by Eli Hager and Weihua Li
"The president of Minneapolis’s police union called George Floyd a “violent criminal” and those protesting his killing by a police officer a “terrorist movement.” A union chief in Baltimore once said Black Lives Matter activists were a “lynch mob”; one in Philadelphia referred to them as “a pack of rabid animals.” Another has labeled St. Louis’s democratically elected prosecutor, who is black and supports police reform, a “menace to society” who must be removed “by force” if necessary.All of these union leaders also have this in common: They are white." Read more
Join the Coalition to End Money Bond in Springfield at a Lobby Feb. 25th. They are asking for us to spread the word, needing your help to educate legislators about the Pretrial Fairness Act and the need for transformative bond reform.
From their website:
The Coalition to End Money Bond formed in May 2016 as a group of member organizations with the shared goal of stopping the large-scale jailing of people simply because they were unable to pay a monetary bond. In addition to ending the obvious unfairness of allowing access to money determine who is incarcerated and who is free pending trial, the Coalition is committed to reducing the overall number of people in Cook County Jail and under pretrial supervision as part of a larger fight against mass incarceration. The Coalition to End Money Bond is tackling bail reform and the abolition of money bond as part of its member organizations’ larger efforts to achieve racial and economic justice for all residents of Cook County.
Learn more here...
"Should Judges Have to Weigh the Price Tag of Sending Someone to Prison?"
Samantha Jones, Mother Jones
A handful of reformist DAs think so. But they’re meeting plenty of resistance.
There’s one trial that Buta Biberaj will never forget. Biberaj, a former defense attorney, remembers how Virginia jurors in 2017 requested 132 years of prison for a man who stole car tires. The jurors may have been unaware that taxpayers could pay more than $25,000 a year to keep someone incarcerated—so by proposing their sentence, they were also suggesting that society fork over $3 million...
Pritzker Wants to End Cash Bonds, Mandatory Minimum Prison Sentences
WGLT - By TIM SHELLEY • JAN 9, 2020
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a pair of ambitious criminal justice reform goals Thursday: the end of cash bonds and mandatory minimum sentences in Illinois. Pritzker says it's part of "prudently" reducing the state's 40,000 inmate prison population. He acknowledges it will likely take several years to implement, but says ending cash bonds is a priority. There's work to be done to try to find a solution for ending cash bail, but it will, in my opinion, during our administration, we will have made enormous strides," he said. "And I believe we will end cash bail during this adminstration."
How to Fix Our Prisons? Let the Public Inside
New York Times: Opinion by Neil Barsky
Dec 17, 2019
Decades after the prison population began its growth surge, criminal justice reform has finally moved into the national conversation.
Last December, President Trump signed the First Step Act, reducing federal prison sentences. Democratic presidential candidates are proposing far-reaching reforms on bail, sentencing, punishments for drug-related crimes and voting rights for incarcerated Americans. New York City is set to close its notorious jail complex on Rikers Island. And Philadelphia, Chicago and other major cities have elected progressive district attorneys.
Unfortunately, what happens inside the walls of the nation’s prisons has not changed at all. They can be stifling in summer and freezing in winter. The residents are often belittled, abused and cut off from anything resembling rehabilitation. Constitutional protections are virtually nonexistent; solitary confinement, to pick one example, is considered torture by much of the world, but is business as usual inside America’s state and federal jails and prisons, home to roughly 2.1 million people.
Here is what the next president, or President Trump, can do to reform mass incarceration: Open up this hidden world to the public. I call my proposal “Let Us In.”
Why I changed my mind on having second chances at life after prison
The Hill by Michael O'Hanlon
Nov 5, 2019
I am no specialist on criminal justice, and my own instincts, based partly on close personal connections to several murder victims over the course of my lifetime, lean towards the hard line on matters of violent crime in particular. But something I saw in a high security District of Columbia Correctional Facility nonetheless had a major impact on my outlook.
Georgetown University professor Marc Howard invited me to address a group of several dozen prisoners who are enrolled in the Georgetown Prison Scholars Program last month to discuss American national security policy inside the jail. That same afternoon, Marc had taught a lesson to a group of students, half from Georgetown University and half incarcerated individuals from the facility, as part of his course for credit on criminal justice and prisons. I had not seen so many people in orange suits in one place since the last time I visited an American military jail in Afghanistan, where members of the Taliban made up the majority of the detainees. My experience in the District of Columbia was much more uplifting because of the attitudes and aptitudes of the individuals with whom I spoke.
Ankle monitors can hold captives in invisible jails of debt, pain and bugged conversations
Tools that began with the promise of releasing Americans are now shackling many who would otherwise have been set free.
Think by Albert Fox Cahn
Nov 6, 2019
Increasingly, American jails are built without bars, razor wire or even guards. Instead, 21st century prisons are built from data. More and more, inmates are confined not by physical buildings but by GPS monitors, radio-frequency trackers and an array of other electronic monitoring. But make no mistake, electronic monitoring can feel every bit the prison as its brick-and-mortar counterpart.
The first time I stepped into a courtroom was because of electronic monitoring, the increasingly common form of surveillance used in lieu of posting bail or being held in jail, or as part of parole. It was in 2012, and I was a third-year Harvard law student representing a client at a courthouse in inner-city Boston. I shakily approached the lectern and delivered my argument, explaining why my client should be released from jail and put on electronic monitoring while he awaited trial. Whether through persuasion or (more likely) pity, it worked.
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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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 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
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive