public supporters. CfJJ continues to be represented on a taskforce recommending emerging adult justice policies to the legislature. We submitted a 20-page in-depth testimony and analysis with our recommendations. In partnership with the Justice Collaborative, Players Coalition charter members, Devin and Jason McCourty, penned an op-ed in the Boston Herald urging Massachusetts to pass this legislation. We also organized a legislative briefing bringing the voices of a former juvenile court judge, the former commissioners of DYS and DOC, the first District Attorney to support this campaign in Massachusetts, and two young people who as teens were exposed to either the juvenile or the adult system, bringing into focus the real life impact, treatment and outcomes of both systems. Finally, we are organizing a Youth Justice Day at the State House on January 21st to advocate for this and other CfJJ legislative priorities.