States and Local Advocates Lead the Way for Criminal Justice Reform

Stealing From The Mouth of Public Education to Feed the Prison Industrial Complex

It can be easy to overlook the role of our deeply broken criminal justice system in perpetuating the cycle of poverty and rising inequality.

While Congress stalls on any semblance of progress on criminal justice reform, a number of states are taking matters into their own hands.  Kimberly Hart, a life-long New Haven, Connecticut resident is using her own personal story to bring about change in her home state.

Hart is a community advocate and mother of a 15-year-old son. She was convicted of a felony 30 years ago, but the sentence has carried on long after she exited prison. She knows first hand the economic disadvantages placed on the formerly incarcerated and has dedicated her life to helping others like her navigate in an economy tilted against them.

The United States has the largest criminal justice system in the world spending over $ 80 billion annually. The Sentencing Project found that U.S. incarceration rates have increased by more than 500 percent in the last 4 decades, despite a decrease in crime rates across the country. The incarcerated population today is 2.2 million people.

According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, 600,000 individuals are released from prison every year, with very few access to programs that could ensure a smooth transition back into society, leading them to face barriers in getting a job, securing stable housing and much more. They are often shut out of government provided opportunities that would lead to stability such as employment, housing, and education.

“Because my felonies are all larcenies, I can’t get a living wage job. I can’t get a job at a retail store.” Hart goes on to explain how she can’t even get trained to become a Certified Nursing Assistant because potential employers are too afraid to let her into clients’ homes. “I told myself, I don’t do those things anymore. Why am I still being held accountable for it? I’ve already paid my dues, why do I have to pay for the rest of my life?”

Shutting out formerly incarcerated people from these essential programs creates massive economic problems not limited to this population but for the nation as a whole. The Center for Economic Policy Research estimated that excluding people with criminal records out of the job market results in “a loss of as many as 1.9 million workers and costs the U.S. economy up to a whopping $ 87 billion each year in lost gross domestic product.” With people of color occupying 60 percent of the current prison and jail population, they face the brunt of these economic burdens.

Having been exposed to advocacy at a young age thanks to her parents, Hart became involved with the organization Mothers For Justice, a grassroots women’s advocacy group that focuses on welfare reform, prison re-entry, and affordable housing. “In order to affect change, you have to affect policy. I join advocacy groups that address the problems that I’m going through because I know that I’m a part of the solution. That’s when I learned that legislators work for me and I have the power to hire and fire,” Hart says.

In 2016, she worked with Mothers For Justice to push the Connecticut state legislature to pass the “ban-the-box” law that prohibits employers from requesting past criminal history on initial employment applications. While this law is a step in the right direction, it chips a small piece away at the large wall that stands between those with felony records and financial security.

For the past few years, Hart’s best chance at employment has been with a telemarketing company that doesn’t do background checks, where she has to deal with the harsh reality of receiving no benefits, no paid holidays, or paid sick time. “I get paid off of commission and I have to work hard because if I don’t make a sale, my fifteen-year-old son and I can’t eat.” Because of this, Hart still has to rely on government safety net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Hart is concerned over the future of SNAP as the program faces funding cuts under the Trump Administration’s proposed 2018 budget. She explains how food is a basic necessity that people need to build better lives for themselves. “If you cut SNAP that means my child will go hungry. When you’re hungry you can’t sleep or learn. In order for my child to become self-sufficient and not have to rely on social services, he’s going have to get a decent education, go to college, and land a decent job so he can be a productive member of society. You can’t do any of that hungry.”

Kimberly Hart now works with the organization Witnesses to Hunger where she sits on the New Haven Food Policy Council working to eradicate hunger in New Haven. Among other issues related to poverty, Hart ensures that her voice remains one that represents people like her who are victims of the criminal justice system.

“If the state of CT looked at me as Kimberly Hart who happens to have a 30-year-old felony conviction instead of looking at me as a convicted felon whose name is Kimberly Hart then they could be more humane about this,” Hart said. “All we want is a second chance, life happens but it definitely doesn’t define who I am today.”

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Can Economics Embrace Economic Justice?

Economists need to stop pretending what they do rates as a neutral science and start recognizing the moral imperative for economic justice. The massive racial inequalities that exist in the United States, they also need to recognize, reflect systemic problems that demand systemic solutions, not individual choices.

Darrick Hamilton delivered this message to the National Economic Association in a recent address to the group. Hamilton, an economics professor at the New School and the Associations current president, wants his fellow economists to understand they can be both academically rigorous and rooted in the moral crisis of our time.

Hamilton’s must-read speech offers insight into how mainstream economists might begin to shift their focus toward the trailblazing “stratification economics” framework that Hamilton and Sandy Darity at Duke University, among others, have helped develop.

Undergraduate economics classes, at least the ones I sat in, do not teach morals. Instead, economists convey an aura of science that positions people as always rigorously rational actors and markets, to quote Hamilton, as “somehow natural, transparent, ‘efficient,’ and inevitable.”

This orthodox approach to economics also presumes markets to be “self-regulating,” meaning that the smart, hard workers get the rewards they deserve while the lazy, less astute get what they deserve, too. In other words, markets operate fairly.

Hamilton lays out in no uncertain detail that this framework has no roots in reality. And this absence of a reality base doesn’t just make for an academic problem. Orthodox economists play an outsized role in maintaining existing inequalities.

For decades, mainstream economists and the politicos who echo them have claimed that individual choices made by black and brown families drive the racial wealth divide. Blacks need to start taking personal responsibility and get a good education, the argument goes, and they’ll get ahead.

This paternalistic approach ignores the unfair inherited advantages and deeply unfair economic conditions that constantly confront black and other subaltern communities.

“Black families whose head graduated from college,” Hamilton points out “have only about two thirds of the wealth of white families whose head dropped out of high school!”

Education, Hamilton makes clear, cannot serve as a panacea for rising inequality. Neither can other often cited approaches to reforming individual choices, like financial literacy programs.

“Financial behavior and financial literacy,” Hamilton notes, “are practically useless for households with little to no finances to manage in the first place.”

We need to look at the system that creates poverty, he points out, not the individual choices of the people who are living in poverty.

The key systemic problem Hamilton addresses? That’s the creation of a surplus population. The central policy question elites face: What to do with this group?

On the one hand, the surplus population does not “contribute immediate profit or production to the industrialized economy.” On the other hand, the surplus population — disproportionally black and brown — plays a “useful” role in a capitalist system, keeping wages down and workers disciplined.

Our current morally bankrupt approach to this surplus population involves policy approaches that include mass incarceration and outcomes that range from extreme poverty to social isolation among. A more just policy approach, Hamilton suggests, would start with reparations, baby bonds, and a federal job guarantee.

Hamilton implores his fellow economists to recognize the moral imperative of economic justice that civil rights heroes throughout American history have rightfully claimed. One hopes they will listen.

To read the full speech, see the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

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U.S. Anti-war, Climate Justice, Racial Justice, Women’s, Immigrant Rights, Economic Justice Movement Leaders All Oppose Trump’s $54 Billion Increase in Pentagon Budget

FOR RELEASE APRIL 4, 2017

Media Contacts:
Phyllis Bennis, pbennis@ips-dc.org, 202-309-1377
Domenica Ghanem, domenica@ips-dc.org, 202-787-5205

A coalition of leaders in the anti-war, civil rights, immigration, climate,  women’s, and faith movements have come together to denounce Donald Trump’s proposed $ 54 billion increase in the military budget.  The broad-based #No$ 54BillionforWar Campaign includes city-based resolutions against increased military spending.

We are launching this campaign on April 4th, 50 years after Martin Luther King’s profound speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence speech,” a speech that recognized the urgent need to end militarism and war. King called for a revolution of values, affirming that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

The Trump administration’s budget does exactly that. It takes money from urgent social needs to feed the already-bloated Pentagon budget. It proposes to compensate for the additional $ 54 billion by slashing the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency (even threatening to shut down its already under-funded environmental justice office), the Department of Health and Human Services (slashing family planning and anti-violence-against-women programs), the State Department (thus privileging war over diplomacy), and foreign aid funds (so that the wealthiest country in human history turns its back on the world’s most desperate).

