Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition raised money to help returning citizens pay outstanding fees and fines in order to become eligible to register to vote. Also, FRRC worked closely with officials in Miami to ensure that as many returning citizens can now register to vote as possible. FRRC is continuing to lead the way on Amendment 4 implementation and on reducing the impact of fines and fees on restoring returning citizens' rights.
Prison Policy Initiative
This month, the Prison Policy Initiative focused once again on women's incarceration. In response to an inquiry from an advocate working on women's reentry, we analyzed data to find out how many women are released annually from prisons and jails in each state. We found that over 81,000 women are released from state prisons each year, and that women and girls account for at least 1.8 million annual jail releases. Our analysis reveals a glaring need for resources to support recently-released women, who face disproportionately high rates of poverty and homelessness, and most of whom are also mothers. As more federal and state lawmakers turn their attention to women in prison, we're calling on them to fill the massive gap between the need and availability of women’s reentry resources. On a related note, Legal Director Aleks Kajstura also spoke to members of the House Judiciary Committee at a hearing about the mass incarceration of women and girls, emphasizing the role of pretrial detention and probation in the rapid growth of women's correctional control.
On August 13th, Justice LA and many other organizations and community members accomplished what we were told was an impossible feat. For nearly a decade, the specter of a massive $3.5 billion jail plan loomed over the people of Los Angeles. We resisted the creation of more cages, we reclaimed the calls for public safety, we reimagined our county with community-based care, and we won. In February of this year, we successfully defeated the women’s jail plan, and on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of cancelling the contract with McCarthy to build a mental health jail! Read Justice LA's press release here.
Texas Freedom Network
In late July, TFN brought together 120 young activists from college campuses across Texas to take their organizing skills to the next level at our 2019 Texas Rising Summer Institute. Our training included sessions on relational organizing, civic engagement, personal storytelling, fundraising, and issue advocacy. Criminal justice reform and immigration were integral themes throughout the training. Chas Moore, the Executive Director & Co-Founder of the Austin Justice Coalition, engaged attendees with an in-depth discussion on criminal justice reform in Austin and across Texas. Julieta Garibay, Texas Director & Co-Founder of United We Dream, spoke passionately about her personal story and her path of becoming an organizer to help undocumented youth transform personal adversity into personal power. We closed out our training at the Texas Capitol by putting elected officials on notice – it’s our time, our Texas, our vote! Photos from the 2019 Texas Rising Summer Institute are available here.
With Louisiana's super-election less than 70 days away, VOTE chapters across the state are busy, busy, busy! As of March 1, 40,000 Louisianans on probation and parole have the right to vote, and VOTE's goal is to get the vast majority of them registered in time for the fall elections. Last month we traveled throughout Louisiana with Black Voters Matter, getting people excited about registering to vote and reminding them that their vote is their voice. Now, our Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans and Shreveport offices are hosting weekly voter registration events that are open to anyone but geared towards people with convictions. These are some of the many efforts we've been working on to make sure everyone is ready for the October 12 election. Read more about our tour with Black Voters Matter.
Chicago Community Bond Fund
On July 13th, the Coalition to End Money Bond officially launched the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice, which includes fifteen organizations from outside of Cook County as well as members of the Coalition. The Network’s first event was the People’s Convening on Pretrial Freedom, which brought together more than 170 people from twelve different counties in Illinois to learn about issues surrounding pretrial freedom and to rally outside of Sangamon County Jail in Springfield. We are excited to continue to invest in the network as a container for the shared strategy needed to bring about transformative pretrial reform in Illinois. CCBF has also been supporting locally organized bail-outs in Champaign and Rockford.
Alliance for Safety and Justice
Alliance for Safety and Justice and Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice had some exciting wins in Illinois over the last few months. We played a lead role in crafting a record relief section within the broader Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (HB 1438) which legalized and outlined a regulatory structure for marijuana consumption. Through this record relief section, we worked with stakeholders to insert a pathway to expungement for people living with arrest or conviction records related to certain marijuana offenses. We anticipate this legislation will expunge up to 770,000 marijuana-related records for Illinoisians, greatly improving their ability to fully re-integrate back into their communities and removing barriers to housing, employment and other supports critical to family stability and economic security. We’re also excited to announce our success in advocating to win $55 million in the Illinois FY20 operating budget, which includes: (a) resources to expand earned time credit programming in the Department of Corrections and (b) expansion of trauma recovery centers and trauma recovery services in schools.
The Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice
sujatha baliga, Director of the Restorative Justice Project, was recently featured on the TED podcast Sincerely, X in an episode about a judge who works in the juvenile justice system and her plan to take power away from judges. In the episode, sujatha explains restorative justice how restorative justice diversion (RJD) supports the judge’s vision for accountability and transparency. sujatha is currently in India where she spent time with folks from Enfold learning about the restorative justice cases they’ve been facilitating. Enfold is an organization that addresses gender based violence and child sexual abuse. Last month, our team attended the Los Angeles County Youth Development Summit hosted by the county’s Office of Youth Diversion & Development and My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. We also recently met staff from California Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s office about restorative justice legislative priorities. We hosted a media engagement training for our Contra Costa County community partner, RYSE Youth Center. During the American Bar Association’s Annual Meeting, we co-presented on RJD with the San Francisco district attorney’s office at the Alternatives to Dispute Resolution & Restorative Justice Committee Meeting. We also presented on our RJD work at the Social Justice/Community Based Career Summit hosted by Diablo Valley College’s Extended Opportunity Program & Services program.
In conjunction with #InternationalYouthDay, the Youth First team worked with some of our movement’s leading youth activists to release Youth Vision for Youth Justice: a video featuring the voices of young activists across the country on how to build a better future for young people nationwide. Here is a link to a social media toolkit you can use to help us share this new video throughout your networks and on social media, either using these sample posts for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or by creating your own.
Court Watch NOLA
This month CWN has been proud to share an important, tangible result of our hard work in and out of the court room. In May, we published our 2018 report on the state of the criminal court system here in Orleans Parish. Among our findings was a review of drug testing practices, where we found that our fellow New Orleanians were being punished based on unconfirmed drug tests. We called for change. As written The Lens in this week, the Louisiana Supreme Court announced new drug testing standards for the state, in accordance with national and scientific best practices. We're affecting real change, but the work is not done. The Louisiana Supreme Court's heightened requirements only affect drug courts, but we'll keep monitoring all criminal courts.
American Conservative Union Foundation
Leading the conservative conversation when it comes to criminal justice reform, director Pat Nolan and deputy director David Safavian of the Nolan Center for Justice wrote an opinion piece in the Arizona Capitol Times earlier this week. After the disappointing news of Governor Ducey’s veto of a watered-down criminal justice bill (SB1334) Bill Montgomery, prosecutor for the largest county in Arizona and one of the state’s oppositions to reform is now patting himself on the back stating that a couple of small diversion programs is a major achievement in the state. Despite having the 5th highest incarceration rate in the county, Arizona ranks as the 43rd safest state in terms of public safety. If Maricopa County’s Attorney, Bill Montgomery’s approach was actually working, Arizona would be much safer than it is now. "Last year, with President Trump’s leadership, the federal government passed the historic First Step Act. If President Trump can embrace smart criminal justice reforms, Bill Montgomery should follow his lead in Arizona" Safavian replied.
Fair and Just Prosecution
This past month, FJP lifted up the benefits of harm reduction and the need for a public health (rather than punitive criminal justice) response to substance use disorder, as well as important lessons learned from recent trips abroad. In regard to harm reduction issues, FJP coordinated an amicus brief, signed by more than 60 criminal justice leaders, in support of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Safehouse and its efforts to open the nation’s first overdose prevention site as a proven and more humane response to the epidemic of overdose deaths happening on the streets of Philadelphia and elsewhere. This effort puts into action lessons learned when FJP took elected prosecutors to Portugal and Canada, two countries that have saved lives and reduced incarceration by choosing to embrace public health and harm reduction practices. FJP’s Executive Director Miriam Krinsky further highlighted the smarter approaches modeled in other countries in an interview with KKFI where she discussed key takeaways from FJP’s recent trip to Germany, the need for different approaches to turn away from the decades of mass incarceration in the US, and the role elected prosecutors can and should play in driving reform.
Texas Advocates for Justice
On Tuesday, August 6, both Austin and Houston chapters of Texas Advocates for Justice joined many organizations across the country for one night hosted Night Out for Safety and Liberation (NOSL). Nationally each year the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights sponsors many social justice organizations across the nation to redefine and re-image what Safety and Liberation mean for our communities, without policing. When we change the narrative about what safety means, this is the first step for communities to begin working towards the idea of reinvesting in the resources our communities need in order to thrive.