A Chance for Criminal Justice Reform




From ACLU.org:

Right now, the Senate is deciding whether to vote on a bill called the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act – the most significant criminal justice reform legislation to be considered by Congress in the last five years. It will essentially ban juvenile solitary confinement in the federal system and retroactively reduce overly harsh drug sentences.

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Some Good News



Hey all! I’ve been away for a while, as I’ve been busy finishing my last semester of college. Now I’m finally done!!! I’ve graduated! The ceremony is in May! Sigh of relief!!!

So today, being that I’m excited about completing school, and the holidays, I’m going to share some good news I received from newsletters of various non-profits.



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As Obama Commutes the Sentences of Drug Offenders, Incarceration of Minorities is Examined

President Obama hasn’t been the greatest at handling America’s race issues, or even addressing them for that matter. But he took an admirable step in that direction recently:

President Obama announced on Monday [July 13th]  that he was commuting the sentences of 46 drug offenders, intensifying a campaign to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system as he more than doubled the number of nonviolent criminals granted clemency during his time in office.”

– NYTimes.com

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Convicts Care For Kittens

Kindness Blog

Four stray kittens were discovered hungry and covered in fleas in the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

Kittens in Jail

The staff then came together to buy food, and inmates created a kitty condo in the facility’s carpentry shop.

On weekends, the convicts pitch in to help care for the kittens.

According to VetStreet.com, the kittens have each been given names associated with the prison: Doc (an abbreviation for the Department of Correctional Services), Comstock (for prison’s location), Annie (for Fort Ann) and Meadow (for Great Meadow).

(Source: The Daily Saint – Photo via AP)

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Photo courtesy of rethinkingreentry.blogspot.com

Photo courtesy of rethinkingreentry.blogspot.com


In a modern, industrialized nation such as the U.S., the problems of hunger and mass incarceration shouldn’t exist to the extent that they do. But they do. The American government should be ashamed of itself for allowing both problems to reach epidemic proportions, and should be even more ashamed of the “solutions” offered by its politicians.

One such “solution” is the Vitter Amendment, part of the Farm Bill. Salon.com describes it:

Certain classes of ex-convicts would be denied food stamp benefits for life, under the amendment offered by Sen. David Vitter (cannily, the crime of soliciting prostitutes is exempted from this ban). While the amendment may sound like common sense, it’s actually a harshly punitive, counterproductive policy that will only increase crime and trap people in the criminal justice system.

Of course, if you are a criminal, you should go to prison. But why continue to punish someone after they’ve been released? What good does that do anyone? And why punish their families, too? The families of criminals would also see a reduction in food aid.

The petition that addresses this issue also raises the important point that minorities will be harmed the most by this bill. It is minorities that unfortunately make up a large percentage of the prison population. Could this be yet another way to keep certain groups down? Sounds like it to me.

From CredoMobilize.com:

No matter how much we may disagree with the behavior of people who commit serious crimes, it’s wrong to force them and their families to starve. Please add your signature to this petition and ask your senator to vote to remove the Vitter Amendment from the Farm Bill. It’s wrong for farmers, it’s wrong for families, and it’s wrong for our country.

To sign this petition, go to CredoMobilize.com.

American Criminal Justice System is a Civil Rights Crisis

Photo courtesy of komonews.com

Photo courtesy of komonews.com


From ThinkProgress.org:

The last few months have issued several potent reminders that racism still pervades our criminal justice system, as even some prominent and powerful American black leaders publicly professed that they had to warn their young sons about police profiling.

There is still a sizable group of Americans that say that there is no more racism. They point to our Black president (who is actually half-Black), and note that Blacks aren’t being hanged anymore. But as Blacks and other minority groups know first-hand, there is indeed still racism.

In some cases, it has simply taken a disguised form. For instance, if you are a minority student, it is likely that your teacher assumes your grades won’t be as high as your white counterparts. He or she won’t say it to your face- that kind of blatant racism in no longer as acceptable as it once was. That it is not acceptable to say, however, doesn’t mean it is not thought. And if it’s thought, it’s likely to have an influence on how that teacher grades minority students.

There are some cases in which blatant racism is still allowed, but hushed up in public. Though this racism is more visible, the taboo of verbalizing it allows some White people to escape knowledge of it’s presence. It also allows those who are the perpetrators of it to deny its presence.

The unfortunate result of all this is people not realizing how bad racism still is, especially in the criminal justice system.

The article cited above offers hard data on what goes on in our justice system, hopefully educating and prompting all of society to have more dialogue about racism and its present-day impacts.

From ThinkProgress.org:

The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.

Black men born in the United States in 2001 have a one in three chance of being incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, according to Department of Justice statistics.

The New York Police Department city made more stops of young black men in 2011 than there are young black men in the city!

Blacks are four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites, even though they use the drug at similar rates, according to an analysis of federal data by the American Civil Liberties Union published earlier this year.

For more, go to ThinkProgress.org

California Prison Chief Meets With Inmate Advocates

Photo courtesy of doslives.com

Photo courtesy of doslives.com


From NewsOne.com:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Advocates for inmates on a hunger strike to protest California’s solitary confinement program met with the state prisons chief on Friday as they pushed for an end to practices they say are inhumane.

Mediators who support the protesting inmates issued a statement after the hour-long meeting with Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard, saying they offered ideas for ending the hunger strike and improving prison conditions that include indeterminate sentences in isolation units.

“He received us well and listened to our concerns and those of the prisoners and their families,” the statement said.

Ron Ahnen, president of California Prison Focus, who was among those who met with Beard, declined to elaborate on the secretary’s response to their suggestions.

More than 300 inmates have refused all meals since the strike began on July 8. About 30,000 inmates initially participated.

For the full story, go to NewsOne.com.