Full statement and partial list of signatories:

“Our environmental and human needs are desperate and urgent. We need to transform our economy, our politics, our policies and our priorities to reflect that reality. That means reversing the flow of our tax dollars, away from war and militarism, and towards funding human and environmental needs, and demanding support for that reversal from all our political leaders at the local, state and national levels.

We and the movements we are part of face multiple crises.  Military and climate wars are destroying lives and environments, threatening the planet and creating enormous flows of desperate refugees. Violent racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia and other hatreds are rising, encouraged by the most powerful voices in Washington DC.

President Trump plans to strip $ 54 billion from human and environmental spending so as to increase already massive spending on the military. The plan raises Pentagon spending to well over 60 cents of every discretionary dollar in the U.S. budget — even as Trump himself admits that enormous military spending has left the Middle East “far worse than it was 16, 17 years ago.”  The wars have not made any of us safer.

Washington’s militarized foreign policy comes home as domestic law enforcement agencies acquire military equipment and training from the Pentagon and from military allies abroad. Impoverished communities of color see and face the power of this equipment regularly, in the on-going domestic wars on drugs and immigrants. This military-grade equipment is distributed and used by many of the same private companies that profit from mass incarceration and mass deportation.

Using just a fraction of the proposed military budget, the US could provide free, top-quality, culturally competent and equitable education from pre-school through college and ensure affordable comprehensive healthcare for all. We could provide wrap-around services for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence; replace mass incarceration with mass employment, assure clean energy and water for all residents and link our cities by new fast trains. We could double non-military U.S. foreign aid, wipe out hunger worldwide. The list of possibilities is long.

Instead, the Trump administration plans to take much of their $ 54 billion gift for the Pentagon from the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency (even threatening to shut down its already under-funded environmental justice office), the Department of Health and Human Services (slashing family planning and anti-violence-against-women programs), from the State Department (thus privileging war over diplomacy), and foreign aid (so that the wealthiest country in human history turns its back on the world’s most desperate).

Among those most desperate are the 24 million refugees who have been forced out of their homes and countries, more than at any time since World War II.  Instead of cruel Muslim bans and cuts to the already meager number of refugees allowed into the U.S., we should be welcoming far more. Alleviating the refugee crisis also means working to end, rather than escalate, the wars that create refugees, and supporting human rights defenders in their home communities.  That means more diplomacy and foreign aid, not more military spending.

With its hundreds of billions of un-audited dollars, the military remains the greatest consumer of petroleum in the United States, and one of the world’s worst polluters. The US needs new green, sustainable jobs across our economy targeted to people facing the highest rates of unemployment and low wages. Military spending results in an economic drain.  Clean energy production creates 50% more jobs than the same investment in military spending.

The U.S. military also serves as a security force protecting the extraction and transport of fossil fuels domestically and from the Middle East and other parts of the world. U.S. military force thus enables the continued assault on the planet and some of its most impoverished inhabitants by ensuring the supply of cheap fossil fuels, all while subsidizing some of the largest corporations in the world.

A December 2014 Gallup poll showed people in 65 nations considered the United States far and away the largest threat to peace in the world.  If the United States was known for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others, instead of attacking and invading other countries, we would be far more secure and face far less global hostility.

We can do this. Reverse the flow. No walls, No War, No Warming!”

Available for interviews:
Phyllis Bennis, New Internationalism Director, Institute for Policy Studies, 202-787-5206 or cell 202-309-1377, pbennis@ips-dc.org
Basav Sen, Climate Policy Program Director, Institute for Policy Studies, 202-787-5215 or cell 202-997-0479, basav@ips-dc.org
Judith LeBlanc, Caddo Tribe, Native Organizers Alliance, 917-806-8775, judithleblanc1@gmail.com

Partial list of signatories*

Michelle Alexander – author of The New Jim Crow
Lindsey Allen – Rainforest Action Network
Olivia Alperstein – Progressive Congress
Medea Benjamin – CODEPINK
Phyllis Bennis – Institute for Policy Studies
Basav Sen – Institute for Policy Studies
John Cavanagh – Institute for Policy Studies
Regina Birchem – Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom
May Boeve – 350.org
Jaron Brown – Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Peter Buffett – American musician, composer, author and philanthropist
Leslie Cagan    – Peoples Climate Movement NY
Daniel Carrillo –  Enlace
Reece Chenault – US Labor Against the War
StaceyAnn Chin – Poet
Jamie DeMarco – Friends Committee on National Legislation
Michael Eisenscher – US Labor Against the War
Zillah Eisenstein – International Women’s Strike/US
Eve Ensler – V-Day and One Billion Rising
Jodie Evans – CODEPINK
Laura Flanders – The Laura Flanders Show
Jane Fonda – actress & activist
Jeff Furman – Ben & Jerry’s
Dan Gilman –  Veterans For Peace
Eddie S. Glaude Jr. – Princeton University
Rafael Jesús González – poet Xochipilli, Latino Men’s Circle
Stephanie Guilloud – Project South
Saru Jayaraman- Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United)
Chuck Kaufman – Alliance for Global Justice
Naomi Klein – author, This Changes Everything
Lindsay Koshgarian – National Priorities Project
Judith LeBlanc – Native Organizers Alliance
Annie Leonard – Greenpeace
Mairead Maguire – Nobel Peace Laureate
Kevin Martin – Peace Action and the Peace Action Education Fund
Maggie Martin – Iraq Veterans Against the War
Michael T. McPhearson –  Veterans For Peace
Stephen Miles – Win Without War
Nabil Mohammad –  Arab-American Anti-Discrimination committee
Terry O’Neill – National Organization for Women
C. Dixon Osburn- Center for Justice & Accountability
Rabbi Brant Rosen – American Friends Service Committee
Lukas Ross – Friends of the Earth
Josh Ruebner – US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Linda Sarsour – MPower
Mab Segrest – Southerners on New Ground
John Sellers – Other 98%
Adam Shah – Jobs With Justice
Thenmozhi Soundararajan – Equality Labs
Kathy Spillar – Feminist Majority
David Swanson – World Beyond War
Mike Tidwell – Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Opal Tometi – Black Alliance for Just Immigration & Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter Network
Rebecca Vilkomerson – Jewish Voice for Peace
Alice Walker – poet and writer
Vince Warren – Center for Constitutional Rights
Cindy Wiesner – Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Robert Weissman –  Public Citizen
Kimberle Williams-Crenshaw- The African American Policy Forum
Winnie Wong – People for Bernie
Ash-Lee Woodard-Henderson – Highlander Research & Education Center
Ann Wright – Veterans for Peace
Murshed Zaheed – CREDO Mobile
*organizations for identification only

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Over 40 Years, Measures of Justice

On September 10, 1976, Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet revoked the citizenship of Orlando Letelier, who had served as Chile’s ambassador to the United States and as a cabinet minister in the government of Dr. Salvador Allende before the 1973 coup. That night, Letelier filled the seats at Madison Square Garden for an anti-Pinochet rally, telling the crowd: “I was born a Chilean, I am a Chilean, and I will die a Chilean. They were born traitors, they live as traitors, and they will be known forever as fascist traitors.”

Eleven days later, on September 21, 1976, agents of Pinochet assassinated Letelier as he drove to work at the Institute for Policy Studies with his colleague Ronni Karpen Moffitt, a 25-year-old American development associate. The car bombing on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC, was a devastating blow to their families, their friends, their colleagues, and to the global crusade for human rights. But over these past 40 years, there have been measures of justice.

ASSASSINS FACE JUSTICE

Between 1978 and 1991, U.S. authorities prosecuted seven people in connection with the crime. Michael Townley, a U.S. citizen working for the Chilean secret police, pled guilty in 1978 to organizing the assassination, and received a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against five Cuban exiles involved in the bombing. A Chilean Army captain also pled guilty for his role. An independent IPS investigation into the crime, led by Saul Landau, resulted in a book, “Assassination on Embassy Row,” (co-authored with John Dinges) and helped keep up the pressure for justice.

FALL OF THE GENERALS

In 1995, 19 years after the Letelier-Moffitt murders, former Chilean Secret Police Chief Manuel Contreras and Brig. Gen. Pedro Espinoza were sent to prison in Chile for their roles in the crime.

FIRST “WRONGFUL DEATH” SUIT AGAINST A FOREIGN NATION

In 1978, U.S. lawyers Michael Tigar and Sam Buffone filed a civil suit on behalf of family members of Letelier and Moffitt against the assassins and the Republic of Chile. It was the first wrongful-death suit filed in the United States against a foreign nation. After the 1990 transition to democracy, the Chilean government settled the suit.

PINOCHET ARRESTED IN SPAIN

On October 16, 1998, London police arrested Pinochet on an order from the Spanish courts. The Spanish case had been filed by lawyer Juan Garcés, on behalf of victims. While a British magistrate ruled that Spain could extradite Pinochet for torture, in March 2000, the British Home Secretary released the former dictator on humanitarian grounds.

U.S. SECRET DOCUMENTS RELEASED

In 1999, the Clinton Administration responded to pressure from the National Security Archive and other human rights groups by declassifying more than 16,000 secret government documents related to Chile and the relationship between the U.S. government and the Pinochet dictatorship. The declassified documents helped clarify the history of U.S. intervention in Chile and have served as evidence in legal cases against human rights violators.

U.S. INVESTIGATION OF PINOCHET RE-OPENED

In March 2000, a team of U.S. law enforcement officials traveled to Chile for court proceedings involving 42 potential witnesses subpoenaed by Chile’s Supreme Court on behalf of the U.S. government. The Washington Post reported that “Federal investigators have uncovered evidence that some of them believe is sufficient to indict General Augusto Pinochet for conspiracy to commit murder in the 1976 car bombing.” While a draft indictment of Pinochet was reportedly prepared by Clinton administration officials, no action appears to have been taken after President George W. Bush took power.

PINOCHET AND OTHER MILITARY OFFICERS INDICTED IN CHILE

Within 72 hours of Pinochet’s return to Chile from London in March 2000, Chilean Judge Juan Guzman moved to strip his immunity from prosecution, initiating a series of prosecutions that continue today. Twice—in 2000 and again in 2004—Guzman succeeded in indicting Pinochet. In both cases superior courts declared Pinochet mentally unfit for trial. Since Pinochet’s London arrest, over 300 other Chilean military officers have faced legal proceedings for human rights violations. Armando Fernandez Larios, who admitted his role in the Letelier-Moffitt assassination to U.S. authorities, was also held liable by a U.S. jury for crimes against humanity.

CIVIL SUIT AGAINST MICHAEL TOWNLEY

In 2002, a human rights litigation clinic founded by Michael Tigar at American University brought a suit against Letelier-Moffitt assassin Michael Townley for his role in aiding and abetting the torture and assassination of Carmelo Soria and won a default judgment of $ 7.2 million. This clinic still continues its work to enforce the judgment against Townley, who is in the U.S. federal witness protection program.

PINOCHET EXPOSED AS A THIEF

In February 2005, Riggs Bank agreed to settle a case brought by lawyers Juan Garcés and Sam Buffone by paying $ 9 million to victims of Pinochet for the bank’s role in concealing and spiriting Pinochet’s money out of Great Britain in 1999. In November 2005, Pinochet was arrested and placed under house arrest for charges related to tax evasion, passport forgery and other crimes associated with his possession of hundreds of illegal bank accounts, many of them in the United States. In August 2006, the Chilean Supreme Court stripped Pinochet’s immunity from prosecution, opening the way for additional charges related to these multi-million dollar accounts.  Pinochet died on December 10, 2006. At that time, about 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for numerous human rights violations, tax evasion, and embezzlement.

LETELIER-MOFFITT KILLERS FACE MORE MURDER CHARGES

In 2012, the Appeals Court in Santiago revoked a judge’s order to close the Moffitt case, arguing that the investigation should be reopened because those behind the attack were Chilean citizens. Previous Chilean prosecutions related to the bombing had focused on Letelier’s death. In 2016, a Chilean court indicted three former agents of Pinochet’s regime for Moffitt’s murder: retired Chilean army officers Pedro Espinoza Bravo and Armando Fernandez Larios and American Michael Townley. In May 2016, Chile’s Supreme Court asked the U.S. government to extradite Townley, Fernandez Larios, and Cuban American assassin Virgilio Paz in connection with another case involving the murder of United Nations diplomat Carmelo Soria in Chile in 1976.

These milestones stand as a testament to the power of persistence. As Martin Luther King once said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

-? Sarah Anderson, Institute for Policy Studies, September 2016.

Contact: sarah@ips-dc.org, tel: 202 234 9382 x 5227.

The post Over 40 Years, Measures of Justice appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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Missing the Mark on Climate Justice

What really struck me about Trump’s RNC speech, Janet Redman told the Real News Network, is that he’s presenting himself as the “law and order president” — increased security against immigrants, defeating the barbarians of ISIS — and the concept of Americanism over globalism.

He didn’t talk much about climate, which, Redman said, might be a good thing since he has been a vocal climate change denier, except in the cases where it affects his real estate.

But during her campaign, Hillary Clinton has been missing an opportunity to be the candidate advocating for climate justice, according to Redman. Clinton has talked about closing down mines and mine workers having to lose their jobs, “and the way she said it was callous, without a broader framework of a just and fair transition,” that could be achieved by putting economic anchors in place to protect the workers who might lose their jobs, Redman said.

Clinton’s framing of the transition away from the fossil fuel industry as a threat to jobs plays into Trump’s pro-coal rhetoric “that there’s no way to do this without the collapse of an entire sector,” Redman said.

The Democratic party platform, Redman explained, has strong components, like protecting those who are hit first and worst by the damaging effects of climate change. They’d be smart to include that climate justice analysis to the DNC, Redman said, for example, addressing the lead water crisis in Flint as a climate justice issue that deals with systemic racism, poverty, and pollution.

“There’s a real opportunity right now to link the economic justice, racial justice, and environmental justice issues that would would actually help us move forward on these issues and galvanize a broader audience that is really being left out of the RNC,” Redman said.

The post Missing the Mark on Climate Justice appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Janet Redman directs the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Justice for farm workers – The Riverdale Press


PRI
Justice for farm workers
The Riverdale Press
Despite progress in achieving protections for farm labor in California, Florida and other states, New York's farm workers continue to work without the basic labor rights granted to other workers, including overtime pay, collective bargaining, and a
Workers may unionize — but not farmworkers. A lawsuit in New York seeks to change that.PRI

all 2 news articles »

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Justice for farm workers – The Riverdale Press

Justice for farm workers
The Riverdale Press
Despite progress in achieving protections for farm labor in California, Florida and other states, New York's farm workers continue to work without the basic labor rights granted to other workers, including overtime pay, collective bargaining, and a

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Mother’s Day is Another Day to Struggle for Justice When Your Child is Behind Bars

end-solitary-confinement-inside-ips

(Photo: California Families Against Solitary Confinement)

After their sons were brutally murdered, Sybrina Fulton (mother of Trayvon Martin), Lesley McSpadden (mother of Michael Brown), and Samaria Rice (mother of Tamir Rice) became household names and national beacons of strength.

They were not trained or professional activists. They were simply mothers who answered a call to action.

A similar, albeit less well-known, movement has emerged to take up the mantle on one of the most pressing civil and human rights issues of our time: criminal justice reform. Like Fulton, McSpadden, and Rice, many of these movement leaders are mothers, rendering this cause just as political as it is personal.

Tracey Wells-Huggins’s son was arrested when he was 14. He and a group of friends had been watching the outbursts of a street fight and wanted a closer look.  He was arrested despite not actively participating in the fight.

Her son was eventually cleared of all charges, but Wells-Huggins knew that all young people introduced to the juvenile justice system were not so fortunate. As a mother, she worried about the fate of children just like her son. Wells-Huggins reflected, “When this [the arrest] happened with my son, I was very, very much afraid of what could happen to him, what was happening with my child, that society didn’t see as a kid. I’m still afraid. Not just for what could have happened to him, but for every child of color that I see. I’m afraid for them, but fear is a great motivator.”

Drawing on her experience as a mother attempting to advocate for her child, Wells-Huggins created a family-oriented and family-led organization called Renewed Minds that seeks to address the stunning injustices that youth, especially those of color, face within the system.

Tracey Wells-Huggins is not alone in experiencing the trauma of the incarceration of a child or in using that personal trauma to effect change. In fact, she is just one of several mothers and other family leaders whose stories, strategies, organizations, and collective actions are chronicled in our new report from the Institute for Policy Studies entitled “Mothers at the Gate: How a Powerful Family Movement Is Transforming the Juvenile Justice Movement”.

This report employs the voices of family members whose direct experience has helped them become experts at confronting an unjust criminal justice system.

For example, mothers in Missouri, like Tracy McLard, are protesting to raise the age at which juveniles can be transferred to adult detention facilities on the way to eliminating adult transfer entirely. Mothers in California, like Dolores Canales, have put their bodies on the line, engaging in hunger strikes to end the use of solitary confinement for all those incarcerated, regardless of age or circumstance. Mothers in Michigan, like Lois DeMott, are testifying in front of state legislators to improve conditions and relations within the criminal justice system.

As families commemorate Mother’s Day, this grassroots, family-based movement, sustained by the love of mothers across the nation, reminds us that mothers are leaders as well as nurturers, teachers as well as advocates.

“Mothers at the Gate” simply seeks to show mothers exactly as they are: powerful.

The post Mother’s Day is Another Day to Struggle for Justice When Your Child is Behind Bars appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Ebony Slaughter-Johnson interns for the Criminalization of Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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The Future of the Food Justice Movement – Truth-Out

The Future of the Food Justice Movement
Truth-Out
Based out of Immokalee, Florida — a community of primarily Mexican, Guatemalan and Haitian immigrants — the organization over the last 20 years has worked directly with field workers, farm owners and corporations to redress human rights abuses such

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Across Racial Justice Issues, a Common Enemy

(Photo: Domenica Ghanem)

(Photo: Domenica Ghanem)

It’s an odd thing to watch your boss, fist in the air, being led away by police to be booked for “crowding, obstructing, and incommoding” as a crowd of supporters cheers him on.

The April 13 agenda for Democracy Spring was racial justice, and as I found myself surrounded by many different organizations and individuals, I started to think that this could be a defining moment for cross-issue collaboration.

The movement to combat police brutality and hold murderers accountable can ally with the movement for a living wage. The movement to battle voter suppression should support the movement to end mass incarceration. The fight of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United should include the fight of Black Lives Matter.

“The Democracy Spring demonstration recognizes a common problem amongst those working for racial justice – money in politics,” Jessica Wynter Martin of ROC told me. “The reason that we [ROC United] have to fight so fiercely for a fair wage is because of hugely funded lobbying campaigns that keep our legislators from representing the rights of restaurant workers.”

The majority of restaurant workers are people of color, and the lowest paid are women of color. Groups like the National Restaurant Association flood Congress with money every year to keep the minimum tipped wage at just $ 2.13 an hour.

Just as the racial justice movement has multiple layers, “Protesting at the capitol is just one step in a multi-tiered approach to fighting money in politics,” Wynter Martin said.

While dozens were arrested at the demonstration on Wednesday and hundreds more the days prior, not everyone who marched on Capitol Hill could afford to risk arrest.

Some people of color avoided as much interaction with police as possible, for the very real fear of violence, or as we’ve seen too many times, death. Some of those who stood further back were immigrants, fearing deportation even if they had the proper documentation. I kept to the side myself, a Muslim woman with my own concerns about having my name in the system.

“The important thing is that we’re burdening them just by being here. They have to hire all of these police, all of this security,” Wynter Martin said. “We’re taxing them like they’re taxing us.”

The post Across Racial Justice Issues, a Common Enemy appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Domenica Ghanem is a communications assistant at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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