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.
What's Really in the First Step Act
Marshall Project by Justin George
Nov 16, 2018
Hailed by supporters as a pivotal moment in the movement to create a more fair justice system, endorsed by an unlikely alliance that includes President Donald Trump and the American Civil Liberties Union, the First Step Act is a bundle of compromises. As it makes its way through Congress it faces resistance from some Republicans who regard it as a menace to public safety and from some Democrats who view it as more cosmetic than consequential
What the Latest Bipartisan Prison Reform Gets Wrong and Why It Matters
Truth Out by Dan Berger
Nov 16, 2018
...Passage of the bill would be a major victory for Trump. A number of liberal and progressive commentators have gone all in on the legislation, which has been heavily shaped by Jared Kushner and Koch Industries attorney Mark Holden. CNN commentator and Cut50 cofounder Van Jones praised Trump. “Give the man his due,” Jones tweeted, saying the president is “on his way to becoming the uniter-in-Chief on an issue that has divided America for generations.”
Yet, regardless of who is “uniting” around its passage, the bill itself is both weak and dangerous. While it offers a few token reforms — some of them, like the end of shackling for pregnant and post-partum women in federal custody, necessary and long overdue — it leaves many of the most pressing issues off the table. It barely makes a dent in terms of reducing the length of prison sentences or reducing the number of people in prison. Meanwhile, it heightens the use of racist and classist assessment mechanisms and expands the net of surveillance.
A Real Chance at Criminal Justice Reform
New York Times - the editorial board
Nov 14, 2018
Perhaps it’s a coincidence that a new criminal justice reform proposal has emerged in the Senate less than a week after the departure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Bipartisam Sentencing Overhaul Moves Forward, but Rests on Trump
New York Times - Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman
Nov 12, 2018
The latest compromise was crafted by Senators Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa; Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois; and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, in conjunction with Mr. Kushner. Those senators won a promise from Mr. Trump in August that he would consider backing a bill during the lame-duck session. Mr. Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman, and another senior Republican on that committee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have lobbied Mr. Trump in the months since.
Congress's prison reform bill, explained
The First Step Act has Trump's support - but faces some Democratic opposition
Vox by German Lopez
May 22, 2018
... The bill would not reform or reduce how long people are sentenced to prison for, which has been the prime target of criminal justice reformers over the past few years. Instead, the bill focuses on rehabilitating people once they’re already in prison by incentivizing them, with the possibility of earlier release, to partake in rehabilitation programs. As Kushner explained at the White House summit, “The single biggest thing we want to do is really define what the purpose of a prison is. Is the purpose to punish, is the purpose to warehouse, or is the purpose to rehabilitate?”
This Appalachian Nonprofit Puts Books in the Hands of Inmates Who Need Them
BuzzFeed by Sarah Baird
November 12, 2018
Today, prison libraries are hit-or-miss, more often falling on the “miss” side: frequently barebones, stacked with outdated textbooks, or littered with battered romance novels. Some prisons are even attempting to do away with libraries entirely, instead placing the burden on inmates to pay for e-books. In Pennsylvania, inmates have to pay for a $147 tablet in order to read books.
“The quality of the libraries is very uneven. People don’t have access to the books they really want to read, particularly if they’re on a specific subject. Some prisons try to do interlibrary loan, but it’s a very delayed service and, again, limited,” explains Katy Ryan, a professor at West Virginia University and cofounder of the Appalachian Prison Book Project.
Visit Chicago Books for Women
The Waiting Room
The Marshall Project by Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve
Oct 31, 2018
... I stood still in front of this long stretch of wall and wires on 26th Street, right across the street from the jail, where it is normal to never see another soul. Then I saw Luis. He is the attendant in the public parking lot that is the only alternative to the pricey two-hour meters, which don't even work most of the time. Luis collects money for parking and calls the tow truck on those who deserve it. And day after day, he watches the regular convoys of white sheriff's department buses moving people from police lockups around the city....
Amendment 4 in FL means increased voter rights
Truth Out, by William Rivers Pitts
Nov 7, 2018
About 1.6 million people with felony convictions in Florida just got the vote back, thanks to the passage of Constitutional Amendment 4. Those convicted of murder and sexually-related offenses are excluded, but the rest will see their rights restored after completing their prison sentence.
Truthout reporter Mike Ludwig covered the issue today:
Of all the efforts to combat voter suppression and gerrymandering appearing on statewide ballots this year, Florida’s Amendment 4 has perhaps received the most attention. That’s because the initiative would automatically restore voting rights for an estimated 1.6 million people. Nationwide, 6.1 million people have lost their right to vote due to a prior felony conviction — including 1 out of 13 would-be Black voters, according to the Sentencing Project.
Florida accounts for roughly 25 percent of those who have lost their right to vote due to felony convictions. Rules in Florida and 11 other states make it extremely difficult to get voting rights restored, even after serving a sentence and probation or parole. If approved, Amendment 4 would automatically restore voting rights for people with prior felony convictions upon completion of their sentences, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.
A significant victory for social justice that strikes a blow against the molecular-level racism of the penal system. More voters is always a good thing. Always.
Read more on our LIVE BLOG: bit.ly/2SJMRvH
The Long Term, Resisting Life Sentences, Working Toward Freedom,
Edited by Alice Kim, Erica R. Meiners, Audrey Petty, Jill Petty, Beth E. Richie, and Sarah Ross.
The editors have worked in Illinois prisons and cover the broad range of issues comprising the the title, including a section on abolition politics. One of the chapters is by Monica Cosby, "On Leaving Prison: A Reflection on Entering and Exiting Communities"
The voices of those experiencing life in the long term are often not heard. This collection of essays and personal stories from the people most impacted by long-term incarceration in Stateville Prison bring light to the crisis of mass incarceration and the human cost of excessive sentencing. Compelling, moving narratives from those most affected by the prison industrial complex make a compelling case that death by incarceration is cruel and unusual punishment.
Implemented in the 1990’s and 2000’s harsh sentencing policies, commonly labeled “tough on crime,” became a bipartisan political agenda. These policies had real impacts on families and communities, particularly as they caused the removal of many non-white and poor individuals from cities like Chicago.
The Long Term brings into the light what has previously been hidden, a counter-narrative to the tough on crime agenda and an urgent plea for a more humane criminal justice system. The book is a critical contribution to the current debate around challenging the mass incarceration and ending mandatory sentencing, especially for non-violent offenders.
Purchase to read more
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive