Dignity and Power Now (DPN)
Dignity and Power Now’s Health and Wellness team recently released a COVID-19 Resource Guide with a list of mutual aid efforts in Los Angeles to address the urgent needs of community members. The Guide lists resources in health care, employment, mental health, emergency food, legal assistance, human rights, housing, and LGBTQIA+ relief. Dignity and Power Now is partnering with Black Futures Lab to create the #BlackAgenda2020. #BlackAgenda2020 holds elected officials accountable to our communities and makes us powerful in our democracy, our legal system, and beyond. Check your registration status, register to vote, or simply take the voting pledge: bit.ly/dpnvote. This November, we hold the power to invest in care and support for our communities. Check out JusticeLA’s Voter Guide for key issues that will ultimately affect our communities, including #YesonJ and #NoOn25.
Voters Organized to Educate (VOTE)
Voters Organized to Educate (VOTE’s c4 arm) is educating voters across Louisiana on where candidates stand on the issues that deeply impact our communities. In New Orleans, we’re focused on getting out the vote for the twelve endorsed candidates on our Justice Ballot, headlined by district attorney candidate Arthur Hunter, along with an historic contingent of defense attorneys running for judge. Hunter has the potential to truly reform the Orleans Parish DA’s office, and the one we trust to be transparent. We are all ready to move past the corrupt decades of D.A. Connick and Cannizzaro (read our take on how we finally got rid of him). Outside of Orleans, we’re endorsing two more DA candidates, Lori Landry (Iberia parish) and Charles Cravins (St. Landry parish). Both Landry and Cravins have shown dedication to criminal justice reform, and could have a major impact on decreasing mass incarceration in our state--in particular by disrupting the all-powerful lobbying of the District Attorney Association. In the past few months, we’ve launched a new website that has information about key races, while canvassing teams, direct mail, billboards, digital ads, and social media bolster the organic reach and branding we have been working on for the past four years. And while the Orleans DA race is likely to force a December run-off, we will work to consolidate the base of progressive voters and beat the conservative candidate in a landslide.
Court Watch NOLA
Court Watch NOLA has been hitting the digital pavement to get voters out and educated for the upcoming local elections in November. Through coalition partnerships, we have held forums for Felony, Municipal and Magistrate courts, as well as a large and well-attended forum for three of the District Attorney's candidates hosted by the People's DA Coalition, of which Court Watch NOLA is a founding member. Information on these forums, as well as links to them can be found on our website.
Prison Policy Initiative
With the election less than a month away, the Prison Policy Initiative and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition released Eligible, but Excluded, a 50-state roadmap to expanding voting access for people incarcerated in local jails who are already eligible to vote. The report explains – via a 50-state table and flowchart – that most of the 746,000 people in local jails retain the right to vote, but are denied that right in every election through de facto disenfranchisement. The report details the logistical barriers that prevent these voters from casting ballots, and then offers 29 strategies for advocates, state legislatures, election officials, and sheriffs to enable people in jail to vote.
Coalition to End Money Bond
On September 26th, five communities across Illinois took action as part of the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice’s Statewide Day of Action in support of the Pretrial Fairness Act. The Pretrial Fairness Act is proposed legislation that will end money bond and dramatically reduce the number of people incarcerated in Illinois. Network members in Champaign, Chicago, East St. Louis, Peoria, and Springfield took a variety of actions to show their support for this historic legislation. In Chicago, Asian Americans Advancing Justice set-up a banner calling for an end to money bail in multiple locations in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Later in the day, the Coalition to End Money Bond held a march to Chicago’s Public Safety Headquarters to lift up an alternative vision for real community safety beyond policing. The march concluded with a speech from one of the sponsors of the Pretrial Fairness Act, State Senator Robert Peters. You can read more about the actions taken in other cities here!
Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP)
As Election Day nears, FJP has continued to advocate for the protection of a fair and free election. Seventy-nine elected prosecutors and law enforcement officials issued a joint statement condemning tactics that interfere with the right to vote, including interference with the U.S. Postal Service. In an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky, Contra Costa (CA) District Attorney Diana Becton, and Mecklenburg County (NC) Sheriff Garry L. McFadden stressed that attacks on the right to vote threaten confidence in the rule of law and trust in government. Also this month, FJP addressed police reform issues: in an op-ed in The Appeal, Krinsky and former Police Chief Joe Brann discussed concerns that the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement is helping to advance dangerous and inaccurate narratives around public safety, and underscored the need for reforms in policing that take on systemic racism and address deep concerns around over enforcement in communities of color. Finally, FJP released its latest COVID-19 “Issues at a Glance” brief, which focused on steps prosecutors can take to ensure constitutional rights and humane care for people behind bars during this dire pandemic.
Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice
We are just finishing our Harm Circle training, which we completed virtually for the first time, with our community partners in Philadelphia, the Youth Art and Self-empowerment Project (YASP), as well as individuals from our community-partner organization in Miami, S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective (SSLC). Both YASP and SSLC are deeply embedded in their respective communities, have spent years showing up as fierce advocates for youth of color and their families, and will be leading their counties’ pre-charge restorative justice diversion work. We anticipate providing YASP and SSLC with our Restorative Community Conferencing training by early December and then both sites will be ready to launch their pilot programs by early 2021. Meanwhile, we have been working closely with our community and system partners in San Francisco and are very close to having a signed memorandum of understanding that will allow San Francisco County to expand its pre-charge restorative justice diversion program to reach transitional-age young adults.
New Virginia Majority
During the special session in Virginia, two bills of note passed both the House and Senate chambers and are waiting for Governor Northam's signature. SB204 authorizes the Attorney General to file a civil suit if he or she believes unlawful practices are occurring. SB5017 folds immigration detention centers into the definition of local correctional facility, which would give Virginia the authority to enforce the same standards in immigration detention centers that exist in correctional facilities.
Emerging Adult Justice Project
The Emerging Adult Justice Project at the Columbia Justice Lab published a paper on new parole and re-sentencing laws and proposed bills focused specifically on emerging adults. Coupled with the release of this paper, we hosted an online event (recording on our website) that included commentary from an advocate who directly benefited from the expansion of the parole provision in CA (describing the law as a “light of created hope"), insights from one of the lead legal advocates behind the passage of the CA bill, and two legislators pushing for similar reforms in CO and Washington D.C. The EAJP is also pleased to report that our research and input helped guide the Washington State Board of Health's analysis on the impact of “right-sizing” the juvenile justice system (a proposal to increase both the lower and upper ages of juvenile jurisdiction) and that the report found “very strong evidence” of positive impacts of raising the age, including reduced recidivism and improved access to employment opportunities, housing, economic stability and health outcomes.
Alliance for Safety and Justice
Alliance for Safety and Justice recently launched the Heal the Vote and Progress, not Prisons voter education campaigns to educate and mobilize hundreds of thousands of survivors, people with convictions, and other underrepresented voters to ensure their voices are heard at the ballot box. While we have always prioritized elevating the voices of those most harmed and least helped, mobilizing a new safety constituency as a voter block provides an opportunity to go even further in influencing public debates on safety. We’re thrilled to share that Heal the Vote was featured in the New York Times - you can check out the article at this link. Additionally, we recently released Toward Shared Safety: The First-Ever National Survey of America's Safety Gaps. Based upon a survey of 4,000 people from across the country, the report demonstrates broad consensus that public safety policies and investments should prioritize violence prevention, recovery, mental health, reentry, and the most effective strategies to stop the cycle of crime, more than arrests and incarceration. The report calls for federal, state and local expenditures to start to match these urgently needed - and popularly supported - priorities. Check out TIME Magazine’s coverage of the report U.S. Crime Victims Often Don't Get the Government Money Meant to Help Them Heal.
American Conservative Union Foundation
David Safavian recently testified about legislation (SB 2123) in Mississippi that would have reduced the harm caused by the state’s repeat offender statute. In Mississippi, a third conviction results in the maximum sentence under the guidelines. If there is any conviction in the defendant’s record, the sentence is life without parole. Compounding this is the fact that Mississippi considers things like DWI and burglary as “violent crimes.” Safavian called out the Governor for vetoing SB 2123, with the hope that the legislature takes up this issue again in early 2021.
Texas Organizing Project (TOP)
While we fight to dismantle the cash bail system, TOP has made bailing people out of jail an ongoing part of our work. In July, with funding from The Bail Project, TOP hired our first bail disruptor to focus on bailing out people who were in jail solely because they couldn’t afford bail. Already, TOP has bailed out more than 230 people in Bexar County since April. Among those bailed out is a transgender woman who was held among men for three months. When TOP bailed her out, she had tested positive for the coronavirus. TOP found her housing to help her heal. We also bailed out a man who was jailed for three months, unable to afford a $4,000 bond. He also tested positive for COVID. TOP found him temporary housing so he could recover away from his elderly mother who he normally lives with. Our focused bail work has also allowed us to forge stronger relationships with county officials who oversee aspects of our judicial system, including the sheriff, district attorney and county commissioners, and other organizations that share our vision of ending mass incarceration. Our work is not only helping individual persons get access to justice but it is effectively shining a light on how unjust the system is and laying the groundwork for ending it.
Texas Freedom Network
Across the state, TFN’s Texas Rising teams are playing key ally roles in local organizing efforts to #DefundThePolice. Working closely with Black Futures Collective, Texas Rising is a lead partner in the Defunding coalition in the San Antonio and Bexar County. In September, we worked in partnership with allies to organize “Ten Days to Defund” leading up to the San Antonio City Council approving the city budget. Throughout the ten days, we organized educational events, mobilized call-in comments to the city – including a training on how to call into city council – and organized testimony. At the same time, we organized in-person testimony at the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court to defund the Sheriff’s office and invest in Bexar County. Campus Organizer Isabella Briseño’s powerful testimony is available here. During this same period, we also engaged in a massive voter registration campaign across Texas focused on young people of color under age 30. During this cycle, Texas Rising registered close to 40,000 new voters in Texas through digital, SMS, mail programs, and grassroots organizing.
Each year Texas Advocates for Justice Austin and Houston Chapters partner with The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights to host Night Out For Safety and Liberation. COVID-19 didn’t stop this event from happening around the world virtually. This year we went the extra mile to connect with our base. We sent 40 care packages to members and close allies that included art (decarceration tote bag, zine and comics book about defunding of policing, coloring book, etc), a TAJ mask, and a $20 HEB gift card. We wanted to find ways to stay connected in person ,as well as virtually. Virtually, we had a panel of local advocates discussing what safety means without the police. We had performances of poetry, an art display and live music. We ended the night with the ask of everyone to get out and vote .