Contact Trump to pledge federal justice/corrections systems reform

The US House of Representatives approved the First Step Bill [H. 5682] in May – see summary hereIt goes further than these 5 highlights that will impact FEDERAL cases and the Bureau of Prisons. It will not impact state laws.
  1. provide training while men and women are incarcerated​;​
  2. eliminate the disparity between the sentencing for crack cocaine and heroin​;​
  3.  lower mandatory minimum sentences​;​
  4. prohibit shackling of prisoners giving birth; and 
  5. mandate prisoners be held at facilities 500 miles or less from home.​ [space available]
    ​​
    ​Ask President Trump to ​promise to sign this federal legislation into law once it has passed both houses of Congress.  
    Senator ​Mitch ​McConnell ​pledged bring the legislation up for a vote IF the President will sign it. Jared Kushner, whose father has been incarcerated​, ​is pushing this ​bill.
     
     
    Please write to Senator Mitch McConnell  https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactform and ask him to bring First Step Act up for a vote in the senate
     
    Thank you. 
     
    Charlotte Simpson​, activist
    EMIT member​
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The Newest Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander

Recent criminal justice reforms contain the seeds of a frightening system of “e-carceration.”

By Michelle Alexander  Opinion Columnist   New York Times

 

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CreditCreditIllustration by Yoshi Sodeoka; Photographs by Juanmonino and SensorSpot/E+, via Getty Images

In the midterms, Michigan became the first state in the Midwest to legalize marijuana, Florida restored the vote to over 1.4 million people with felony convictions, and Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment requiring unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials. These are the latest examples of the astonishing progress that has been made in the last several years on a wide range of criminal justice issues. Since 2010, when I published “The New Jim Crow” — which argued that a system of legal discrimination and segregation had been born again in this country because of the war on drugs and mass incarceration — there have been significant changes to drug policy, sentencing and re-entry, including “ban the box” initiatives aimed at eliminating barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated people.

This progress is unquestionably good news, but there are warning signs blinking brightly. Many of the current reform efforts contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control, a system of “e-carceration” that may prove more dangerous and more difficult to challenge than the one we hope to leave behind.

Bail reform is a case in point. Thanks in part to new laws and policies — as well as actions like the mass bailout of inmates in New York City jails that’s underway — the unconscionable practice of cash bail is finally coming to an end. In August, California became the first state to decide to get rid of its cash bail system; last year, New Jersey virtually eliminated the use of money bonds.

But what’s taking the place of cash bail may prove even worse in the long run. In California, a presumption of detention will effectively replace eligibility for immediate release when the new law takes effect in October 2019. And increasingly, computer algorithms are helping to determine who should be caged and who should be set “free.” Freedom — even when it’s granted, it turns out — isn’t really free.

Under new policies in California, New Jersey, New York and beyond, “risk assessment” algorithms recommend to judges whether a person who’s been arrested should be released. These advanced mathematical models — or “weapons of math destruction” as data scientist Cathy O’Neil calls them — appear colorblind on the surface but they are based on factors that are not only highly correlated with race and class, but are also significantly influenced by pervasive bias in the criminal justice system.

As O’Neil explains, “It’s tempting to believe that computers will be neutral and objective, but algorithms are nothing more than opinions embedded in mathematics.”

Challenging these biased algorithms may be more difficult than challenging discrimination by the police, prosecutors and judges. Many algorithms are fiercely guarded corporate secrets. Those that are transparent — you can actually read the code — lack a public audit so it’s impossible to know how much more often they fail for people of color.

Even if you’re lucky enough to be set “free” from a brick-and-mortar jail thanks to a computer algorithm, an expensive monitoring device likely will be shackled to your ankle — a GPS tracking device provided by a private company that may charge you around $300 per month, an involuntary leasing fee. Your permitted zones of movement may make it difficult or impossible to get or keep a job, attend school, care for your kids or visit family members. You’re effectively sentenced to an open-air digital prison, one that may not extend beyond your house, your block or your neighborhood. One false step (or one malfunction of the GPS tracking device) will bring cops to your front door, your workplace, or wherever they find you and snatch you right back to jail.

Who benefits from this? Private corporations. According to a report released last month by the Center for Media Justice, four large corporations — including the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies — have most of the private contracts to provide electronic monitoring for people on parole in some 30 states, giving them a combined annual revenue of more than $200 million just for e-monitoring. Companies that earned millions on contracts to run or serve prisons have, in an era of prison restructuring, begun to shift their business model to add electronic surveillance and monitoring of the same population. Even if old-fashioned prisons fade away, the profit margins of these companies will widen so long as growing numbers of people find themselves subject to perpetual criminalization, surveillance, monitoring and control.

 

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How to take small actions to make a big push for justice for all in Massachusetts

CourtWatch Data Entry Party – Volunteers Needed! 
When: Sun Oct 21, 2:00 – 5:00 PM
When:  Harvard Law, Austin Hall 111 West, Cambridge

Volunteers are needed for data entry.  The qualitative data from court watch needs to be entered into the database.  Volunteers are asked to bring their laptop to this event
More Info, Contact CourtWatch MA at mailto:info@courtwatchma.org

RSVP HERE

  
Worcester and Plymouth County are the focus of the general election in November

Worcester:         Joe Early (D, Incumbent) and Blake Rubin (unenrolled)
Click to learn more about these candidates

Plymouth:          Timothy Cruz (R, Incumbent) and John Bradley (D)
Click to learn more about these candidates

Suffolk:                Rachel Rollins (D) and Michael Mahoney (I)
Click to learn more about these candidates


Plymouth County:  Pre-Election Canvass and Training
When: Sat Nov 3, 11:00 – 3:30 PM
Where: Brockton, location TBD  (will be in downtown area)

Join the #DADifference canvass team for a brief training before you head out to provide info about the election and encourage people to vote.  We need a big turnout for this event! You’ll be paired with a partner – it’s no problem if you’re not from the area.

More Info    RSVP HERE


Worcester County: Public Education Forum
When: Tue Oct 16, 5:30 – 7:00 PM
Where: YWCA, 1 Salem St., Worcester
Co-Sponsors: ACLU MA, ACLU Smart Justice and #DADifference

Learn about the impact district attorneys have on your community and why it is important to participate in the Worcester County District Attorney election on November 6. It’s time to use our voices – and our vote – to make our criminal legal system fairer for everyone.   FLYER


Worcester County: DA Candidate Debate
When: Mon Oct 22, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Where: Worcester State University, 486 Chandler St., Worcester
Co-Sponsors:  League of Women Voters, NAACP and MA Women of Color Coalition and
#DADifference

Hear from candidates Joe Early (D)  and Blake Rubin (I)
Find more info HERE


Pre-Election Canvass & Training
When: Sat Oct 27, 11:00 – 3:30 PM
Where: Stone Soup, 4 King St., Worcester
Register HERE     More Info

Join the #DADifference canvass team for a brief training before you head out to provide info about the election and encourage people to vote.  We need a big turnout for this event! You’ll be paired with a partner – it’s no problem if you’re not from the area.

THANKS to Laura Wagner, EMIT core co-founder and director of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, for writing up these opportunities.

Restorative Justice training opportunities

Volunteers are needed to participate in the restorative justice system, to keep offenders from serving prison time, and create opportunities to make restitution with the victims of their crime.

C4RJ, Communities for Restorative Justice, in Middlesex County, is directed by Erin Freeborn.  Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan is a primary advocate and practitioner of restorative justice. Learn more from these experts at the following events and websites.

1. Arlington Human Rights Commission’s “Understanding Restorative Justice” event with Arlington’s Police Chief Fred Ryan and Erin Freeborn, the Executive Director of Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ), on Saturday, October 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Arlington Senior Center (27 Maple Street).  Here’s the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/296326214528836/.

