Ex-felons vote in Florida after overcoming prison - and the GOP
NBC News byElizabeth Janowski and Jane C. Timm
Nov. 2, 2019
Desmond Meade can't vote in Orlando's mayoral contest. But he'll be in the city on Saturday anyway, cheering as hundreds of recently reinfranchised ex-felons and their families head to the polls together.
Meade, the organizer who lead a campaign to amend Florida's Constitution and restore voting rights to an estimated 1.4 million people with felony convictions, called the party "a celebration of expanding our democracy." He has three felony convictions of his own, acquired during years of drug addiction. Just the thought of voting again, he said, "brings tears to my eyes."
But after the festivities, he has to return to work.
Since it was overwhelming passed by voters last year, the constitutional amendment Meade and his group, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, fought for has spurred legislation and litigation over differences of opinion in how to interpret and implement it. The FRRC has renewed its educational efforts, kicking off a a 23-city bus tour Saturday to register eligible ex-felons and raise awareness about a fund to help people pay off fines and fees associated with their convictions — an issue at the heart of the latest legal battle voting rights advocates have waged over restrictions lawmakers put in place that could still keep thousands from accessing the ballot box.
More than 450 Oklahoma inmates released in largest single-day commutation in U.S. history
CBS News by Victoria Albert
Nov. 4, 2019
More than 450 inmates in Oklahoma were released Monday, a representative from the Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt's office told CBS News, marking the largest single-day commutation in U.S. history. Video and photos from outside the state's prisons show former inmates tearfully reuniting with their loved ones upon release.
Patrina Hunt, who served almost half of a 10-year sentence for drug possession and theft, was among one of those inmates. The 22-year-old cried in her daughter's arms after her release.
"I'm very blessed to let this happen and for this to happen for me and my family, and I'm just so glad to see my family," Hunt told CBS News' Omar Villafranca.
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Prisoners are Fighting California's Wildfires on the Front Lines, But Getting Little in Return
Fortune By Nicole Goodkind
Nov 1, 2019
As multiple deadly wildfires in California, stoked by dry weather and 65 MPH winds, threaten to destroy thousands of homes across the state, 2,150 prison inmates are battling on the front lines to tame the flames.
The prisoners earn between $2.90 and $5.12 per day, plus an additional $1 per hour during active emergency for their potentially life-threatening efforts. The firefighters they work alongside earn an average of $91,000 each year before overtime pay and bonuses.
The Conservation Camp Program, officially established in 1945, is estimated to save California taxpayers about $100 million each year. Prisoners work on hand crews, constructing firebreaks by using tools like chainsaws and picks. During active fires, they work for 24-hour periods followed by 24 hours of rest.
Illinois has 40,922 people in prison. We can reduce that number. Read the full report
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.
Learn About Facts and Policy
Proposed reforms: Illinois-24,898
Drug offenses-7,819 fewer people in prison
The Need to Support Visits for Incarcerated People and Their Families
The Appeal by Vaidya Gullapalli
Oct 15, 2019
Last week, the Brooklyn Eagle looked at the story of Kaywonda and Javon Banks. They were childhood friends who fell out of touch for years. When they reconnected in 2001, Javon was in prison. He had been arrested as a 16-year-old, convicted of murder, and sentenced to 23 years to life in prison. Kaywonda began visiting him, and in 2017 they were married in a ceremony in prison. They are awaiting a decision on whether he will be released on parole this year. Kaywonda has been visiting Javon for nearly 16 years.
The Eagle’s Phil Frangipane chronicled a visit day for Kaywonda and her son. She tries to visit Javon at least every two weeks. It’s a long and expensive journey, costing at least $75 each time, and one that begins before dawn. They travel to Otisville Prison, a nearly four-hour journey. Each month, Kaywonda, who has three children, spends nearly $500 out of her Parks Department salary on the trips.
