Life Comes From It
Life Comes From It, the grantmaking circle that supports grassroots projects in the movement for adopting restorative, transformative, and peacemaking practices, announced its second annual awards in January. This year the fund will disburse $990,000, a 285% increase on its first year. 62 organizations received grants, compared to 22 last year. Applications increased from 180 in the first year to 270 this year. The fund was especially pleased by the increase in applications from indigenous people since they are typically most cut off from foundation funding. The goal of the fund is to support those smaller projects for whom $25,000 or less can make a significant difference. The fund’s advisory circle are long-time practitioners in these fields. For more information go to https://www.lifecomesfromit.org/.
The Coalition to End Money Bond
On January 22, 2020, the Coalition to End Money Bond released a new report detailing six principles designed to guide lawmakers in efforts to reform Illinois’ pretrial justice system. On January 9, 2020, Governor JB Pritzker announced that his administration would work to “end money bond” this year. Simply ending money bond alone, however, will not guarantee a more just and equitable system. This report explains the policies and processes that must replace money bond to ensure fewer legally innocent people are jailed in Illinois from the perspective of the impacted community members, faith leaders, and policy experts who compose the Coalition to End Money Bond.
Prison Policy Initiative
The Prison Policy Initiative celebrated a major legislative win on our decades-long campaign to end prison gerrymandering. The campaign is picking up speed, as New Jersey joins New York, California, Maryland, Delaware, Nevada, and Washington with a state-based solution to this Census-based problem. This month, New Jersey passed SB 758, which will count incarcerated people as residents of their home districts instead of the prison districts where they are temporarily confined. This will stop the transfer of political power from the predominantly urban communities of color incarcerated people call home to the rural, predominantly white communities where prisons are located. Our victory in New Jersey is a landmark one: Over 25% of people in the U.S now live in a state, county, or municipality that has ended prison gerrymandering. This momentum is crucial for our long-term goal of pressuring the Census Bureau to end prison gerrymandering nationwide by changing how it counts incarcerated people in the decennial census.
Alliance for Safety and Justice
This year’s 7th annual Survivors Speak series promises to be our biggest yet. We are bringing together more than 2,000 crime survivors at events across seven states — Florida, Illinois, Ohio, California, Michigan, and Texas —to uplift the voices of those directly impacted by crime and incarceration. We’re kicking off our first convening in Tallahassee, FL on February 17 and 18th and will close in Illinois in mid-May. By elevating the voices and leadership of survivors, Survivors Speak turns pain into power and is building a movement committed to advocating for smarter justice policies rooted in prevention, restorative justice, rehabilitation, trauma recovery and community health. Learn more about Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice through a new mini-documentary here and follow along on Twitter and Facebook.
Texas Advocates for Justice
Texas Advocates for Justice members were part of a year long process with members of the community and stakeholders to help establish recommendations for an Adult Public Defender Office. We are happy to announce Travis County's first-ever chief public defender Adeola Ogunkeyede, an African American woman who recently worked as the legal director for civil rights and racial justice program of Virginia’s Legal Aid Justice Center. She will be responsible for creating a countywide public defender office. She will also represent adults accused of misdemeanors and felony offenses in the county. We look forward to working with Ogunkeyde redefine criminal justice in Travis County.
Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice
Ashlee George, Associate Director of the Restorative Justice Project, attended the UC Hastings Law Symposium: Progressive Prosecution & the Carceral State. Later this month, she will present at the Color Of Change 2020 Prosecutor Accountability Convening. Our team attended the Evidence Briefing: Addressing Structural Determinants of Youth Development for Safe and Healthy Communities, where we built relationships with researchers and policy advocates working on California statewide campaigns to support youth of color. The Los Angeles District Attorney election will impact our restorative justice diversion work in LA, and we’ll be attending the LA County DA Candidate Forum on February 20 to connect with the candidates. In order to deepen our relationships with local advocacy organizations that can support restorative justice diversion in Alameda County, we joined the Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County monthly meetings and a community meeting hosted by Youth Uprising about youth-led campaigns for community-led solutions to incarceration. Last month, sujatha baliga, Director of the Restorative Justice Project, was featured in an interview for New Yorker Radio Hour talking about abolition, mass incarceration, and restorative justice.
Fair and Just Prosecution
Last month, FJP lifted up the need for protection of the rights of immigrant children by coordinating an amicus brief that included nearly 60 criminal justice leaders in support of immigrant children’s constitutional right to trauma-informed care while detained. The brief argued that not only are children harmed by the deprivation of such care, but public trust in the justice system is eroded, which ultimately harms public safety. FJP also continued to underscore the ways in which slavery and racism have fueled mass incarceration and how DAs can partner with those who have been incarcerated to build a 21st century justice system that makes communities safer and healthier. In an op-ed co-authored by FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth Board Member Marshan Allen, the pair discuss their moving journey with dozens of DAs and leaders from the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network to visit the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The piece reviews how visiting historic civil rights sites and speaking with formerly incarcerated youth is informing the work of DAs as they transform the justice system.
Texas Organizing Project
The Texas Organizing Project’s (TOP) brand of organizing blends building political power at the ballot box with 25/8 issue organizing. As part of the larger criminal legal system movement, that incorporates electing progressive DA’s, four years ago TOP endorsed and was influential in electing a candidate in Harris County (Houston)—the 2nd most incarcerated county in the country—who we thought shared our vision for real reform. We were wrong. Fast forward four years, she’s cranked up the death penalty machine, been a staunch opponent of bail reform and has repeatedly asked for money to expand her office. With the core of our work, being fundamentally about accountability, TOP members decided to endorse a thoughtful, smart and value-driven Black woman named Audia Jones to hopefully oust the incumbent in the March 2020 primary. Audia has made commitments that TOP and larger affected communities won’t just peer into the process, but that we’ll be working in lock-step to help realize a more just Harris County. Indeed with TOP’s selection of Audia, we hope to get one step closer in building the democracy we deserve--one looks like us and is accountable to us!
Court Watch NOLA
On February the 5th, Court Watch NOLA mobilized the community to attend an Appeals hearing for Singleton v. Cannizzaro, a lawsuit brought by the Civil Rights Corps and ACLU on behalf of New Orleans residents who were victims of District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's scheme wherein he would create false subpoenas in order to coerce individuals to testify, often including victims of violent crime and sexual assault. In one notable case, a woman who had accused her boyfriend of domestic abuse did not wish to testify, and did not appear at the meeting Cannizzaro had demanded. When this happened, his office went before a judge and, without informing the judge that the subpoena was false and illegal, secured an arrest warrant. The woman was jailed with a $100,000 bond, while her alleged abuser was able to pay his lower bond and was released. Katie Chamberlee Ryan of Civil Rights Corps did a masterful job arguing in front of a historically conservative court, which seemed friendly to her argument. At one point one of the Judges on the three judge panel even made a joke at Cannizzaro's expense, and the audience and bench joined her in laughter. At the appeals hearing, the community showed out in full, completely filling the court. Court Watch NOLA is proud of the community turnout at this event, and looks forward to an engaged community response to our upcoming 2019 Annual Report.
American Conservative Union Foundation
The headlines and news stories coming out of Mississippi’s Parchman Prison have been nauseating. With the inauguration of the new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney-general, ACU engaged with stakeholders in Mississippi, including the state’s newly elected leaders, to find solutions to the Parchman disaster. Recognizing that this is a long-term mess that requires reforms of Mississippi’s criminal code, we recently came away with a major step in the right direction. Governor Tate Reeves has instructed his team to close Parchman’s notorious Unit 29. ACUF, working with our activists and allies in the state, is proud to have played a small role in helping convince the Republican leadership in Mississippi of the need to close Parchman. We remain focused on dealing with the drivers of overincarceration in Mississippi, and will be engaging with lawmakers in Jackson when the legislative session begins.