C4RJ led the restorative justice process with the individual who defaced my congregation’s Black Lives Matter banner and, more recently, with 14 youths who covered the Arlington High School with offensive graffiti.  Last year they handled cases from 17 different communities and put out a new “Restorative Practices Guide for Schools” (www.c4rj.org).

2. The Center for Restorative Justice at Suffolk University is offering three training events for people who want to use restorative practices professionally.  These events are limited to 25 people each, and preregistration is required, and there are a few vacancies in each:

Tier 1:  Circle Training and Introduction to Restorative Practices for Educators (Oct. 19-20):  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tier-1-circle-training-and-introduction-to-restorative-practices-for-educators-tickets-49706640901

Tier 2:  Restorative Mindset and Restorative Classroom Management (Nov. 16-17):  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tier-2-restorative-mindset-and-restorative-classroom-management-tickets-49707875594

Tier 3:  Restorative Conferencing for Discipline (Dec. 7-8):  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tier-3-restorative-conferencing-for-discipline-tickets-49708258740

Restorative justice focuses on helping people understand the harm they have done, take responsibility for their actions, and help meet the needs identified by the people they have hurt.  It is important for reducing mass incarceration and the number of people who are burdened with a criminal record, and a helpful approach to school discipline to avoid the school-to-prison pipeline.

Restorative justice often has much better outcomes for everyone than more punitive approaches.  It has a high satisfaction rate among participants (98 percent in C4RJ’s circles last year), but when something happens, people are unlikely to choose restorative justice unless they’ve heard about it already.

Please attend on Oct. 13 for a general introduction to restorative justice, and share these invitations with anyone who might be in a position to use restorative justice in their life or work.

–Lori Kenshaft, EMIT Core member, leader of End Mass Incarceration Working Group of First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Arlington. 

John Bradley for District Attorney in Plymouth County, Mass.

This powerful 2 minute video sums up reasons to vote for John Bradley, Democratic candidate for District Attorney in Plymouth County.

If you don’t live in Plymouth County, please share this with friends who do live there.
You can also find out about your county races for District Attorney here. 

Feds are following suit as states lead the way for justice/corrections reform

National activists are mirroring reform in Massachusetts and other to prevent people from entering the system, humane treatment during incarceration, shorter sentences, and better preparation for re-entry to reduce recidivism.

An EMIT activist participated in a national call on Monday, which included representatives from the Koch brothers, who favor justice/corrections systems reform.  Her are highlights from her report.

On the call, several groups such as FAMM – Friends Against Mandatory Minimums,
#CUT 50, and the Koch Group were advocating to keep up the pressure to pass the bills through Congress.

They plan to use many of the same methods that we used at the Statehouse here, such as briefings, letter writing, op-ed pieces and call ins to persuade passage.

Some activists on the call members had met privately with legislators directly. Some parts of the two bills will reform federal sentences, change mandatory minimums,
expand programs and expand the elderly release program which allows those over age 60 who have served two-thirds of their sentence to ask to be released due to their age and or health.

When and if many of these reforms become law at the federal level, it will be much easier for us to ask for similar changes at the state level.

The representatives of the activist groups felt that President Trump supports the bills. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner has been working to get the bill passed. I agree with Kushner’s  statement that ” 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?”

We are working here  in Massachusetts to insure that our corrections system  does rehabilitate while also reducing the prison population and saving tax dollars. I
believe that these are worthy goals that both Democrats and Republicans can get behind.

The only ones who seem to not want passage according to those on the call are the private prison lobby and law enforcement , They both have a vested interest in keeping prisons full as a means of job security.

I feel the tax paying public deserves better. I feel that we can hold prisons accountable , rehabilitate and save money without damaging public safety. To do this, we all will not have to work harder, instead we all have to work smarter.

Here is a copy of the information on the sentencing reform and corrections bill that passed the House. Now a companion bill S.1917 Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act has come through the Senate. It is sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassly (R) and Richard Durbin (D) as well as Lindsey Graham (R) and Cory Booker (D).

https://famm.org/s-1917-sentencing-reform-corrections-act-2017-115th-congress/#.W2mfmcr__Fw.email