Category Archives: grassroots activism

Would Paul McCartney or Bono get the same treatment as Rapper Meek Mill?

Jay-Z: The Criminal Justice System Stalks Black People Like Meek Mill
A Philadelphia judge sentenced the rapper Meek Mill to two to four years in prison for violating probation.
By JAY-Z                November 17, 2017
This month Meek Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating his probation. #FreeMeek hashtags have sprung up, and hundreds of his fans rallied near City Hall in Philadelphia to protest the ruling.
On the surface, this may look like the story of yet another criminal rapper who didn’t smarten up and is back where he started. But consider this: Meek was around 19 when he was convicted on charges relating to drug and gun possession, and he served an eight-month sentence. Now he’s 30, so he has been on probation for basically his entire adult life. For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside.
What’s happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day. I saw this up close when I was growing up in Brooklyn during the 1970s and 1980s. Instead of a second chance, probation ends up being a land mine, with a random misstep bringing consequences greater than the crime. A person on probation can end up in jail over a technical violation like missing a curfew.
Taxpayers in Philadelphia, Meek Mill’s hometown, will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year to keep him locked up, and I bet none of them would tell you his imprisonment is helping to keep them safer. He’s there because of arrests for a parole violation, and because a judge overruled recommendations by a prosecutor and his probation officer that he doesn’t deserve more jail time. That’s why I stopped my show in Dallas last week to talk about Meek.
Look at what he’s being punished for now:
In March, he was arrested after an altercation in a St. Louis airport. After video of what had actually happened was released, all charges were dropped against Meek. In August, he was arrested for popping a wheelie on a motorcycle on his video set in New York. Those charges will be dismissed if he stays out of trouble.
Think about that. The charges were either dropped or dismissed, but the judge sent him to prison anyway.
The specifics of Meek’s case inspired me to write this. But it’s time we highlight the random ways people trapped in the criminal justice system are punished every day. The system treats them as a danger to society, consistently monitors and follows them for any minor infraction — with the goal of putting them back in prison.
As of 2015, one-third of the 4.65 million Americans who were on some form of parole or probation were black. Black people are sent to prison for probation and parole violations at much higher rates than white people.
In Pennsylvania, hundreds of thousands of people are on probation or parole. About half of the people in city jails in Philadelphia are there for probation or parole violations. We could literally shut down jails if we treated people on parole or probation more fairly.
And that’s what we need to fight for in Philadelphia and across the country.
The racial-justice organization Color of Change is working with people in Philadelphia to pressure the courts there and make that vision a reality. Probation is a trap and we must fight for Meek and everyone else unjustly sent to prison.
 
Correction: November 17, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated details of a New York criminal case involving Meek Mill. The case will be dismissed in the spring if he is not arrested again; it was not dismissed on condition of his attending traffic school.
Jay-Z is a philanthropist and musician. Meek Mill is signed to his entertainment company, Roc Nation.
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CALL your State Rep by Sept. 22, 2017

Massachusetts statehouse and state legislators have passed dozens of bills to fill our prisons and jails. These bills often discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, income, social class, education, mental health and drug and substance addiction and abuse

CALL YOUR state representative TODAY and advocate for justice.

After a decade of activism, we have a window of opportunity for broad reform of the Massachusetts justice and corrections systems.Members of the Massachusetts Senate will be voting on a package of comprehensive reforms this fall.  We need to urge House members to take similar action. The House Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Rep. Claire Cronin, D-Brockton, is now meeting with every House member to learn what reform they will support.

 

The goal is for you to join a statewide movement to call your state representative (not senator) within the next week, so your rep will relay to Rep. Cronin, that they support a bold and comprehensive package of judicial and corrections systems reforms.

HERE is what we are asking you to do by Sept. 22.

If needed, identify your state representative at www.openstates.org, find their phone and e-mail.  Call and ask to speak with your state rep.  If s/he is not available, speak with their aide. Here is the message.

Hello my name is …  I am a constituent of Rep. …  I have been aware for a long time of the need to reform our justice and corrections systems.  I know there is discussion about bills to make badly needed changes in the systems.

I have heard that the Co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, Clare Cronin, is meeting with each member of the House to discuss areas of reform they will to support and what to include in a comprehensive package. In the discussions between Rep.… and Rep. Cronin, please urge her to be ambitious, to think big, and to develop a comprehensive House package, equal to the Senate version.

You may have a specific issue of concern, such as ending mandatory minimum sentences, reducing or eliminating bail, solitary confinement, or fees or fines.  Mention that issue in one sentence.  The main reason for the call is to ask your state rep to urge Rep. Cronin to think big, and assure her that House members will support broad reforms this fall.

  1. The ask: Can I count on you to deliver a message of support to Rep. Cronin?
  2. Next, send an email to your state rep to reinforce the message.
  3. Go HERE  to let the organizers, know you have connected with your state representative.

THANK YOU.

The Rev. Bill Gardiner, Susan Tordella and  Laura Wagner, Unitarian Universalist Association; The Rev. Jon Tetherly,  The Rev. George Oliver, Kathryn Byers, United Church of Christ.

For information, visit these resources:

One-Pager_justice-corrections reform_0922

https://massinc.org/our-work/policy-center/criminal-justice-reform/

http://www.macucc.org/justicewitnessministries

OK Bay State, catch up with Louisiana

The governor of Louisiana just signed 10 bills to overhaul their justice and corrections systems. Massachusetts sadly lags behind reform. We in Massachusetts must copy Louisiana, where grassroots activism, testifying at the statehouse and in the media, and direct, face-to-face contact with their elected officials fueled success.

 

CONTACT ME, emit [dot] susan [at] g mail if you live in Massachusetts and want EMIT to to assist you to take the most effective action: making a face-to-face visit with your state rep, near where you live. Find your state rep here. It’s your state rep’s JOB to listen to your concerns and requests.

We have held small group dialogues of constituents with with dozens of lawmakers from across the state, including Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, speaker of the House of Representatives.

To enact comprehensive reform similar to Louisiana, a series of bills is required. The sponsors of each bill insure they have support before asking Speaker DeLeo to bring a bill forward for a vote of the whole body.

We must capture the attention of every state representative this session, which runs from January 2017-July 2018. Take action today and contact EMIT — emit [dot] susan [at] g mail. We have a team of volunteers standing by to set up appointments and attend them with you and a small group of other registered voters from your district.

Has anyone ever died of a pot overdose?

Hear some reasons why marijuana legalization and regulation in Massachusetts makes sense on this free statewide phone call on Ballot Question 4 on Monday, Sept. 19, 7-8 pm 
 
Call in: 515 739 1020,  157277#
There will be time for Q&A of our guest speaker Bill Downing, a member of MASS CANN/NORML, a public-education organization that has been educating in preparation for marijuana decriminalization, medical and full regulation since 1989.
Question 4 for is the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana. If voters say YES , Massachusetts will join Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia in legalizing and regulating marijuana for recreational use.
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The speaker in the Sept. 23 event below is Rev. Dr. Harold Dean “Doc” Trulear is formerly incarcerated. His church community rallied around him to welcome him home after incarceration. He will inspire you to reach out to others returning home to avoid the high rate of re-offense, and the many barriers to successful re-entry after prison.

Please share this with your communities.
You are invited to a workshop on

Prison Ministry: Forming Networks for Connection, Growth and Healing

at the First Parish Church, Unitarian Universalist

50 School Street, Bridgewater, MA

Friday, September 23, 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Free and open to all. Lunch included.

Let’s learn together: 

  • To open our hearts to the incarcerated and to their families, friends and all who are working with them
  • To embrace and provide understanding to the incarcerated and members of communities working with them, whether they be congregational, academic, political or institutional
  • To collaborate and learn to build networks with others supporting prisoners
  • To form networks and support systems across all boundaries

 First Parish is honored to host this workshop, led by Rev. Dr. Harold Dean “Doc” Trulear, in collaboration with Messiah Baptist Church of Brockton. Dr. Trulear is Associate Professor of Applied Theology at Howard University and Director of the Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Prisoner Reentry Project of the Philadelphia Leadership Foundation.

To register:

Go to the workshop registration form: http://tinyurl.com/hbjyxrx

Or email: firstprincipleproject@gmail.com with your name and affiliated congregation or organization.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Susan A. Holton, 508-821-2034firstprincipleproject@gmail.com;

Betty Gilson, 774-226-0942gillyflower@verizon.net;

or Rev. Rachel Tedesco, 508-944-6436revrayted@comcast.net

Action you can take to influence the Judiciary Committee

The Judiciary Committee is now evaluating bills to reform the Commonwealth’s judicial and correctional systems. YOU CAN INFLUENCE this process in several ways.

1. Pledge to attend the June 9 hearing, 1 pm at the Gardner Auditorium of the Statehouse to show support for reform. Sign up here or show up at 12:45 pm at the Statehouse.

2. Print out multiple copies of this action letter. Invite others to sign individual letters. Mail them to EMIT, C/o Susan Tordella, 5 Hedgeway St. Ayer, MA 01432. EMIT will deliver them in person to the Judiciary Committee members. Or deliver the letters in person to Judiciary Committee members.

3.Call or email members of the Judiciary Committee and encourage other voters to do the same,  to encourage legislators to support criminal justice reform, especially the bills in the action letter

Here are the Judiciary Committee members, positions and contact information.

The legislators with NONE beside their names really need to hear that we support reform. 

Key (bills Sponsored -SP or Co-sponsored):
MM:    End Mandatory Minimums
PT:      Pre-Trial and Bail Reform
Just:   Justice Reinvestment Act
Care:   Caretaker Act
Exp:    Expungement
RJ:      Restorative Justice
Extra:  Extraordinary Medical Release

William Brownsberger, D-Belmont – Chair    617-722-1280  William.brownsberger@masenate.gov
MM, Just, Exp, RJ,
Sen. John Keenen, D-Quincy – Vice Chair NONE   617-722-1494     john.keenan@masenate.gov
Sonia Chang Diaz, D-Boston           617-722-1673     sonia.change-diaz@masenate.gov
PT, MM, Just -SP
Patricia Jehlen, D-Somerville         617-722-1578     patricia.jehlen@masenate.gov
PT, MM, Care-SP, Exp, RJ, Extra -SP
Cynthia Creem, D-Newton               617-722-1639     cynthia.creem@masenate.gov
MM- SP, Just
Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham             NONE   617-722-1555     richard.ross@masenate.gov
Rep. John Fernandes, D-Milford- Chair   NONE     617-722-2396     john.fernandes@mahouse.gov
Claire Cronin, D-Easton – Vice Chair                       617-722-2396     claire.cronin@mahouse.gov
PT, MM, Just, RJ Extra
Rep. Colleen Garry, D-Dracut    NONE       617-722-2380     colleen.garry@mahouse.gov
Rep. John Velis, D-Westfield     NONE       617-722-2582     john.vellis@mahouse.gov
Michael Day, D-Winchester                        617-722-2582     michael.day@mahouse.gov
MM, RJ
Rep. Paul Tucker, D-Salem          NONE          617-722-2400     paul.tucker@mahouse.gov
Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover    NONE          617-722-2450     james.lyons@mahouse.gov
Jeffrey Roy, D-Franklin                     617-722-2020     jeffrey.roy@mahouse.gov
Pre-Trial, MM, RJ
Evandro Carvalho, D-Dorchester      617-722-2460     evandro.carvalho@mahouse.gov
MM, Just
Carlos Gonzalez, D-Springfield         617-722-2080     carlos.gonzalez@mahouse.gov
PT, MM, Just, Care
Sheila Harrington, R-Groton              617-722-2305     shiela.harrington@mahouse.gov
PT

Letter to legislators to ask for co-sponsorship of upcoming legislation

[Church or personal address]

[Date]

Here is a letter to print out and distribute to your circle of influence to send to state legislators by Jan. 15, 2015.

To identify your state lawmakers and their room numbers at the Statehouse, go to: https://malegislature.gov/people/search

Massachusetts State House
Room _______
24 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 01233

The Honorable ____________________________

I am writing to express my support of bills to end mass incarceration in the 2015-16 legislative term and invite you to co-sponsor one or all of them. The bills are as follows.

  1. End Mandatory Minimums – sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Cream, D-Newton, and Rep. Ben Swan, D-Springfield, to allow drug offenders to be sentenced based on their role in the offense, prior criminal history (if any) and need for treatment.
  2. Reform pre-trial and bail practices – Sen. Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington) and Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland), to transform a justice system based on wealth to a risk-based system.  One-fourth of the 22,000 people incarcerated in the state are awaiting trial, without being found guilty of a crime.
  3. End collateral sanctions at the Registry of Motor Vehicles – Liz Malia (D-Jamaica Plain) and Sen. Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester). Remove the requirement that a person convicted of a drug offense loses driving privileges for up to five years and pay $500 or more to reinstate.
  4. Implement restorative justice programs – Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Rep. Sean Garbally (D-Arlington) to provide an opportunity to repair the harm caused by the event, as opposed to handing down a punishment.
  5. Expungement – Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), to expunge a criminal record in which the defendant was mistakenly brought into the criminal justice system.

The five bills above are endorsed by the Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus, led by Rep. Sannicandro and Sen. Eldridge, which I hope you will join, if you haven’t yet.  I encourage you to sign on as a co-sponsor of one or all of these bills before Jan. 15, 2015. As you know, adding your name to the front page of a bill increases the likelihood that the legislation will pass.

I also support three additional bills that will: redefine the criteria of a felony charge; put limits on the use of solitary confinement; and allow compassionate release of people who are terminally ill.

We must work together to end one of the worst travesties of our time – mass incarceration, as well to offer economic opportunities in communities hardest hit by poverty, drugs and hopelessness. I look forward to our continued communication to restore justice for all in Massachusetts.

Mass incarceration is inhumane, ineffective and fiscally irresponsible. I strongly support proven methods to reform the Massachusetts system of justice. I recognize that a lack of economic opportunity leaves many people with few options for legal employment. I support investing in our most vulnerable communities  through business development, providing job skill training classes, and by other programs that a community identifies to generate change.

As a Unitarian Universalist, my denomination will continue to advocate for these needed changes.  I look forward to our continued communication and partnering to end mass incarceration together and restore justice in Massachusetts.

Sincerely,

[signature]

[printed name]________________________

[address]_____________________________