Coalition to End Money Bond
April 5th marked one year since the COVID-19 virus began taking the lives of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois. The Coalition to End Money Bond has advocated for decarceration in response to the health crisis since the coronavirus first took hold. We partnered with Cassandra Greer-Lee to release the 132 calls campaign detailing her relentless effort to fight for her husband’s life before he died after contracting COVID-19 in Cook County jail. The Coalition released a blog post on April 5th to honor the memory of the ten people who lost their lives to COVID-19 in the jail and several Coalition partner organizations organized an action to advocate for the freedom of people who remain incarcerated at grave risk from the virus. You can view photos and footage of the rally on this Facebook event page.
New York Working Families Party
As part of our work to build the power of communities of color and to transform systems of public safety and justice, the New York Working Families engaged in a participatory process alongside grassroots organizations, leaders from directly impacted communities, and activists over the last several months to arrive at its endorsement in the Manhattan District Attorney's race. NYWFP developed a comprehensive candidate questionnaire highlighting progressive/decarceral policies, worked with the People's Coalition for Manhattan DA Accountability (a C3 issue table led by directly impacted organizations), and created space for Manhattan members and Party activists to interview several leading candidates. Ultimately, NYWFP voted to endorse civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi for Manhattan District Attorney because of her legal career holding the powerful in New York City accountable, her vision and policies to build safety and community strength, and first-hand personal experience with our broken criminal ‘justice’ system. The endorsement was announced in The Intercept last month and helped define and clarify Tahanie Aboushi as the leading progressive candidate in a crowded race. The NYWFP will continue to support Tahanie Aboushi's campaign with field and mobilization support, volunteer engagement, and political strategy through the June primary. Text Tahanie to 30403 to learn more!
Alliance for Safety and Justice
We hope you will join the Alliance for Safety and Justice for our 2021 Survivors Speak Week of Action April 18th-24th. This year’s event will feature the Survivors Speak National Virtual Conference on Saturday, April 24th along with several other events. You can register for the free Survivors Speak National Conference now in English or Spanish. Additionally, Californians for Safety and Justice recently released the California Victims Agenda: A Ten-Point Plan to Address the Needs of California’s Diverse Victims of Crime and we plan to release a national agenda later this month in conjunction with Survivors Speak. Last month we hosted the American Rescue Plan & Shared Safety Forum to provide an overview of opportunities to access resources for violence prevention, trauma recovery, reentry, and community development via the American Rescue Plan. You can view the forum here and access more information on funding opportunities to reduce violence, meet the needs of underserved communities, and promote a vision for Shared Safety within the American Rescue Plan via this new brief.
Prison Policy Initiative
The Prison Policy Initiative has been working to lower the cost of phone calls for people in jail and their families, and we just picked up a big victory. Across the country, jail phone contracts are chosen by sheriffs on the basis of which company will charge consumers the most—because the jails get a revenue kickback. In Iowa, we’ve worked with state regulators to slash the price of calling home from jails by as much as 74%. All told, once the new rates are approved, we’ll be saving Iowans with jailed loved ones over 1 million dollars per year. We’ve focused on places where state law allows regulators to cap phone rates, and where jail phone rates are the worst. Iowa is one of those states: Before our recent victory, jails there charged as much as $14.10 for a 15-minute call. Now, we’re working on a similar state-based strategy in California.
New Virginia Majority
The Virginia General Assembly recently finished their legislative session and there were several criminal justice reform victories. Examples include payment plan options for payment of fines (HB 1895) and directing the DMV to reinstate driver's licenses for people who have not paid fines and fees (HB 2284). Most notable is HB 2263 and SB 1165, which makes Virginia the first southern state to abolish the death penalty.
American Conservative Union
The ACU Foundation criminal justice reform team jumped in when it became clear that TN Governor Bill Lee’s CJR package was being undermined by the state District Attorneys Association. The same set of reforms last year were passed unanimously. However, after a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, it because clear that Lee’s proposal was teetering. On 4/1, ACUF’s David Safavian had an op-ed that ran simultaneously in the Nashville Tennessean, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, and the Knoxville News, on the need for criminal justice reform in Tennessee. We followed up with a letter to the state legislature on 4/4 in support of the principles behind Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal. A day later, ACUF’s Patrick Plein testified before the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee. And then on 4/7, ACUF’s Nolan Center for Justice Director Emeritus, Pat Nolan, joined a panel with Newt Gingrich and former Texas Governor Rick Perry on justice reform that was moderated by the TN Governor. They discussed how states such as Texas and Georgia have increased community safety, reduced incarceration, and saved taxpayers billions of dollars by enacting reforms similar to those proposed by the Governor.
Fair and Just Prosecution
With one out of every four people entering prison incarcerated for a technical violation of probation or parole, FJP released a new video this month underscoring the urgent need to reform community supervision. Also this month, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and Northeastern University Professor Leo Beletsky co-authored a Crime Report op-ed on why we must look beyond drug courts and bring harm reduction, rather than punitive, thinking to drug policy. Krinsky also penned a USA Today op-ed on the need to address inhumane prison and jail conditions and a MarketWatch op-ed on why civil settlements for police misconduct should be paid by law enforcement agencies and not by taxpayers. Finally, the FJP team participated in the Global Law Enforcement & Public Health Association and discussed topics including harm reduction, innovative public health models to address and prevent violence, lessons from the intersection of protests and the pandemic, and the upcoming PBS Philly D.A. docuseries.
Equity and Transformation (EAT)
Executive Director Richard Wallace explains the need for Guaranteed income and announces EAT's bold Guaranteed Income Pilot Project for formerly incarcerated Chicago residents."Chicago can "walk & chew gum at the same time" by supporting both targeted guaranteed income programs & reparations funds that focus on the most marginalized and formerly incarcerated people in Chicago. It's time for Chicago to meet this moment with bold policy. Read more about the city's new guaranteed income resolution here.
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
On April 7th, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund co-hosted a panel discussion on the legacy of the Black Panther party and a screening of “Judas and the Black Messiah” with Participant Media, CBC, and CAPAC. In addition, The Leadership Conference, in collaboration with Civil Rights Corps, is finalizing a website for Vision for Justice Campaign (temporary landing page here) and released a video about the platform featuring Michael Ealy. On April 19th and 26th, The Leadership Conference, Civil Rights Corp, and JusticeLA coalition will host a two-part workshop to discuss the coalitions victories around organizing for justice, community care, and building people power on the ground in Los Angeles.
Texas Organizing Project (TOP)
On March 23, the Bexar County Commissioners Court voted to expand the public defender’s office, bringing us a step closer toward ensuring all in San Antonio and Bexar County have access to fair legal representation. This win is the result of months of hard work from TOP staff and members that stemmed from surveying hundreds of people outside the Bexar County Visitation Center before the pandemic on what they would like to see changed in their local legal system. Public defenders play a critical role in protecting the constitutional rights of our communities’ most marginalized, yet it’s abysmal how little our federal, state, and local governments invest in making sure they have necessary funds and resources. In addition, public defenders play an essential part in alleviating local jail populations, which in return chips away at our nation’s mass incarceration problem. TOP’s Bexar County Right2Justice campaign is excited about building on this recent local win.
Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI)
The federal judge in Lewis v. Cain, PJI’s longstanding class action suit against the Louisiana Department of Corrections, issued a 124-page opinion on March 31, 2021, finding that Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola’s healthcare system was constitutionally inadequate and that Defendants were violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. PJI and partners SPLC, ACLU of Louisiana, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Disability Rights Louisiana, and attorney Jeffrey Dubner filed the lawsuit in May of 2015 on behalf of the more than 6,000 people imprisoned at Angola. The ruling is a huge win for everyone incarcerated at Angola and comes after several weeks of testimony in October 2018, months of lengthy post-trial briefing on behalf of both Plaintiffs and Defendants regarding the conditions in the 18,000-acre maximum-security prison, and a brief visit to the prison on February 5, 2020. The parties will go back before the Court to determine the scope of the injunction needed to remedy the constitutional violations.
Newark Community Street Team
The Newark Community Street Team continues to expand its work in Newark to address and prevent violence and the homicide rates in the city have dropped to 60-year lows.
Voice of the Experienced
On April 8, and April 9, VOTE's office became a COVID-19 vaccine hub. We offered vaccines to individuals who live in the 70125 zip code, where our new building is. Excitingly, our building is just about complete, and we hosted our first reduced capacity and socially distant in-person meeting last night.