Newsletter: Success Against Racists, Build On It

Thousands of counter-protesters march down Tremont Street.	—Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Last week, we wrote about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia in terms of their historical and political context. Since then, the national and international response to right wing mobilization has been rapid and powerful. The response has been global, e.g. women in Poland held photos of slain Heather Heyer while they blocked a far right wing march. The national conversation is changing to include criticism of white supremacy and confederate statues are being taken down. This week, we present a greater focus on the tasks of the movement for social justice and racial equality. It is possible to halt the rise of right wing extremism. To do that we must understand what institutions maintain white supremacy and turn our energy towards ending racist institutions in the United States and globally.

The People's Congress Of Resistance

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By the Convenors of the People’s Congress of Resistance. We are excited to release the Manifesto of the People’s Congress of Resistance! Titled “Society for the Many: A vision for revolution,” the manifesto sets out a bold and clear program for people’s power, emancipation, equality and a society to meet human needs. In the introductory paragraphs, the People’s Congress of Resistance Manifesto explains: “Without a revolutionary vision, change will not take a revolutionary direction. Resistance will remain rudderless, an exercise in activism for its own sake, or it will be co-opted into a vessel for the political elites. A vision for social, economic and political revolution is necessary. We need to know where we want to go. Our vision ties our actions to our goal by showing us what we are mobilizing for. It guides us in coordinating our strategies and tactics. It helps us build collective strength. Our vision tells us how we can win and that we will win.”

Private Prison In New Mexico Demands More Prisoners Or It Will Close

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By Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet – The nation’s second-largest private prison corporation is holding New Mexico politicians hostage by threatening to close unless the state or federal authorities find 300 more prisoners to be warehoused there, according to local news reports. “The company that has operated a private prison in Estancia for nearly three decades has announced it will close the Torrance County Detention Facility and lay off more than 200 employees unless it can find 300 state or federal inmates to fill empty beds within the next 60 days,” the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported last week. The paper said that county officials issued a statement citing the threatened closure and emphasized that every virtually every politician in the region, from county officials to state officials to congressmen, were scurrying to save jobs—as opposed to shutting a privatized prison by an operator that has been sued many times for sexual harassment, sexual assault, deaths, use of force, physical assaults, medical care, injuries and civil rights violations. “This is a big issue for us,” Torrance County manager Belinda Garland told the Santa Fe newspaper.

Caged: Life. Beyond. Bars.

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By Staff of Caged – Chris Hedges has taught in America’s most elite universities, including Princeton, Columbia, and New York University. It was a class at a Maximum Security Prison, however, where he found “more brilliance, literacy, passion, wisdom and integrity… than in any other classroom…” In Hedges’ class, 28 men collaboratively wrote a play in which the drama of their lives, so often portrayed by others, is finally told in their own words. Inspired by their exceptional talent, Hedges promised that he’d share their voices with the world and—somehow, someday—mount the play. Now, over three years later, Hedges, along with, Boris Franklin, the only writer who has been released from prison to date, are planning to premiere “CAGED” at The Passage Theatre in Trenton, NJ, during their Spring 2018 season.

Louisiana (Finally) Seeking To Reduce Prison Population

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By Matt Higgins for Occupy.com. In a recent op-ed on nola.com, Lafourche (pronounced La-Foosh) Parish Sheriff Craig Webre wrote, “We shouldn’t incarcerate people just because they’re poor. Or just because they’re addicted. Or just because they don’t have a home. But we’ve done that for way too long.” Lafourche Parish, about an hour’s drive southwest of New Orleans, is a reliably conservative parish where more than three-quarters of voters voted for Donald Trump. Webre has served as sheriff of the parish for almost 25 years and was president of the National Sheriffs Association. Most of Webre’s op-ed focused on the report from the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force, formed in 2015 by the state legislature to study ways to reduce incarceration. Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita than any other state in the union. According to the Task Force report, 8 percent of the state’s population is incarcerated, yet this “tough on crime” approach has failed to reduce it. One-third of inmates released return to prison within three years.

Two States Consider Bills To Keep Parents Out Of Jail

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By Victoria Law for Truthout – Ayana Aubourg has one childhood memory of her father that does not involve a jail or prison visiting room. “The only thing I can remember is him making spaghetti,” said Aubourg, whose father was sentenced to 10 years in prison when she was seven years old. She saw him once a year in a visiting room that she remembers as being “cold and controlled.” Later, a playroom was added for the children visiting their fathers, but the presence of a few toys did little to make the atmosphere warmer or cheerier. “It’s still a very traumatic experience,” she told Truthout. Spaghetti remains her favorite dish. Aubourg is now 22; her father was released from prison five years ago. But the prison visiting room lingers in her mind, and she is now working to change the laws that rip so many families apart.

Fighting Mass Incarceration Under Trump

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By James Kilgore for Truthout – Yusef Shakur is a Detroit community organizer who spent several years in Michigan State prisons. “The prison industrial complex has found the right person to feed it,” he told Truthout in response to the election results. Trump is of the same “cloth as Reagan, Bush and Nixon,” Shakur added. “I expect the worst in terms of patterns of repression.” Among those working to end mass incarceration, Shakur’s perspectives are not unique. With Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, the Obama administration often provided wiggle room for reformers to craft and occasionally pass legislation or win changes in policy.

Quarter Of Inmates Could Have Been Spared Prison Without Risk

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By Jamiles Lartey for The Guardian – Study of 1.5 million prisoners finds that drug treatment, community service, probation or fines would have served as more effective sentences for many. A quarter of the US prison population, about 364,000 inmates, could have been spared imprisonment without meaningfully threatening public safety or increasing crime, according to a new study. Analyzing offender data on roughly 1.5 million US prisoners, researchers from the Brennan Center for Justice concluded that for one in four, drug treatment, community service, probation or a fine would have been a more effective sentence than incarceration.

Money Bail System Perpetuates America’s Mass Incarceration Problem

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By Jared Keller for Pacific Standard Magazine – At this very moment, nearly 450,000 Americans are sitting in county jails not because they’ve been charged with a crime, but because they simply don’t have enough money to post bail. And, according to a new study, America’s money bail system isn’t just unconstitutional—it’s a fundamental engine of injustice in the United States. New data published by Columbia University researchers Arpit Gupta and Christopher Hansman and Ethan Frenchman from the Maryland Office of the Public Defender suggests that the use of money bail by judges to detain suspects ahead of a formal trial may actually be creating more criminals than it punishes.

Black History Museum & Lynching Memorial Being Built In Alabama

From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration Museum

By Staff of the Equal Justice Initiative. The Equal Justice Initiative plans to build a national memorial to victims of lynching and open a museum that explores African American history from enslavement to mass incarceration. Both the museum and memorial will open in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2017. From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration will be situated within 150 yards of one of the South’s most prominent slave auction sites and the Alabama River dock and rail station where tens of thousands of enslaved black people were trafficked. The museum will contain high-tech exhibits, artifacts, recordings, and films, as well as comprehensive data and information on lynching and racial segregation. The museum will connect the history of racial inequality with contemporary issues of mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and police violence. The Memorial to Peace and Justice will sit on six acres of land in Montgomery and become the nation’s first national memorial to victims of lynching.

Eliminate Profit From Punishment

Every time an organization broadcasts their commitment to deep social change, while instead prioritizing one-dimensional results for their wealthy funders, the task of dismantling multilayered systems of destruction is lost in translation. (Photo: JT)

By Cedric Lawson for Inequality – In July 2010, Marissa Alexander, a young Black woman from Florida, faced the fight of her life only nine days after giving birth to her youngest daughter. Her estranged husband, Rico Gray, attacked, strangled, and threatened to kill Marissa in her own home. To get rid of Rico, Marissa fired a warning shot into the ceiling. The single shot injured no one. And yet she was subsequently charged with several criminal charges and incarcerated for a victimless crime.

Executive Clemency Requested For 25 Deserving Women

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By Staff of The Clemency Report and CAN-DO Foundation – Note from Amy Ralston Povah, President – CAN-DO Foundation: “Thirteen of the original women on the Top 25 are NOW FREE – most due to clemency and a few for the two point reduction – this is progress. We’ve been told there will be “more women” on the next list coming out toward the end of July due to several of us who went to the White House complaining that there were only two women on the last list! We feel this short video helps explain why people end up with 10-LIFE for conspiracy even if they never sold drugs – and puts a face on it.”

Losing Your Parents To Mass Incarceration

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By Rebecca Nathanson for VICE. aymond Rodriguez doesn’t remember why his dad was arrested. He doesn’t even remember exactly how old he was when police officers entered the home he shared with his parents and two siblings in the Bronx, threw his dad on the floor, and took him away. Now a 20-year-old criminal justice student at a local community college, he thinks he was about eight years old when that scene took place, but the memories blur together. Following that arrest, Rodriguez’s dad remained incarcerated for the majority of his childhood, in and out of prison numerous times. Rodriguez lived with a foster family for a while when he was younger, but then his mom regained custody of him and his two siblings. Whenever his father got out, he’d find where the family was living and move back in, until the cycle began again. The impact it had on the family was far-reaching and comprehensive, and it continues today.

De-Incarceration, A Different Drum So Needed

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By Kathy Kelly for Voices for Creative Nonviolence – Along with VCNV companions, I’m part of a 150 mile walk from Chicago to Thomson, IL, a small town in Northwest IL where the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is setting up an Administrative Maximum prison, also known as a Supermax. Prison laborers from U.S. minimum security prisons now labor to turn what once was an Illinois state prison into a federal supermax detention facility with 1900 cells that will confine prisoners for 23 hours of every day.

Democratic Leadership Is Missing In Action On Mass Incarceration

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By Inimai M. Chettiar and Ames Grawert for Brennan Center for Justice – Even though it now looks like Americans will be deprived the drama of a contested Republican convention, the gathering in Cleveland could hold at least one surprise. The Republicans are set to vote on an RNC resolution to reduce mass incarceration. The measure asks for “reforms for nonviolent offenders at the state and federal level” and urges “state legislators and Congress to…provide substance abuse treatment to addicts, emphasize work and education, and implement policies that cut costs while obtaining better outcomes.”