The Promise of Justice Initiative
It has been a year since the Promise of Justice Initiative won Ramos v. Louisiana at the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that non-unanimous juries are unconstitutional. Since then, PJI’s Jim Crow Juries Project identified more than 1,500 people who remain imprisoned based on Jim Crow jury convictions, and represented 1,049 of them along with our pro-bono co-counsel. We’ve accomplished all of this and so much more in only a year's time. Now PJI is fighting to make the law retroactive, so that everyone who remains incarcerated as a result of non-unanimous jury verdicts will have their day in court. Louisiana House Bill 346 addresses the continuing harms of Jim Crow juries and would allow everyone serving time as a result of non-unanimous jury convictions to file for post-conviction relief. Contact your legislators today and tell them you want justice for everyone who remains incarcerated as a result of a Jim Crow Jury conviction.
Safety and Justice Oregon
We’re proud to announce the release of Seven Steps to Justice, a new toolkit that outlines actions district attorneys can take to reduce incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The toolkit was developed with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, East County Rising, Latino Network, and Coalition of Communities of Color. Together, we represent a strong BIPOC coalition dedicated to holding district attorneys accountable to racial justice and criminal justice reform. Last week, we co-organized a District Attorney Community Listening Session, where the toolkit was shared with three of Oregon’s progressive district attorneys. The event was centered in community members’ experiences and called on the prosecutors to reflect on what they heard. We were honored to have the event co-moderated by our newest staff member, Julianne Jackson, and Deputy Director of the Coalition of Communities of Color, Jenny Lee.
Texas Organizing Project
In the fall of last year, Texas Organizing Project joined Fix SAPD and other community partners in gathering thousands of petition signatures from voters in all parts of San Antonio who agreed there must be more local measures in place locally to add accountability to the city’s police force. While not our desired outcome, May 1st’s local election result still fills us with hope. Black and Latino voters came out in numbers to push San Antonio’s Proposition B to within 2.3 percentage points of passing. It’s clear that nearly half of municipal voters want reform! In fact, more people voted on Proposition B than in San Antonio’s mayoral race, an indicator of how TOP and local allies made the issue of police accountability central to the local election itself. What started as a petition drive against considerable odds grew and sparked a conversation that must continue in San Antonio, making even clearer the urgent need for action!
After 3+ years of relationship building, planning, and training, the Youth Art and Self-empowerment Project (YASP) will be launching their pre-arrest, restorative justice diversion program in Philadelphia this month! Led by activist and former juvenile lifer Kempis "Ghani" Songster, YASP’s restorative justice program team brings a beautiful wealth of knowledge, lived experiences, and deep commitment to both the City’s youth as well as survivors of harm. We can’t imagine this program being in better hands and are incredibly excited to continue to provide technical assistance to YASP and system partners as they take on and grow this transformative work. Our team also wrapped up our introductory webinar series which reached nearly 1,000 participants and provides another layer of resources to those looking to learn more about our Restorative Justice Diversion model. Meanwhile, as interest in restorative justice diversion continues to build, we are also in the process of hiring for three new positions and are looking forward to welcoming our new team members hopefully by the end of the month.
Prison Policy Initiative
The Prison Policy Initiative’s most recent report calls on Congress to repeal the Clinton-era Prison Litigation Reform Act. The report, Slamming the Courthouse Door: 25 years of evidence for repealing the Prison Litigation Reform Act visualizes and explains the impact of the “PLRA,” which for 25 years has blocked incarcerated people from bringing, winning, and settling federal civil rights lawsuits. Incarcerated people often face abusive, discriminatory, and unlawful conditions of confinement; the PLRA makes it so that these experiences of mistreatment don’t make it to court.
Alliance for Safety and Justice
ICYMI, last month, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice members gathered with legislators, activists, and special guests Taraji P. Henson and Mario for our annual Survivors Speak Convening. This was our biggest event yet, with thousands joining from more than 40 states to call for new approaches to public safety. You can watch this year's event here and learn more about and sign on to support our National Crime Victim’s Agenda at this link. Additionally, we’re making exciting progress on our 2021 legislative agenda. For example, the Texas House of Representatives just unanimously passed our probation bill (HB 385), and the bill is now being considered in the Senate. In Michigan, the Safer Michigan Act, HB 4670-77, is currently in the Rules Committee, awaiting hearing later this month. The bill package includes productivity credits and expanded victims compensation coverage. And, in California, all our sponsored bills recently made it out of committee, including two pre-trial reform bills, SB 731, which would seal old criminal convictions, and SB 82 which would prevent petty theft from being charged erroneously as robbery.
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
At the end of April, The Leadership Conference advocated against the Congressional vote to extend temporary class-wide scheduling of fentanyl analogues. The policy, put into place by the previous administration, furthers mass incarceration through the use of mandatory minimums and deepens racial disparities already plaguing the criminal-legal system. To further efforts to legalize cannabis, The Leadership Conference launched a new video highlighting the need for marijuana reform. Throughout May, a series of education activities, including mobilizations in South Carolina and a Hill briefing on Qualified Immunity, will be prioritized in an effort to pressure Congress to enact police accountability legislation.
Fair and Just Prosecution
Throughout April, FJP sought to advance specific efforts that aligned with Second Chances Month. Over 80 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders issued a joint statement urging policymakers to expand clean slate initiatives that automatically expunge and seal criminal records. And 64 criminal justice leaders joined together in a statement and action plan - and urged other elected prosecutors and policymakers to embrace specific reforms and practices that can provide second chances to people serving decades-long sentences who pose little or no risk to public safety. FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky co-authored an op-ed with DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine and FAMM President Kevin Ring explaining the need for policymakers to enact second chance legislation. Finally, FJP released a new video featuring elected prosecutors discussing their experience with being part of a network of leaders seeking to propel change and the impact these connections have had in supporting and sustaining them as they seek to bring a new vision to, and reduce the footprint of, the criminal legal system.
New Virginia Majority
On May 8 in Richmond, New Virginia Majority's Right to Vote members held a rally and talked with State Senator Jennifer McClellan about criminal justice issues. During the pandemic, members and communities have passionately sought out changes in Virginia’s criminal justice system and restoration of rights for incarcerated individuals. Members shared their personal stories with the community and Senator McClellan, emphasizing that now is the time for this issue to be brought to the forefront of our state government’s attention.