Education Opportunities in Prison Are Key to Reducing Crime
Center for American Progress
Education can be a gateway to social and economic mobility. This vital opportunity, however, is currently being denied to a significant portion of the more than 2.3 million individuals currently incarcerated in the United States. Compared with 18 percent of the general population, approximately 41 percent of incarcerated individuals do not hold a high school diploma. Similarly, while 48 percent of general population has received any postsecondary or college education, only 24 percent of people in federal prisons have received the same level of education. In 2016, the Vera Institute of Justice reported that only 35 percent of state prisons provide college-level courses, and these programs only serve 6 percent of incarcerated individuals nationwide. In 2015, the Obama administration announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot program—an experimental program allowing 12,000 qualifying incarcerated students to take college-level courses while in prison. The future of this program is uncertain as Congress decides whether to include Pell Grants for prisons—which currently receives less than 1 percent of total Pell program funding—in their reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Receiving a quality education continues to be out of reach for much of the prison population due to a lack of funding for, and access to, the materials needed for the success of these programs.
Transgender inmate gets rare transfer to female prison
A transgender woman serving a 10-year sentence in Illinois for burglary has been moved from a men's to a women's prison in what could be a first for the state, her lawyers announced Thursday.
Deon "Strawberry" Hampton , 27, was moved after a yearlong legal battle and resistance from the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Hampton, of Chicago, requested the transfer in 2017 on grounds she'd be less vulnerable to the sexual assault, taunting and beatings she was subjected to in male prisons, according to federal lawsuits filed on her behalf by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People's Law Center in Chicago.
She was moved within the past week from an all-male prison in Dixon, in northern Illinois, to the women's Logan Correctional Center more than 100 miles away in central Illinois, her lawyers said.
I'm 13 and I Write Holiday Cards to People in Prison
New York Times by Sofia Robinson (8th grader)
LOS ANGELES — When I was 5, my mom asked me if I wanted to help her write holiday cards to people in prison who had been raped behind bars. She didn’t say it like that, of course, because I didn’t know what prison or rape was.
Instead, she told me that there were thousands of ladies and gentlemen who were spending Christmas alone, unable to leave their rooms as they pleased, and that other people had been really mean to them.
I can’t remember which I thought was worse — to be forced to stay in my room or to be mistreated. But either way, I agreed to help my mom.
I am 13 now, and I still write holiday cards to people in prison. It’s really fun to think of nice things to say to people you’ve never met. I always try to imagine what I would want to hear if I was forced to be away from my family and was being treated poorly. I would be terrified, sad and worried that nobody remembered that I existed.
#NoMoreShackles: Why Electronic Monitoring Devices Are Another Form of Prison [OP-ED]
In his recent New York Times video essay “Prisoners Deserve a New Set of Rights,” rapper Meek Mill lists the many ways that the criminal legal system fails to protect and uphold the rights of the accused—from arrest, through sentencing and all the way up to release. Mill says, “We had the right to be silent. Now it’s our right to speak up,” as he goes on to describe how formerly incarcerated people are systemically barred from a range of resources.
One thing to add to Mill’s powerful set of demands though is the right to return home freely without being digitally imprisoned.
It is well known that the United States has the highest prison population in the world, however our system of mass incarceration extends beyond the lives of those who are locked away. At this time, there are 5 million people under some version of correctional control—usually within the form of probation or parole. This expansion of parole in particular is ushering in a new wave of technological incarceration with a heavy reliance on electronic monitors.
As with any attempts to transform the criminal justice system, the First Step Act is complicated. While we rejoice that several thousand people will likely be treated more humanely, and some released slightly sooner, because of this legislation, we also stand in solidarity with those opposed to this act. We wonder with them if this will actually be a first, or last, step? Will we congratulate ourselves on having an impact on ~10 % of the prison industrial complex population while 2 million people, their families and friends still wait to be treated with dignity and respect?
Please read some of the articles and statements below to begin understanding the response to this current work.
Congress just passed the most significant criminal justice reform bill in decades - Vox News
First Step Act has Sinister Implications for the Poor and Marginalized - Truth Out
Movement for Black Lives Statement
JustLeadershipUSA statement - signed by the UUA
November post of several articles on the First Step Act
We will continue to work for more radical and complete change and hope you will join us in the struggle.
