How to Support Cyntoia Brown
Colorlines by Ayana Byrd
December 10, 2018
Sentenced to life in prison at 16 for killing her would-be rapist, Brown is not eligible for parole until she is 67.
In the unanimous decision, the state court ruled that juvenile offenders facing life, like Brown, must serve five decades before being considered for parole.
Brown is in the Tennessee Prison for Women for shooting Johnny Allen in 2004. At the time of the incident, she was a 16-year-old who had been forced into prostitution. Allen, 43, picked her up at a Sonic drive-in and drove her back to his house, which had guns on display. Brown maintains that she killed him with a gun from her purse in an act of self-defense. Prosecutors in her trial countered that she went to Allen’s house to rob him.
California will offer parole for 4,000 'three-strike' prisoners facing life sentences
Pacific Standard by Emily Moon
October 19, 2018
In a reversal of a controversial rule that disproportionately sentenced mentally ill and African-American inmates to life in prison for petty crimes, California will allow all non-violent prisoners under the Three Strikes Act to seek parole.
...Californians launched a decade-long attempt to correct this, starting with Propositions 36, 47, and now 57, which rolled back the Three Strikes Law and sought to solve mass incarceration. The latest ruling, as well as the governor's compliance, marks a success for advocates of criminal justice reform.
Jailing Americans for Profit: The Rise of the Prison Industrial Complex
Huffington Post by John W. Whitehead
In an age when freedom is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule, imprisoning Americans in private prisons run by mega-corporations has turned into a cash cow for big business. At one time, the American penal system operated under the idea that dangerous criminals needed to be put under lock and key in order to protect society. Today, as states attempt to save money by outsourcing prisons to private corporations, the flawed yet retributive American “system of justice” is being replaced by an even more flawed and insidious form of mass punishment based upon profit and expediency.
I Can Be Free Again': How Music Brings Healing at Sing Sing
I've seen firsthand how music can restore what's missing in prison: a respect for humanity.
Pacific Standard by John J. Lennon
October 24, 2018
In Concert at Sing SingThe Sing Sing cellblocks are piles of brick and slabs of metal and steel and concrete, built on a hill of prime real estate overlooking the Hudson River. At four open tiers high, with two sides of 88 cells that stretch the length of two football fields, Cellblock A is the largest in the world, per the Sing Sing Prison Museum. Pipes snake along the wall hissing heat; cell radios tuned to Hot 97, New York City's hip-hop station, bump Nicki Minaj rapping about her privates being wetter than puddles; Bloods yell out roll calls ("Whoopti!" to responses of "Can't stop! Never stop!"), while the rest of us wait impatiently, screaming out cell numbers for corrections officers to open.
When the Market Is Our Only Language
On Being with Krista Tippett interviewing Anand Giridharadas
We Americans revere the creation of wealth. Anand Giridharadas wants us to examine this and how it shapes our life together. This is a challenging conversation but a generative one: about the implicit moral equations behind a notion like "win-win"— and the moral compromises in a cultural consensus we’ve reached, without reflecting on it, about what and who can save us. Anand Giridharadas is a journalist and writer. He is a former columnist and foreign correspondent for "The New York Times" and a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. He is the author of "India Calling," "The True American," and "Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World." Find the transcript for this show at onbeing.org.
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I went from prison to professor – Here's why criminal records should not be used to keep people out of college -
The Conversation US by Stanley Andrisse
Beginning next year, the Common Application – an online form that enables students to apply to the 800 or so colleges that use it – will no longer ask students about their criminal pasts.
As a formerly incarcerated person who now is now an endocrinologist and professor at two world-renowned medical institutions – Johns Hopkins Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine – I believe this move is a positive one. People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.
While I am enthusiastic about the decision to remove the criminal history question from the Common Application, I also believe more must be done to remove the various barriers that exist between formerly incarcerated individuals such as myself and higher education.
ACLU Report to reduce IL incarceration rate:
Illinois has 40,922 people in prison, We can reduce that number.
If Illinois were to follow these and other reforms in this Smart Justice 50-State Blueprint, by 2025 it could have 24,898 fewer people in its prison system, saving over $1.5 billion that could be invested in schools, services, and other resources that would strengthen communities.
A Letter to My Dad In Jail - A Mighty Writers Essay
This essay was written by a student at Mighty Writers, an education nonprofit that offers free writing classes to over 2,500 inner-city Philadelphia students a year.
Hi Dad - I wanted to say thank you for my birthday card that you sent me. I absolutely love it and I will cherish it forever. I know I haven’t written you in a long time, but I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. I’ve been going to this writing camp on Thursdays and the topic I chose to write about is how to cope with a parent being incarcerated. I really have a lot of feelings about you being locked up; most of them are sad feelings. I'm going to tell you, because you’re my dad, and I want us to have a strong bond, because you’re my dad.
From defendant to top prosecutor, this tattooed Texas DA represents a new wave in criminal justice reform
Washington Post by Justin Jouvenal
November 19, 2018
...The nation’s 2,400 district attorneys wield significant power in the criminal-justice system, with wide discretion over charging and sentencing and influence over which defendants are granted bond.
This new breed of prosecutors is upending a traditional tough-on-crime focus by emphasizing a holistic approach over conviction rates and long sentences. ...
NAACP - Sherrilyn Ifill
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, issued the following statement on the First Step Act criminal justice reform bill:
“The revised First Step Act, S. 3649 is the latest modest step on the path to true criminal justice reform. We are gratified that this bill now includes two measures we identified early-on as essential to its legitimacy – some meaningful sentencing reform and the retroactive application of the provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), the 2010 law that reduced the obscene and racist powder and crack cocaine sentencing disparity. LDF has long argued, including in litigation, that the FSA must be applied retroactively.
“However, there are still provisions that deeply trouble us. We have long opposed using risk assessment instruments to determine eligibility for supervised release of prisoners. These tools often produce racially disparate results that cannot be scientifically justified. We hope that the measures included in this bill to address risk assessments will be sufficient to relieve those concerns, and we will closely monitor the development and use of these instruments by the Bureau of Prisons. Additionally, we are disappointed that two of the sentencing provisions will not apply to persons who are currently incarcerated. It is unfortunate that Congress would determine that a sentencing scheme, such as the three strikes law that results in a life sentence for drug offenses, is unfair, but not allow persons who are currently incarcerated to benefit from changes to the law.
“It is vital that as this bill moves forward we set the historical record straight. There has been bipartisan support for comprehensive criminal justice reform for years, and proposed legislation designed to accomplish that goal. This effort did not begin with this administration, nor with any individual aligned with this particular bill. We take nothing away from their efforts to move this process forward. But the strength of this bill – the inclusion of sentencing reform, retroactivity and curbs on mandatory minimums – is the result of the hard line taken by the coalition led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which refused to endorse or accept earlier iterations of this bill by those who pushed to “get something done,” rather than to do the right thing. We are proud of the pressure we applied to make this bill stronger not only for those who are incarcerated, but for those facing harsh mandatory minimum sentences, and we laud the principled stance taken by Senators Booker, Durbin, Harris and Grassley – each of whom stood resolute in their demand for sentencing reform as part of this bill.
“Finally, it is imperative that we take seriously the words “first step.” True criminal justice reform must start first and foremost with policing reform and changes to law enforcement practices that result in mass incarceration. It must include bail reform, and measures that strengthen our public defender system. Meaningful criminal justice reform must include a return to a “Smart on Crime” approach to prosecution by U.S. and district Attorneys. Criminal justice reform must include prison reforms to address the inhumane conditions of incarceration in many of our nation’s prisons, and must allow for a private right of action for violations of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
“We have a great deal of work to do to make our criminal justice system truly just. Those of us who have spent decades defending those who have had their lives crushed by the injustices in the system, will continue to work to move forward meaningful and long-lasting transformation in our criminal justice system.”
On the NAACP site
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.
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Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive