Free the Vote Campaign Launches In California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2019
Contact:
Nicholas Reiner, Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC)
(562) 243-0656
nreiner@arc-ca.org

California State Asm. McCarty introduces ACA 6 that would create a 2020 ballot measure to restore the right to vote for Californians on parole

Sacramento, CA – Today the Free the Vote Coalition launched its multi-year campaign to end voter suppression for Californians with criminal records. California Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), and Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) introduced ACA 6, a constitutional amendment which begins the process of restoring the right to vote for Californians on parole. The legislation will create a 2020 ballot measure, giving California voters the opportunity to re-enfranchise their neighbors with convictions.

“It is time to restore the right to vote for individuals who have served their time,” said Asm. McCarty. “ACA 6 will eliminate an arbitrary barrier to voting, reduce recidivism, and give formerly incarcerated people an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to become productive, contributing members of our society.”

ACA 6, co-sponsored also by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, would be the next step in addressing the history of racial oppression behind California’s felony disenfranchisement laws. Today marks the 149th anniversary of California’s rejection of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits voting restrictions based on race.

“The removal of the right to vote is not based in an interest in public safety,” said Taina Vargas-Edmond, Executive Director of Initiate Justice. “Rather, it is rooted in a punitive justice belief system that robs Californians of color of their political power. Three of every four people leaving California prisons are either African American, Latino, or Asian American.”

4.6 million people nationwide are ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction. Currently, nearly 50,000 people on parole throughout California—working, paying taxes, raising families in their communities—are unable to vote in any local, state, or federal elections. California is currently behind fourteen other states and Washington, D.C, which either automatically restore voting rights upon release from prison or have no felony disenfranchisement whatsoever. National momentum is growing to restore voting rights to people with convictions. Governors in New York and Virginia recently used executive power to re-enfranchise certain people who had finished their sentences. Last year, both Florida and Louisiana rolled back their bans on voting for formerly incarcerated people and New Mexico is introducing similar legislation this year.

“Felony disenfranchisement was written into the California Constitution during its inception in 1849,” said Brittany Stonesifer, Voting Rights Attorney at the ACLU of California. “Though the state now allows people to vote if they are in county jail, on probation, or on Post-Release Community Supervision, Californians on parole are still unfairly disenfranchised by our constitution.”

Because the disenfranchisement of Californians on parole is inscribed in the state’s constitution, the restoration of voting rights to otherwise-eligible adults results only from a proposed amendment to the California Constitution. As a potential constitutional amendment, ACA 6 needs a ⅔ majority in both state houses to pass. The introduction of ACA 6 is the first step toward ensuring that Californians on parole can fully participate in our shared democracy and moves us closer to a reality in which all Californians have the right to vote.

“One of the fundamental rights of American citizenship is the right to vote,” said Shaka Senghor, Executive Director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “Giving people who are returning home from prison access to civic participation ensures their successful reintegration and makes our democracy stronger.”

About the Free the Vote Coalition

Free the Vote Coalition is made up of ten organizations whose goal is to restore the right to vote for all people impacted by the criminal justice system. In 2019, Free the Vote will advocate for an ACA that will implement a 2020 ballot measure to restore the right to vote for Californians on parole. The partners in sponsoring this bill are Initiate Justice, ACLU of California, All of Us or None / Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), League of Women Voters of California, People Over Profits San Diego, Vote Allies, and White People for Black Lives (WP4BL). California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is also a co-sponsor of ACA 6.

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LSPC and AOUON Standing Strong in the Fight for Housing Rights and Justice

By Sabina Crocette, LSPC Policy Manager

LSPC and AOUON have recently expanded our areas of focus beyond the concerns of currently and formerly incarcerated people to also include the underlying conditions that bring people into contact with the criminal legal system, including the lack of safe and affordable housing.

This legislative season brought a number of important housing bills to the forefront. Two of those that LSPC and AOUON have been working to address are AB 53 and SB 50. On Wednesday, April 24, 2019 a group of us showed up at the capitol to testify to ensure both bills address the needs of our communities.

AB 53 is sponsored by Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-59, South Los Angeles) and claims to create a “ban-the-box” in private housing for people with conviction histories. AB 53 was not a substantive fix to the severe problems facing our community in terms of access to housing because it did not mandate that people with conviction histories be afforded the right to housing regardless of their criminal records. Across the nation, formerly incarcerated people are 10 times as likely as others to be homeless and face enormous hurdles to get housing. AB 53 would have eliminated the question about criminal convictions on the housing application, but, once an offer of housing was to be made, an inquiry could be made into your conviction history. Under the bill, owners got legal protections against suits by third parties based on a theory of negligence in renting.