But she’s committed to visiting Javon. She told the Eagle: “There’s nothing I feel like I won’t do for him. I want him to feel like he’s always still connected to the outside world. He still has somebody that does love him unconditionally.”
The Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois is in solidarity with the 25,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the 7,000 members of Service Employees International Union Local 73, and public-support staff in their contract negotiations with the new Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago School Board.
We echo their just demands for:
At its heart, this strike is a struggle for racial and economic justice. 90% of CPS students are black and brown; over 75% are classified by CPS as “economically disadvantaged”. This strike is a refusal to allow business as usual. We must not continue to pour more and more money into the criminalization, punishment, and imprisonment of black and brown communities while divesting from schools that serve black and brown students. On October 23rd the mayor released a proposed 2020 City Budget showing a $120 million increase for Chicago Police Department and a $100,000 decrease for the Department of Family and Support Services. As so many before us have said - that ain’t right.
We affirm the vision of the 2015 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly who passed the Black Lives Matter Action of Immediate Witness (2015) which calls on us to support racial justice organizing to support intersectional campaigns, and to act up against the school-to-prison pipeline. We do this by being in solidarity with the CTU’s significant Black leadership, and with teachers and other public-support staff who care for the youth of this city and who know best what they need to thrive. We invite UU congregations in Chicago and beyond to join us in publicly supporting the demands of CTU & SEIU.
Towards a future with the schools Chicago youth deserve!
Steering Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois
Being a Prisoner is Like Being a Ghost
Marshall Project - Life inside by Fernando Rivas
I still remember that moment six years ago when I became a ward of the state—a federal inmate. Shackled hand and foot, I arrived by bus at the penitentiary and was ordered to send my clothing and other personal effects home in a cardboard box. I had to fill out a form telling my jailers whether I wished to be resuscitated and what to do with my body and whom to notify in the event of my death. It was one of the first shocks of being in prison, the first loss of self.
My wife told me she felt weird receiving and opening the box and seeing my street clothing as if I was already dead, as if I'd been killed in action in some foreign war, blown up by an IED so that nothing remained, not even ashes. Years before, she’d given me a good luck charm to wear on a tiny gold chain around my neck. I'd had to give that up as well. What would protect me from bad things now? From the evil eye? I was allowed to keep my wedding ring as consolation so that if I died I'd still belong somewhere else, even if only in spirit.
In spirit. Not in the flesh. To put it in vulgar terms: From that point on my ass belonged to the BOP.
Inmate's secretly recorded film shows the gruesome reality of life in prison
The Washington Post by Deanna Paul
Oct. 7, 2019
With a camera hidden in a hollowed-out Bible, peeking through the “O” of the word “Holy,” and a pair of rigged reading glasses, Scott Whitney secretly filmed the world behind bars, inside one of Florida’s notoriously dangerous prisons.
For four years, the 34-year-old convicted drug trafficker captured daily life on contraband cameras at the Martin Correctional Institution. He smuggled footage dating back to 2017 out of the prison and titled the documentary “Behind Tha Barb Wire.” The video — given to the Miami Herald — allows the public to see with their own eyes the violence, rampant drug use and appalling conditions inside the prison.
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Yesterday in Georgia, Women in Prison Regained Some of Their Dignity
The Root by Angela Helm
Oct 2, 2019
On Tuesday, the Georgia Dignity Act (House Bill 345) went into effect in all women’s prison facilities in Georgia, giving more than 3,800 women locked up in the state access to basic necessities like sanitary napkins, as well as affording them the decency of not being chained while pregnant or giving birth.
The bipartisan bill, written and by Georgia State Reps. Sharon Cooper, a Republican who represents Marietta, and Democrat David Dryer of Atlanta, was signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in May (this, the same man who signed the so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill, which certainly doesn’t afford women who are pregnant the dignity of autonomy over their own reproductive healthcare choices, but I digress.)
What's Really in the First Step Act?
The Marshall Project by Justin George
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 would the bill actually do? The Marshall Project took a close look.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive