Prison Policy Initiative
Last week, the Prison Policy Initiative published a 50-state survey of healthcare policies for pregnant people in prison, finding that in most states, policies fail to provide for critical components of prenatal care or safe deliveries. We find that 12 states fail to provide any policy on prenatal medical exams; 22 states provide no guidelines for specialized care for "high risk" pregnancies; 24 states have no policy directing prisons to make advance arrangements for deliveries (increasing the risk of dangerous and traumatic in-cell deliveries); and 12 states still have no policy limiting the use of restraints during pregnancy. We also looked at how many states have policies that make any mention at all of the dietary needs of pregnant people, finding that only California provides a meaningful nutrient breakdown of additional food allowances during pregnancy or postpartum breastfeeding/pumping. Given that the National Commission on Correctional Health Care publishes standards specific to pregnancy, and that an estimated 10,000 people in prisons and jails today were pregnant when admitted, there is no excuse for correctional facilities to continue ignoring the needs of pregnant people in their custody.
Color of Change
Color Of Change will be hosting it's 2020 Prosecutor Accountability Convening on February 18-20, 2020. 2020 will be a major year for the movement with hundreds of DA races happening across the country and major campaigns moving. The convening will be an opportunity to continue to build on lessons learned over the past four years and think collectively on strategies to address emerging and growing challenges facing the prosecutor accountability movement. We thought it important to have a space early in the year to build, collaborate and share our work. We also want to create more space for networking and relationship building and are expanding the convening to 2 days this year. If you already know you can join, please register here.
In advance of the select release of Just Mercy on Christmas Day and nationwide distribution on January 10, Represent Justice is leading efforts to get the word out about the film and its themes. In the last weeks, Represent Justice has hosted events at the California Correctional Institution and at the California Correctional Facility Norco and with multiple NBA teams. Among other events In the coming weeks, they plan to host screenings of the film with the Museum of Modern Art, with the Sacramento Kings, and with multiple New York state elected officials.
For the last few weeks of the year, VOTE is in planning mode for 2020 and beyond. For the second week in December, our staff will be on a strategic retreat, envisioning what we are capable of and how we'll achieve it in the coming years. Specifically, we're looking ahead to April 2020, when those eligible will vote in the presidential primary. A few months later, we'll be honing in on the District Attorney and judges races, which, unlike the Electoral College system, are won based on the popular vote. As we figure out what we'll need to focus on moving forward, we'll also be moving our furniture! Starting in the New Year, VOTE will be relocating to a different neighborhood that gives us better access to the communities we organize. Stay tuned for details!
Promise of Justice Initiative
This October the Supreme Court heard PJI's case Ramos v. Louisiana on behalf of Mr. Ramos, a man convicted by only 10 of 12 jurors. PJI's Jim Crow Juries Project is working to determine the number of people in Louisiana who have been convicted by a non-unanimous jury, triage the cases, and find lawyers for thousands of wrongfully convicted men and women in preparation for the Supreme Court decision.
Chicago Community Bond Fund
In November, Chicago Community Bond Fund released “No More Shackles: Arguing Against Pretrial Electronic Monitoring,” a new video created in partnership with MediaJustice, a companion piece to their recently released report. Their new report asserts that electronic monitoring is “the most punitive of all pretrial release conditions.” CCBF's video features the stories of Timothy Williams and Lavette Mayes. Both Timmy and Lavette were freed from Cook County Jail after their bonds were paid by CCBF, but they were then placed on electronic monitoring (EM) by the court. “No More Shackles” isn’t just meant to be illuminating, it is a call to action. As we work to end money bail, we must remain vigilant and ensure that we are winning more freedom for our friends and neighbors, not putting “little prisons” in our community, as Lavette Mayes says.
Columbia Justice Lab
The Emerging Adult Justice Project (EAJP) co-authored a report and recommendations with the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) on the implementation of a new, historic law that will include youths who have allegedly committed an offense before their 20th birthday in the youth justice system. The EAJP and DCF also presented the report to two legislative committees. Vermont then announced another groundbreaking shift – the closure of the state’s only youth prison – which will go into effect simultaneously with the implementation of the Raise the Age legislation, and a radio story that covered this exciting development. To guide the reform efforts in Massachusetts, the EAJP published two new fact sheets: one analyzing caseloads and another highlighting the distinctive features of the juvenile justice system that structure the system to provide developmentally appropriate services to emerging adults. NFL Patriots players, twin brothers Devin and Jason McCourty, wrote a strong op-ed urging Massachusetts to follow Vermont’s lead and pass pending legislation to raise the upper age of juvenile jurisdiction to the 21st birthday.
Texas Advocates for Justice
As we wind down toward the end of 2019, we wanted to recap some highlights from the year. In February, TAJ Houston traveled to Austin for Advocacy Day at the State Capitol, where we participated in a rally, spoken word performances in the Rotunda, office visits with Legislators, and an art installation showcasing Incarcerated Children’s artwork. In September, TAJ joined forces with a coalition of juvenile justice orgs that fought to have the City of Houston not renew the Juvenile Curfew ordinance. Mayor Turner renewed it, but did meet some of the demands of the coalition, such as reducing fines and not citing any youth who is homeless. In October TAJ gave a statement before Federal Judge Lee Rosenthal at the Misdemeanor Cash Bail Settlement Hearing in support of the settlement that would end discrimination against the poor because they had no money for bail. On August 30, 2019, Travis County Commissioner’s received word the TIDC approved a four-year matching grant for the Public Defender’s Office. An Oversight committee was then formed by the Commissioner’s Court that was charged with formulating a job description for the Chief Public Defender. TAJ made sure a directly impacted and community member was appointed a seat on this committee as well. Travis county is on the way to establishing the very first PDO.
Court Watch NOLA
Court Watch NOLA has recently begun meetings with the newly-formed DA’s Coalition to create a platform for the upcoming District Attorney and Judicial races here at home in New Orleans. CWN has also continued to work with the New Orleans Alliance for Equity and Justice—a group which works to move our city to a cash-free bail system, and eliminate fines and fees—to hold our elected officials accountable at every level.
Right of Return Fellowship
We have excitedly launched the third year of the Right of Return USA fellowship: the only artist fellowship in the nation exclusively for formerly incarcerated artists. While many artists have explored the issue of mass incarceration, formerly incarcerated artists have a particularly important role to play in exploring this issue. Right of Return provides a network of partners and mentors to support each artist. Fellows will be awarded a $20,000 grant to support a project aimed at reforming our criminal justice system. More information can be found at www.rightofreturnusa.com.
American Conservative Union Foundation
Last month, the American Conservative Union Foundation hosted its first ever “Prison CPAC.” Day one of the event took place inside of SCI Chester, a medium-security prison outside of Philadelphia, with a focus on programs to help achieve post-incarceration stability and successes, how-to demonstrations, and policy discussions of importance to those who are incarcerated. The programming was attended by over 300 residents of SCI Chester, featuring speakers like Matt Schlapp, Van Jones, PA DOC Secretary Wetzel, and many others on the frontlines of reform. Day two of the event included a public event in downtown Philadelphia, encouraging lawmakers, activists, and other stakeholders to not turn a blind eye to the endless amount of human potential being wasted away in our jails and prisons. Some video of the event can be found, here.