AB 53 was a modest first step. Unfortunately, the bill’s author started pushing amendments to the bill which effectively disadvantaged folks with conviction histories, shielded landlords who discriminated against those with convictions histories from suit, and, finally, provided only two days for folks to provide evidence of errors on criminal records, rehabilitation, or mitigation. We fought back against all but one of those changes. Jones-Sawyer tried to move forward with the two-day period to respond to inquiries about criminal history without our agreement or support. We mounted a campaign to withdraw support, and LSPC and AOUON members showed up at the hearing, ready to oppose unless amended, or to ask that the bill not be voted on by the Housing and Community Development Committee. Before we could stand in our truth, the bill’s author took the bill off calendar. Right now, the bill is dead.

SB 50, the single most sweeping housing bill being considered right now, will change the way development is done in California. Senator Scott Wiener (D-11, San Francisco), authored a massive bill that has been described by many as a “give-away” to developers. Under the bill, developers will have a “right” to develop in communities where there is significant public transit infrastructure, such as buses, Bart and train service. While sounding innocuous, this bill targets market rate development in the communities where Black, Brown, and very low- and moderate-income people live now, and who now are struggling to remain in their homes of many years.

A number of housing and economic justice advocates and a few of our staff at LSPC and AOUON have joined forces to take Senator Wiener to task by addressing numerous inequities in the bill and demanding the inclusion of a number of complex but crucial components. Some of the biggest concerns around affordability include the need for a value-added recapture process. That refers to new value given to developers based on the ability to build higher and denser buildings without paying more in taxes and fees to build them. Developers are allowed to keep that value and not reinvest it (recapture) into those communities through projects for low to very low- and moderate-income units.

Other areas of disagreement include:

  • the need for broader definitions of “sensitive communities,” which will give those communities more control over how developments projects are done,
  • the continued use of in-lieu of fees by developers who make promises to create units for low and very low-income people and then renege and pay a paltry fee instead and keep all of the units market rate,
  • the retention of the local planning commissions and community input into the process of development.

At the committee hearing last week, LSPC and AOUON were proud to join the group of over 200 organizations, individuals, and elected officials who spoke against the bill unless the changes we identified above take place. Ultimately, SB 50 made it out of the committee and is now going to be heard in the full Senate. The battle continues on this bill.

Kim Carter, founder of A Time for Change Foundation, once said, “We would rather die on the battlefield than stand on the sidelines or bargain away our rights before we ever fight for them.” Thanks, Ms. Kim, we couldn’t agree more. Thank you to everyone who called, wrote, or showed up to the hearing!

Join us in the fight!

Call or Send an email to Senator Wiener and the other members of the Senate Governance & Finance Committee on this Friday, Monday and/or Tuesday, and tell them:

SB 50, as currently written, doesn’t go far enough to address inequities, gentrification, and displacement, while it gives developers more and more rights and privileges to build. They will build many of us, who are Black, Brown, immigrant, and poor, out of the communities we have lived in for generations.

Please include provisions to:

  • address value-added capture,
  • better definitions of “sensitive communities” to include those already devastated by gentrification,
  • craft stronger protections and verification processes for developers to avoid building on spaces where renters have lived for the previous 7 years,
  • not eliminate or severely weaken the ability of communities where development is targeted from having a say in what their communities through the planning commission process,
  • get rid of in-lieu fees or make them completely financially undesirable to use so developers can keep their promises to build for low-, very-low, and moderate-income folks to include them in housing developments.”

We oppose the bill unless it is amended as described.”

Thank you for your support!

For more information, contact LSPC Policy Manager, Sabina Crocette:sabina@prisonerswithchildren.org / 415.625.7040

Press Release: FUNDING THE FIGHT AGAINST MASS INCARCERATION

CJI Quest for Democracy Fund to Grant additional $400K

Media contact: Aleah Bacquie Vaughn
Email: aleahb@cjifund.org
Phone: 646-599-6354

BROOKLYN, NY – Circle for Justice Innovations (CJI) is pleased to announce that in partnership with the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Prisoners and Families Movement (FICPFM) it will award $440,000 through the Quest for Democracy Fund (Q4D) to support non-profit organizations led by formerly incarcerated people. Funding priorities include:

  • Restoration of Rights for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people
  • Felon Re-enfranchisement/Voting Rights Restoration, and Civic Engagement
  • Law Enforcement Accountability (police, prosecutors, and judges)
  • Bail Reform and Systems Supervision

“We are so inspired and honored to be able to support grassroots organizations all over the country that work to transform the criminal legal system. This growing movement draws on the innovation, passion, devotion, and resilience of millions who have experienced the living hell that is the U.S. prison system. Together, we are challenging this criminal and criminalizing legal system to support viable, restorative justice alternatives to incarceration. Instead, we need to enhance opportunities for forgiveness, restoration, accountability and safety, which we all deserve.” – Aleah Bacquie Vaughn, CJI’s Executive Director.

“I am extremely proud to be a small part of supporting additional freedom fighters. When we gathered in Florida right before the election we stated that we would be setting up a Quest for Democracy Fund and share the resources with formerly incarcerated people and their families. We pushed out almost $500,000. We did this because we wanted others to help continue the fight for the full restoration of our civil and human rights. I also wanted to thank the funders that believed in our vision and our integrity.” – Dorsey Nunn, founding leader of All of Us or None, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, FICPFM Steering Committee Member, and Quest for Democracy Grant-making Circle member.

Three members of the Q4D Circle are leaders of organizations that were CJI grantees in their early years. “CJI is honored to have played a role in helping to provide resources to the movement and these exceptional leaders,” said Aleah Bacquie Vaughn.

The Q4D grantees will be given an opportunity for intensive, technical assistance and training by FICPFM organizing veterans. This training will equip the Q4D grantees to be more effective and impactful in their work changing policies and laws that deny the human rights of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.

About Circle for Justice Innovations (CJI) – a project fiscally sponsored by NEO Philanthropy

Circle for Justice Innovations (CJI) is a national innovative grant-making collaborative made up of community organizers, activists, donors, and donor-activists. The CJI Circle identifies, funds, and nurtures grassroots organizations led by those most impacted working to transform the criminal justice system in the United States. CJI has invested over $2 million in grants since 2009. It serves as a leader in the funding of movement work within marginalized communities which includes: people of color, young people, immigrants, gender and sexual minorities, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, Native Americans, low-income communities and other communities impacted by the criminal justice and immigration systems. For more information, visit www.cjifund.org

About The Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM)

The Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM) is a network of over 50 civil and human rights organizations led by people who have conviction histories and their family members. Committed to transforming society by transforming the criminal justice system, they advocate legislatively, judicially and through direct community organizing. Working collaboratively and using multiple approaches, they have been deeply successful in securing alternatives to criminalization, restoring the rights of those previously criminalized by the system, and shifting the dominant narrative on who people with conviction histories and their loved ones are. The vision is, ultimately, a society in which prisons do not exist. For more information, visit www.ficpfmmovement.org

Circle for Justice Innovations (CJI)

CJI’s mission is to end Mass Criminalization and Incarceration in the United States by building and strengthening the infrastructure of the grassroots criminal justice movement. We fund where the movement is developing, shifting and growing. We believe this movement should be led by those most impacted by the injustices of the current system, working in alliances across race, class, faith, gender, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status and age.
CJI Fund is a program of NEO Philanthropy Inc.

Art for Justice Announces Partnership with Acclaimed Los Angeles-Based Artist Mark Bradford

For Immediate Release
January 24, 2019

Spitfire for Art for Justice
Aketa Marie Williams
aketa@spitfirestrategies.com | +1 615 509 3891

Sutton for Mark Bradford
Rachel Rees
Rachel.rees@suttonpr.com | +1 646 425 2268

Emily Alli
Emily@suttonpr.com  +1 206 718 4202

Los Angeles, CA – For the inaugural edition of Frieze Los Angeles, Mark Bradford has created an image of a police body camera isolated on a light-colored background. Entitled Life Size, this significant work comprises the powerful camera image presented on posters around the city, a large-scale billboard on location at Paramount Pictures Studios, as well as a limited-edition print series of the image, rendered into a 3-D sculptural work that is elevated from the print’s surface.

“I’m always interested in found objects and how context can give meaning,” said Bradford. “The police body camera carries with it such loaded and complex connotations.  I also love it as an object—it’s both haunting and resonant.”

At the artist’s behest, proceeds from sales of his limited-edition print series will go directly to the Art for Justice Fund, to be invested in campaigns to support greater career opportunities for people who are transitioning back home from prison. Bradford is the first artist since the Fund’s establishment to directly support Art for Justice with proceeds from the sale of their own artwork.

“I admire Mark as both an artist and a humanitarian. His work helps us confront our own biases by exposing the false narratives around race and poverty. In doing this, he enables us to see one another with more compassion and empathy,” said Fund founder Agnes Gund. “I’m honored by his gift, which will accelerate our artists and advocates’ efforts to create communities that welcome people back home to fewer barriers and to more employment opportunities.”  

Art for Justice takes a holistic approach to confronting the primary drivers of high prison population, in part, by eliminating the thousands of legal barriers to employment that often confront people with a criminal record and boosting investments in reentry policies that recognize the importance of higher education in prison. Bradford’s donation will support organizations including the Bard Prison Initiative, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, The Opportunity Institute, and the Vera Institute of Justice in addition to fellowships for artists whose work speaks to the devastating consequences of mass incarceration and the web of legal obstacles that entangle people post incarceration.  

In 2019, a police body camera has clear evocations around responsibility and notions of freedom across the United States, and specifically in Los Angeles, as one of the most culturally- and racially-diverse cities in the nation, which has its own charged history with these themes. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bradford’s interest in our shared human experiences is a theme that runs throughout his diverse studio practice.

Life Size, contextualized by this collaboration with Frieze Los Angeles and Art for Justice, reflects the artist’s longstanding interest in how communities—particularly those which have been traditionally marginalized—address issues of social and economic justice, as well as his belief in art’s ability to expose contradictory histories and inspire action in the present day. Bradford is deeply engaged with social issues as co-founder of Los Angeles-based nonprofit Art + Practice, which encourages cultural education by supporting the needs of foster youth living predominantly in South Los Angeles, and providing access to free, museum-curated art exhibitions and moderated art lectures to the community of Leimert Park. The artist’s equivalent commitments to formal intervention and social activism anchor his contribution to culture at large and embody his belief in the power of art to affect positive change.  

Life Size is made possible thanks to a collaboration between the artist, Frieze Los Angeles, Endeavor and Hauser & Wirth.

About Art for Justice

The Art for Justice Fund is a five-year initiative created by Agnes Gund in partnership with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and the Ford Foundation. The Fund is dedicated to combating the injustices of mass incarceration through the collective action of artists, advocates and philanthropists.

About Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford was born in 1961 in Los Angeles, where he lives and works. Bradford’s profound insight and inventiveness have established him as one of the most significant and influential artists of his generation, and he has been widely exhibited internationally as well as the recipient of numerous awards including the U.S. Department of State’s Medal of Arts in 2014, his appointment as a National Academician in 2013, and a MacArthur Fellowship Award in 2009. In 2017, Bradford represented the US at the 57th Venice Biennale with Tomorrow Is Another Day, and in November that same year, Bradford unveiled Pickett’s Charge, a monumental, site-specific installation for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. In 2018, Bradford was commissioned to create a site-specific work for the new US Embassy in London. Entitled We The People, the work comprises 32 panels, each 10 square feet, featuring select text from the United States Constitution.

Best known for his large-scale abstract paintings that examine the class-, race-, and gender-based economies that structure urban society in the United States, Bradford’s richly layered and collaged canvases represent a connection to the social world through materials. Bradford uses fragments of found posters, billboards, newsprint, and custom-printed paper to simultaneously engage with and advance the formal traditions of abstract painting. 

About Frieze Los AngelesFrieze, one of the world’s most influential contemporary art fairs, will launch Frieze Los Angeles at Paramount Pictures Studios this February 14–17, 2019. The fair will bring together 70 of the most significant and forward-thinking contemporary galleries from across the city and around the world, alongside a curated program of talks, site-specific artists’ projects and film.

SB 136: Repeal Unnecessary One-Year Enhancements on Sentences

January 16, 2019

Sacramento –  Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D- San Francisco) joined a coalition of criminal justice reform advocates and co-authors to announce the introduction of Senate Bill 136. SB 136 repeals a mandatory one-year sentence enhancement that is added to an individual’s base sentence for each prior prison or felony jail term served.  This enhancement impacts about one-third of people serving time in California prisons. Currently, if an individual is convicted of a felony and has served time in jail or prison for a prior felony, a one-year enhancement must be added to their sentence even if neither their current nor prior felony is serious or violent. Research refutes that these enhancements help to deter individuals from committing crimes, reduce recidivism, or increase public safety.  Instead, these enhancements put a significant financial burden on taxpayers and families statewide.     

California has some of the most severe sentence enhancement for prior convictions in the nation. In the California Penal Code, over 100 separate sections enhance sentences based on an individual’s current offense and or record of prior convictions. As of 2016, 79% of people under the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) custody had some sort of sentence enhancement attached to their base sentence, and 25% had three or more enhancements stacked on top. SB 136 would amend one of the most commonly used sentencing enhancements, which impacted one-third of individuals convicted in 2017.

“Automatically enhancing an individual’s sentence due to their history does not deter crime or increase public safety,” said Senator Wiener. “These enhancements are part of California’s tough-on-crime history, which has led to our state spending more on incarceration than on higher education, overcrowding in our prison system, and devastating impacts on communities of color and those impacted by the failed war on drugs. Repealing this unnecessary sentence enhancement will help our state spend less on ineffective policies that do nothing to increase public safety.”

According to CDCR, as of December 2018 there were over 15,000 counts of this particular enhancement added to sentences of incarcerated individuals.  This is a conservative estimate, as it does not take into account local county jail sentences impacted by the one-year enhancement.  California currently spends over $80,000 each year to imprison an individual. These sentence enhancements are thus very expensive, harm state and local budgets, and shift dollars away from desperately needed community services.       

SB 136 does not alter an individual’s base sentence for their current felony charge or amend any other enhancements for violent, repeat offenders.

SB 136 is co-sponsored by the ACLU of California, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the Friends Committee on Legislation of California, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Pillars of the Community, and Tides Advocacy. Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) is the principal co-author on the legislation, and it is co-authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), and Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) and Shirley Weber (D-San Diego).

QUOTES:

“Children with incarcerated parents are more susceptible to chronic illnesses and are 4 times more likely to become incarcerated themselves,” said Romarilyn Ralston with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP). “Sentencing enhancements are a public health issue, costly, and ineffective. An additional year in prison or jail for every prior conviction is hurting societies most vulnerable…our children. Don’t allow our children to be victims of a broken criminal justice system that puts profits over people. Pass SB 136 and give our kids the chance they deserve.”

“Sentencing policy should be evidence-based rather than guided by emotion,” said Jim Lindburg, Legislative Director for the Friends Committee on Legislation of California.  “It costs over $70,000 per year to incarcerate a person, and there is no evidence that enhancements deter repeat offending.  Instead of throwing more money down the drain, those funds could be better spent on effective crime reduction strategies such as treating addiction and mental health issues and providing job training so that people can successfully re-enter free society.”

“An additional year on a person’s sentence for a prior conviction is both immoral and ineffective,” said Amber-Rose Howard, Statewide Co-Coordinator for Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Sentence enhancements have the effect of sentencing thousands of people in California to long periods of incarceration in overcrowded state prisons and county jails. This one-year enhancement destabilizes families and does not make our society safer. It’s time to repeal this policy failure and continue to move California towards true justice.”

“Sentence enhancements based on prior convictions are ineffective, draconian policies that augment racial disparities in the justice system,” said Mica Doctoroff, Legislative Attorney for the ACLU of California. “It’s long time California leave these failed policies behind to advance true justice and racial equity.”

SB 136 was officially introduced on January 15, and will be scheduled for a hearing in the coming months.

Fair and Just Sentencing Reform Act Heads to Governor’s Desk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 31, 2018

CONTACT:
Terence Long, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Sabina Crocette, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
sabina@prisonerswithchildren.org / 415.625.7040
 

California Assembly Passes Bill Allowing Judges to Strike Mandatory Sentence Enhancement for Prior Felony Convictions

Bill Now Heads to the Governor’s Desk

Sacramento, CA —The California Assembly voted to pass Senate Bill 1393, authored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Ricardo Lara with a vote of 41 to 31. SB 1393, the Fair and Just Sentencing Reform Act, restores judicial discretion to the application of the mandatory 5-year sentence enhancement for each prior serious felony on a person’s record at the time when a person is currently charged with a serious felony. The bill is part of Senator Mitchell and Senator Lara’s Equity and Justice Package of 2018, which seeks justice reforms for juveniles and adults. Governor Brown has until September 30th to sign or veto this sentencing reform.
 
“Mass incarceration is a massive moral failure and policy failure,” said Senator Mitchell. “It’s a moral failure because we now know that it is injurious to families and to the economies of low-income communities, and that its violence has been directed overwhelmingly at Black and Brown communities. The passage of this bill is a victory for families and communities who have faced separation and destabilization for too long as a result of California’s complicated and punitive justice system.”
 
California has some of the most severe sentence enhancements in the nation. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, California has more than 100 separate code sections that enhance sentences based on a person’s current offense and/or record of prior convictions. PPIC states that as of 2016, 79% of people under CDCR custody had some kind of sentence enhancement attached to their base sentence; 25% had three or more enhancements stacked on. One of the most commonly used sentence enhancements is the five year enhancement for serious priors. According to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) as of 2016, there are close to 100,000 years’ worth of the five year sentence enhancement applied to people currently under CDCR custody.  
 
The Fair and Just Sentencing Reform bill will help restore balance in the judicial process, address extreme sentences, and reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system by allowing judges to decide what is best in the interest of justice. 
 
“We have seen the application of this mandatory enhancement for over 30 years. It is about time the California Legislature says, no more to failed and punitive policies.” said Amber-Rose Howard, Statewide Co-Coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Our coalition is looking forward to seeing the California Legislature advance even more changes around extreme sentencing, including continuing to address sentencing enhancements. California communities are depending on leadership that continues to approach public safety in ways that strengthen safety and keep families together.”
 
The passage of this bill builds on the growing momentum in California to enact criminal justice reforms that divest from ineffective mass incarceration policies and invest in community-based solutions like mental healthcare, education, and substance-use treatment. This bill also builds on the efforts of the California legislature, who passed SB 180 (The Repeal of Ineffective Sentencing Enhancements) authored by Senator Mitchell, which repealed the three-year sentence enhancement for prior drug convictions and SB 620 authored by Senator Bradford, allowing judges to strike unwarranted gun sentence enhancements. 
 
Advocates and community members who have lived through extreme sentences laud lawmakers for demonstrating their commitment to address failed policies. 
 
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Co-sponsors of the Fair and Just Sentencing Reform Act include ACLU of California, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Drug Policy Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Friends Committee on Legislation of California, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Pillars of the Community, Tides Advocacy, and Women’s Foundation of California.

PR: Unlawful Removal of CA Voters with Conviction Records

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALL OF US OR NONE PUTS TEN CALIFORNIA COUNTIES ON NOTICE OVER UNLAWFUL REMOVAL OF PEOPLE WITH FELONY CONVICTIONS FROM ELECTORAL ROLLS
 

CONTACT:

Mark Fujiwara
All of Us or None Bay Area /
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
415-625-7056
mc@prisonerswithchildren.org
Christin Runkle
All of Us or None Los Angeles / Long Beach / 
A New Way of Life
323-406-6904
christin@anewwayoflife.org

San Francisco, CA. (April 4, 2018) — All of Us or None (AOUON), a California-based national grassroots organization fighting for the rights of formerly and currently incarcerated people, sent demand letters today to ten California county registrar’s offices and local courts believed to be unlawfully triggering the removal of people with conviction histories from electoral rolls — with estimated over 3,000 eligible voters being removed in 2017 in Los Angeles County alone.

AOUON has found evidence that these government agencies — which span ten counties, including Butte, Contra Costa, Kings, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Clara, Solano, Tulare, Ventura and Orange — have been violating recent legislation that preserves voting rights for people convicted of a felony under AB 109 Public Safety Realignment. The demand letters ask that the agencies immediately reinstate these voters’ registrations, send notices to alert the voters to the error, and fix their systems to ensure that such violations do not happen again. 

“We’re a national organization of formerly incarcerated individuals with a history of fighting for and winning the voting rights of people with convictions, and we are prepared to take necessary action to correct unlawful practices that violate our right to vote.” says Lisa James, AOUON-Los Angeles/Long Beach organizer.
 

Voting after Realignment has a confusing history, but the law is now clear

In 2011, a major California criminal justice reform — commonly known as “Realignment” — changed the law to require that people with non-serious, non-violent, or non-sexual felonies are sentenced to county jail or probation, instead of state prison. Since the California Constitution disenfranchises only those who are “imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony,” the voting eligibility of those serving felony sentences in county jail under Realignment was unclear for several years.

Following a successful legal battle brought by AOUON and other community allies against the Secretary of State, the State Legislature ultimately passed AB 2466 to clarify that Californians who are convicted of county Realignment felonies retain their right to vote.

As of January 1, 2017, state elections law requires local courts to provide to the county registrar a monthly list of people “committed to state prison.” The registrar is then required to cancel the registrations of people currently in prison or on parole. Despite the fact that voting rights under Realignment have now been clarified in law,

“The government’s ongoing confusion about the law leads to the continuing disenfranchisement of the very population historically subject to de facto disenfranchisement — from the Fifteenth Amendment to Jim Crow,” James says.
 

Educational efforts and voter outreach are critical

The last day to register to vote in the California primary election is May 21. For people who are currently in county jail, the deadline to request mail-in ballots is May 29. Even if registrar’s offices in these ten counties re-enroll voters quickly, outreach efforts are crucial to ensuring that people with Realignment convictions know that they can, in fact, vote.

AOUON is asking these registrar’s offices to engage in public education on the right to vote with a felony, but it will also continue its own outreach efforts. During the last two presidential general elections, AOUON-Los Angeles/Long Beach has done voter registration drives in Los Angeles County jails that have yielded more than 1,700 registrations in total. 

“As we restore voting rights to people incarcerated in jails, we need to establish a process to ensure everyone inside knows their rights and has timely access to registration forms and ballots before elections,” says Dorsey Nunn, co-founder of All of Us or None and executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children in San Francisco. “We also need formerly incarcerated people to be able to go into jails to do some of this voter  outreach — we have the unique experience to know that voting instills a sense of ownership in both ourselves and our communities.”
 

 

About All of Us or None

All of Us or None is a grassroots civil and human rights organization fighting for the rights of formerly and currently incarcerated people and our families. We are fighting against the discrimination that people face every day because of arrest or conviction history. The goal of All of Us or None is to strengthen the voices of people most affected by mass incarceration and the growth of the prison-industrial complex. All of Us or None is a project of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, with the SoCal chapters sponsored by A New Way of Life Reentry Project.

Press Release: LSPC Joins DPA Delegation to Study Portugal’s Humane Drug Policy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 13, 2018

LSPC Joins Drug Policy Alliance Partners in Portugal to Study Effective, Humane Drug Decriminalization and Treatment Policy

CONTACT:
Mark Fujiwara 415-625-7056
mc@prisonerswithchildren.org
Dorsey Nunn 415-625-7052
dorsey@prisonerswithchildren.org

San Francisco, CA – Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) Executive Director and All of Us or None co-founder Dorsey Nunn will join Drug Policy Alliance members and partners in Lisbon, Portugal on March 19-22, 2018, to observe first-hand the European country’s successful drug harm-reduction and decriminalization programs.

In response to a heroin epidemic in the 1990’s, Portugal decriminalized personal possession of all drugs and began treating drug possession and use as a health issue—employing counseling and methadone instead of judge, courtroom, and jail. As a result, drug cases have dropped 75%, HIV transmission via intravenous drug use is the lowest in Europe, overdoses are the second lowest in Europe, and the drug-induced death rate is 5 times lower than the European Union average.

During the same time period, the U.S. has doubled down on criminalization and incarceration, spending billions of dollars on a failed “War on Drugs” that has put hundreds of thousands of people—mainly of color—behind bars. In addition to incarceration, they are also shackled with a conviction history that triggers collateral consequences for the rest of their lives. There is also a real casualty cost—2016 saw more Americans dying of overdoses than were killed in the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq Wars combined.

As a Drug Policy Alliance partner, LPSC works to end the criminalization of drug possession and use, and to restore the civil and human rights of people with conviction histories. Most recently, in 2017, LSPC co-sponsored and helped pass SB 180 (The RISE Act), which eliminated mandatory 3-year enhancement sentences for certain prior drug convictions. In addition to his legislative work and grassroots advocacy, Dorsey Nunn is also the co-founder of Free At Last, an organization in Palo Alto, CA that offers community recovery and rehabilitation services.

Meeting with the top Portuguese national health officials who crafted their innovative and human policy, as well as with the social and health workers who implement it, LSPC and other Drug Alliance Policy partners will gain greater understanding about how to more effectively shift U.S. policy and practice from carceral to caring for our communities. As a legal services and legislative policy non-profit led and staffed by formerly-incarcerated people and family members, LSPC is in a unique position to advocate for best drug policy practices at the local, state, and national levels.

Find more info on the DPA delegation and Portugal’s decriminalization policy here.

Landmark Lawsuit Settled, Paves Way for Fair Treatment of Low-Income California Drivers

Solano County adopts model policies that lessen the burden of traffic fines and fees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 8, 2017
Media Contacts:
Linda Kim, Bay Area Legal Aid
, Lkim@baylegal.org, 510-250-5218
Bethany Woolman, ACLU of Northern California, bwoolman@aclunc.org, 415-621-2493

San Francisco, CA – A settlement was reached today in the first lawsuit in California to challenge the suspension of driver’s licenses as a means of collecting unpaid traffic fines. The lawsuit was originally filed on June 15, 2016 against Solano County Superior Court, challenging the court’s practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of people who could not afford the astronomical price of traffic tickets.

“Having to choose between food and a traffic fine is not a choice at all,” said Jane Fischberg, President and CEO of Rubicon Programs, a plaintiff in the suit. “This settlement gives us hope that we are finally moving away from unjust systems that criminalize poverty. We applaud the Solano Court’s good faith effort to make the system more equitable – so that everyone in our communities has an opportunity to achieve economic mobility.”

Prior to the lawsuit, the Court routinely failed to notify traffic defendants of their right to demonstrate they were low-income and unable to pay the fines – which the suit alleged was unlawful. The Court also lacked a mechanism for low-income drivers to seek a reduction in the fine or an alternative to payment based on their poverty.

Today, the parties filed a settlement that achieves the goals of the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, the Court will notify every traffic defendant of their right to be heard regarding their “ability to pay.” The Court will update all notifications to traffic defendants, including its website, the oral advisements provided by traffic court judges, and the “notice of rights” handout given to all traffic defendants. The new notices explain the traffic defendants’ rights to ask the Court for a lower fine, a payment plan, or community service if they are indigent.

Further, the Court agreed to change its procedures for assessing a defendant’s ability to pay. For traffic defendants who are homeless, receive public benefits or are low income, the Court has agreed to consider alternative penalties that do not involve payment of a monetary fine – such as community service.

“We hope that Solano’s reforms will be a model for other counties to follow,” said Rebekah Evenson, Director of Litigation and Advocacy at Bay Area Legal Aid. “We laud the Solano County Superior Court and Presiding Judge Fracchia for working with us to reform their traffic system in a way that treats low-income drivers fairly and equitably.”

“We appreciate that the governor and legislature recently put an end to the harmful practice of using license suspension to punish low-income people who can’t afford to pay costly tickets,” said Christine Sun, Legal Director at the ACLU of Northern California. “Now we’d like to see counties across California follow Solano County’s example and address the exorbitant traffic fines and fees structure that plunges people into a cycle of poverty.”

A 2017 study by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Paying More for Being Poor: Bias and Disparity in California’s Traffic Court System, showed that Californians pay some of the highest fines and fees in the country—which can devastate the lives of Californians with lower incomes.

People of color also bear a disproportionate amount of this burden. The study’s Bay Area data revealed that African-Americans are four to sixteen times more likely to be booked into county jail on a charge related to inability to pay a citation. Because of over-policing in communities of color and racial profiling, African-American and Hispanic individuals are more likely to receive traffic tickets than are white and Asian individuals and are far more likely to be cited solely for driving with a license that was suspended for failure to pay or appear in traffic court.

The lead plaintiff in the suit, Rubicon Programs v. Superior Court, is Rubicon Programs, a nonprofit that provides comprehensive employment, career, financial, legal and health & wellness services to thousands of low-income people across the Bay Area. Additional plaintiffs in the suit include the ACLU of Northern California, and Henry Washington, a low-income Hayward resident whose license was suspended because he could not pay a “fix-it” ticket. Plaintiffs were represented by:

  • The ACLU of Northern California
  • Bay Area Legal Aid
  • The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR)
  • Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
  • Western Center on Law & Poverty

 

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Action Alert: Last Committee for AB 1008 – Ban the Box, & SB 180 RISE Act Goes to the Floor!

Help Get Our “Ban The Box” Bill Out Of The Final Committee! 

Cal. AB 1008 infographicAB 1008 (McCarty) passed out of the California State Assembly and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We need your help to pass AB 1008 out of this final committee by calling the seven members on the Sentate Judiciary Committee listed below and have them tally your support for the bill. 

AB 1008 will extend Ban the Box / Fair Chance Hiring policy to private employers, removing the “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” question from employment applications and prohibiting employers from performing a background check until after they extend a conditional job offer. Removing this barrier to employment allows formerly incarcerated and convicted people a chance to interview in person and be evaluated according to skills and experience relative to the job.

Please call the Judiciary Committee Members by end of day Monday, July 10:

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (Chair) – (916) 651-4019 
(If you make only one call, make it to Senator Jackson!)
Senator John M. W. Moorlach (Vice Chair) – (916) 651-4037
Senator Joel Anderson – (916) 651-4038
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg – (916) 651-4018
Senator Bill Monning – (916) 651-4017
Senator Henry I. Stern – (916) 651-4027
Senator Bob Wieckowski – (916) 651-4010

Feel free to use this sample script:

Hello, my name is __________ from [town in CA]. 

I am calling in support of AB 1008, the Fair Chance Hiring bill. 

Formerly incarcerated people already face many barriers to re-entry, and they/we need access to meaningful employment to take care of families and contribute positively to the community. 

Please extend California’s “Ban the Box” policy to private employers and give formerly incarcerated and convicted people a chance to show employers their skills and potential. 

[Share personal experience here, if applicable or possible—keep it short!] 

True public safety is created through employment, housing, and community. 

Please pass AB 1008 and add me to the support tally you keep for your Member. 

Thank you. 

[Bonus: if one of the members represents your district, let them know!]


WAIT! WHILE YOU HAVE YOUR PHONE IN YOUR HAND!
Help Pass the RISE Act! 

SB 180 - RISE Act - Sandra in committee 01 2SB 180 (Mitchell) is on the Floor of the Assembly and headed for a vote! The Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancements (RISE) Act will end the three-year sentencing enhancements for certain prior drug convictions, a practice that, as LSPC Policy Fellow Sandra Johnson (at right) told the Public Safety Committee earlier, does nothing to help people with drug issues and just wastes human lives and taxpayer money.

We need your help to pass SB 180 by calling your Assemblymember and have them tally your support for the bill.

Can’t stop, won’t stop? Call these key Assemblymembers:

Assemblymember David Chiu (San Francisco) – (916) 319-2017
Assemblymember Evan Low (San Jose) – (916) 319-2028
Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (San Mateo) – (916) 319-2022

Feel free to use this sample script:

Hello, my name is __________ from [town in CA].

I am calling to ask you to vote yes on SB 180, the RISE act which ends the three-year sentence enhancements for drug related prior convictions.

These unnecessarily long enhancements do not increase public safety because they do not address the real proble which is often substance use and addiction. Sentence enhancements do not stop people from selling drugs; they do not stop people from using drugs; they do not stop people from committing felonies; they do not improve public safety.

The current system spends tax money on prison sentences instead of what we need to spend money on such as mental health counselling, drug addiction treatment programs, education, and vocational training.

I am asking you to prioritize funding these services that actually help people and improve public safety in our communities. Please pass SB 180 and add me to the support tally you keep for your Member.

Thank you.


 

AOUON-Logo-Circle w SpanishAnd thank YOU for taking the time to support AB 1008 (McCarty), SB 180 (Mitchell), and all the current and formerly incarcerated people and our family members.

We’ll need your help again when AB 1008 heads to the floor for a final vote, so keep up the fight!

For more information about our Ban the Box Campaign, check out our Toolkit here!