He Was Sentenced to Life for Selling Crack. Now Congress Wants to Reconsider.
The New York Times
Alan Blinder and Jennifer Medina
Edward Douglas is serving a life sentence for selling crack cocaine. He cannot go to church with his mother, a pastor in Chicago. He cannot take his grandchildren to the park. He dreams of working as a mechanic again.
It’s a possibility that seems increasingly likely.
Under bipartisan criminal justice legislation that won final approval by Congress on Thursday, Mr. Douglas, 55, could have his sentence reduced to less time than he has already served. He was convicted at a time when crack cocaine offenses were handled far more harshly than those involving powder cocaine.
The Movement for Black Lives Position on the First Step Act
Statement - December 2018
The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 Black-led organizations, opposes the First Step Act. Despite a few positive measures, the First Step Act further harms incarcerated people and does little to stop or correct the state-sponsored intergenerational violence our communities experience.
Since the First Step Act was passed in the US House of Representatives, the Movement for Black Lives leadership has engaged in internal discussion, debate, and exploration of the bill’s proposed and potential impact to deepen our understanding about how the bill would advance or deter the objectives articulated in the Vision for Black Lives Policy Platform, a foundational 21st-century proposal for how to pass legislation that liberates, not further denigrates Black people. Through this process we have determined that the First Step Act, despite the few positive reforms, is a dangerous bill that if passed will cause further harm to many people currently incarcerated, continue the long history of violence against our communities, and introduce new ways to rob our people of the freedom and justice we deserve.
We recognize that the positive aspects of this bill are the product of the tireless work of advocates who have worked to create inroads for meaningful reforms in a moment of heightened attacks on ALL Black people. Our opposition to the First Step Act is not directed at those who support this bill and whose hopes are rooted in seeing their loved ones free. Our opposition is directed towards a bill that we believe will do more harm than good. We believe that in addition to not reaching far enough to ensure our peoples’ freedom from all forms of incarceration, the First Step Act is an intentionally divisive bill that authors a dangerous future for all of our families and communities.
Is Prison the Answer to Violence? -
The Marshall Project
I think there are a handful of reasons we have to think differently about how we approach the question of violence. The first relates to what you just said, which is that we will not end mass incarceration without taking on the question of violence. We have a choice. We either give up the aspiration of ending mass incarceration or we steer into the question of what to do about people who commit harm.
The other reason is that if you ask survivors of violent crime what they're worried about, it’s people who may hurt them. And many don’t trust police to protect them. We know that fewer than half of victims of violence call the police in the first place when they're hurt. That's a profound indictment of our system.
Let me pick up on that. In your report, "Accounting for Violence," your first principle is that the response to violent crime should be survivor-centered. What if the thing the survivor really needs in order to feel safe is to just lock away the bad guy for a long, long time. How much should that weigh in the outcome?
A survivor-centered system is not the same as a survivor-ruled one. We never would argue that what a crime survivor wants should be the only factor we take into account. If a crime survivor wants somebody free and we have real reason to believe that person will go on to hurt other people, then we may have an obligation to incarcerate that person.
Investigation into inmate’s suicide faults Maryland women’s prison’s treatment of people with disabilities : Washington Post
Investigation into inmate’s suicide faults Maryland women’s prison’s treatment of people with disabilities
Washington Post By Lillian Reed
An investigation into Maryland’s only prison for women following the 2017 suicide of an inmate found the facility violated the constitutional rights of people with disabilities who are placed in segregation and did not take sufficient steps to “prevent future harm.”
The investigation, released Friday by Disability Rights Maryland, reviewed the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women and its role in the death of inmate Emily Butler, who was found dead in her cell from an apparent suicide on Nov. 12, 2017. The investigative report details several findings and recommends changes on how the prison can better handle inmates with disabilities.
Disability Rights Maryland is the state’s designated authority under federal law for conducting investigations into allegations of abuse and negligence for people with disabilities. The group, along with Munib Lohrasbi of the Open Society Institute of Baltimore, launched a review after Butler’s death in segregation.
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.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive