Tag Archives: black men

ACTION ALERT: Oppose appointment of Joshua Wall as superior court judge

Joshua Wall, nominated  for superior court judge by Gov. Patrick, will come before the Governor’s Council Sept. 17 at 10 am, Room 157 of the Statehouse on Beacon Hill, Boston.  If you’re like me, you’re thinking “Governor’s council? Who and what are they?”

You vote for them and according to Marilyn Pettino Devaney, District 3 representative for parts of Middlesex County, who returned my call, the Council exists as a check and balance to the appointments made by the Governor.

The Council has the power to deny approval to Joshua Wall, and prevent him from becoming a judge. Wall reportedly regularly broke the golden rule: Treat others as you wish be to treated when interacting with offenders during his service on the Parole Board.

Learn more on his troubled nomination in this WBUR story.  There are multiple reports from many sources of Walls’ poor attitude and disrespect toward incarcerated people who applied for parole, something most incarcerated people face with severe dread and fearful anticipation.

It seems that Wall’s attitude reflects that of American society that has delivered mass incarceration, and made the USA the most incarcerating nation in the world. European nations jail one of every 750 citizens, compared to the USA, which jails one of every 100 citizens.

Overturning the system of mass incarceration rests on a thousand little decisions, such as opposing the appointment of an incarcer-nation judge like Joshua Walls. Take a minute to identify your Governor’s Council representative. Then ask or leave a voice mail, “What is your position on Joshua Wall’s nomination? Why have you taken that stand?” 

Marilyn called me right back to explain that she opposed his appointment to the Parole Board, which makes decisions on whether incarcerated people deserve to be released or given a setback. She was investigating his qualifications for the judgeship and hasn’t made up her mind. She has received calls both pro and con for Wall.

Make your voice heard. Asking questions is especially effective. Let your councilor do most of the talking. Your input can start to turn the ocean liner of our corrupt judicial system that sends a disproportionate number of black, brown, poor and often mentally ill people to prison for long sentences. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts now spends more on incarceration than on higher education, not to mention the waste of lives of people stuck in prison for decades for trivial drug offenses.

We need you to do three things, provided by CEPS, a Massachusetts group, Coalition for Effective Public Safety.

1.  CALL, EMAIL, WRITE, OR VISIT YOUR GOVERNOR’S COUNCILOR AND TELL HIM OR HER TO VOTE “NO” ON THE WALL NOMINATION. Remember, you elect your Governor’s Councilor every two years and the next election for all councilors is this November 4, 2014.

Tell your councilor you are a constituent and you want a “NO” vote cast on Josh Wall’s judicial nomination. Your councilor’s contact information is at the end of this email. Councilors are in the statehouse every Wednesday for in-person visits by constituents and are available at their home offices on other days.

2. ATTEND THE HEARING ON SEPTEMBER 17th and sign in as part of the opposition.

3. FORWARD THIS EMAIL to others who may be interested. We have attached the letter being sent to the Governor’s Councilors.


    –  A constant theme of the complaints about this Parole Board is that Wall does not show respect to prisoners or their families during parole hearings. He often behaves unnecessarily arrogant, confrontational, condescending, dismissive, and insulting towards prisoners and their families. He often is disrespectful to the law students and attorneys who represent the prisoners at parole hearings.

–  Under Chairman Wall, there has been a significant increase in the number of prisoners who “waive” their parole hearings, i.e. decline the opportunity to appear before the Board. This is largely because many prisoners have decided not to attend a hearing when there is little prospect of being granted parole and a high likelihood that they or their loved ones will be treated with disrespect.

    –  Evidence of Wall’s disrespect for prisoners and their families is also shown in his failure to issue timely decisions. Under the Wall Board, lifers and their families have waited an average of 9 months for the Board to issue a decision in their cases. Prior Parole Boards issued their lifer decisions within 60 days.

These are not characteristics the public wishes to see in a judge who must act with impartiality, patience and professionalism. Josh Wall should not be rewarded for his poor conduct as the Chairman of the Parole Board.

As a judge, Wall would have even more power and more opportunity to disrespect the attorneys or defendants who come before him. Furthermore, he would be charged with ruling on motions that could limit defendants’ ability to present a defense and his conduct in the courtroom could negatively impact how juries view defendants during trial.

Most concerning, he would be pronouncing sentences for criminal defendants – the very people for whom he has already shown no respect as the Parole Board Chair.
PLEASE VISIT, EMAIL, WRITE, OR CALL YOUR GOVERNOR’S COUNCILOR. Stories that show Chairman Wall’s disrespect for our clients, their families and their advocates are very helpful because one of the issues the Council is concerned about is judicial temperament, including respect for all parties. (FYI – Josh Wall’s term of office as Parole Board chair is up on June 2, 2015.)

The contact info for the members of the Governor’s Council is below. If you have time, please send your stories and comments to all of them, not just your Councilor. YOUR EFFORTS COULD REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Members of the Steering Committee of the Coalition for Effective Public Safety
To find out the name of your councilor go to:


1.  Oliver P. Cipollini, Jr. – District 1
20 Biscayne Drive
Marstons Mills, MA 02648
GC: 617-725-4015, ext. 1
Res: 508-428-8782
Fax: 617-727-6610
Email: ocipollini@aol.com

2.   Robert L. Jubinville – District 2
487 Adams Street
Milton, MA 02186
GC: 617-725-4015, ext. 2
Bus: 800-828-9010
Fax: 617-698-8004
Email: Jubinville@comcast.net

3.   Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney – District 3
98 Westminster Avenue
Watertown, MA 02472
GC: 617-725-4015 ext. 3
Cell: 617-840-7689
Fax: 617-727-6610
Email: marilynpetittodevaney@gmail.com

4.    Christopher A. Iannella – District 4
263 Pond Street
Boston, MA 02130
GC: 617-725-4015 ext. 4
Bus: 617-227-1538
Fax: 617-742-1424
Email: caiannella@aol.com

5.    Eileen R. Duff – District 5
8 Barberry Heights Road
Gloucester, MA 01930
GC: 617-725-4015 ext. 5
Res: 978-927-8700
Fax: 617-727-6610
Email: eileenduff3@gmail.com

6.   Terrence W. Kennedy – District 6
3 Stafford Road
Lynnfield, MA 01940
GC: 617-725-4015, ext. 6
Bus: 617-387-9809
Fax: 617-727-6610
Email: twklaw@aol.com

7.    Jennie L. Caissie – District 7
53 Fort Hill Road
Oxford, MA 01540
GC: 617-725-4015, ext. 7
Bus: 508-765-0885
Fax: 508-765-0888
Email: jcaissie@caplettelaw.com.com

8.    Michael J. Albano – District 8
403 Maple Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
GC: 617-725-4015 ext. 8
Bus: 413-525-4438
Fax: 413-525-4887
Email: albanom@the-spa.com

Racism behind mass incarceration

Black men under age 35 who did not finish high school are more likely to be behind bars than employed in the labor market.

That sentence was buried halfway down in an announcement from the National Academies Press of the publishing of this report: “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences.”

These facts also grate at me, especially the third:

1. With the inclusion of local jails, the U.S. penal population totals 2.2 million adults, the largest in the world; the U.S. has nearly one-quarter of the world’s prisoners, but only 5 percent of its population.
2. Nearly 1 in 100 adults is in prison or jail, which is 5 to 10 times higher than rates in Western Europe and other democracies.
3. Of those incarcerated in 2011, about 60 percent were black or Hispanic.

The systematic racism throughout our country’s criminal justice system that created this “New Jim Crow,” outrages and frustrates me. The frustrations are that the system is so complex that it will take a series of laws and new policies and practices over the next five to ten years to change such a behemoth, and worse, MOST PEOPLE don’t know about the epidemic of mass incarceration, and if they do know about it, don’t act.

This issue hits close to home for me because I have volunteered in prisons since 2009, co-founding eight Toastmaters programs in men’s and women’s prisons. I know many people impacted by the politics, racism and classism that has delivered the New Jim Crow. I knew many black males in high school in Wilmington, Del. and often wonder if they were snagged in the net of imprisonment, that sends one in three black men to prison.

To take action in Massachusetts, contact me or start looking around in your area for others who are working on untangling the web of injustice created by the war on drugs. susan dot tordella at g mail dot com .

Copies of The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences are available from the National Academies Press at www.nap.edu or by calling tel. 202-334-3313or 1-800-624-6242