Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition Launches Monthly Vigils

Around 25 activists attended the local Oakland vigil, held at 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland.

Around 25 activists attended the local Oakland vigil, held at 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland.

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition and member organizations have begun a series of statewide coordinated actions to end solitary confinement.

The vigils will be held on the 23rd of each month, to symbolize the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement. The first vigil was held this past Monday, March 23, at locations in Oakland, Arcata, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Vigil organizers said, “The actions will acknowledge the importance of organized, community-based pressure as a core strategy (along with courts and legislators) of our work outside the walls to end solitary confinement.”

For up to date information about the location of the next vigil, go to the PHSS website.

Ain’t I a Mother, Too?

A mother without housing is a mother without her child.

Ain’t I A Mother, Too?
May 10th 6-8 pm
Oakland Asian Cultural Center
388 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607 

Register for this Free Event HERE!


Are you outraged by family separation at our Southern border?

Are you aware that family separation is happening right here in the Bay Area?

Did you know that lack of housing is often the greatest barrier to a mother’s reunification with her child(ren)?

We are asking for the tech industry’s help!

The tech industry has been blamed in large part for the rent increases and displacement of people seen recently in the Bay Area. While we cannot minimize the wonderful contributions that technology has given us in the advancement of our healthcare, science, and educational systems, we know that modernizing and upgrading efficiencies have not served to help everyone, as they should.

While many applaud and appreciate the innovations of modern society, we know that our society has failed to keep up with adequate housing supply to meet the needs of the people. This is why our coalition is looking to change the narrative and engage with this promising sector to innovate, not eliminate, the most precious relationship on earth – that between a mother and her children. The first step to protecting this relationship is housing.

Unbeknownst to many members of the public, women who have children in the child welfare system are losing their parental rights for lifebecause in the Bay Area housing is becoming more of a luxury than a basic human right. Meanwhile, our court system requires that mothers find and sustain housing before they can reunify with their children. Due in large part to this requirement, there are over 28,000 children currently waiting for reunification with their mothers. Leaving those children to wait is certainly a cruel jest as it is no secret that the housing their parents are required to obtain does not exist. The extreme shortage of “low income” housing is well documented with the latest data revealing that there are only 34 units for every 100 persons in need. This is cruel and unusual punishment.

Technology and data analysis systems are helping us to center the voices of the marginalized, build community power, and connect in ways we’ve never seen before. We owe this progress to the technological advances and tools made for everyday people, used creatively by organizers and advocates. It is our hope that technology can help us to overcome this issue of family separation, and be harnessed to keeping families together instead of facilitating their separation.

We are building an interdisciplinary team of innovators from various fields including law, technology, social work, community organizing, urban development, and education. This team will reimagine our housing deficit and the various social services that rely on this system to develop local and state advocacy efforts. Please join us for this thought-provoking conversation and to be a part of the solution! We encourage you to attend our “Ain’t I A Mother Too!” symposium being held on May 10th from 6-8pm at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. 

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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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.

Public Defender to Hold Press Conference and Rally on Thursday to Oppose Plan to Hold Oakland Arraignments at New Courthouse in Dublin

OAKLAND, Calif. – Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods will host a press conference Thursday, June 29, to announce a coalition opposing plans to hold all in-custody arraignments at the new Dublin courthouse set to open in July.

The event will be on the historic steps of the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland and Woods will speak along with families of criminal defendants, formerly incarcerated and others concerned that moving arraignments from Oakland to Dublin will result in more people being held in jail while they fight their cases.

The Public Defender’s Office, which represents the majority of criminal defendants, has formed a coalition of local politicians, non-profits and activists to oppose the plan, which recently was announced by Alameda County Presiding Judge Morris Jacobson. The Dublin courthouse, officially known as the East County Hall of Justice, originally was to host only South County arraignments, including those currently at the Hayward and Pleasanton courthouses.

North County arraignments – including Oakland, Berkeley and Albany – currently are held at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. The Dublin courthouse is approximately 30 miles away and is one mile from the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station.

Arraignment is a critical point in a criminal case because that’s when criminal charges are announced and the court sets bail or chooses to release someone on their own recognizance. It must take place at a location that is readily accessible to defendants’ families, who need to attend in person in order to provide essential information to the court, including community ties and employment.

If families are unable to travel the extra 30 miles to Dublin, more defendants will remain in custody for longer periods of time, particularly defendants with the lowest income and the least serious charges.

WHAT: Press conference
WHEN: 12:15-1:15 p.m. Thursday, June 29, 2017
WHERE: East steps of Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, 1225 Fallon St, Oakland

 

Here is a list of coalition members:

1)      American Civil Liberties Union

2)      Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff

3)      Oakland Vice Mayor and Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington

4)      Assembly Member Rob Bonta

5)      Assembly Member Tony Thurmond

6)      Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan

7)      Oakland City Councilmember Abel Guillen

8)      Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb

9)      Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid

10)   Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks

11)   Oakland City Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington

12)   Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney

13)   Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan

14)   East Bay Community Law Center

15)   Ella Baker Center

16)   Equal Justice Society

17)   Silicon Valley De-Bug

18)   Essie Justice Group

19)   Bay Area Legal Aid

20)   Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

21)   Disability Rights Education Defense Fund

22)   Urban Peace Movement

23)   All of Us or None

24)   The Asian Prisoner Support Committee

25)   A. L. Costa Community Development

26)   CURYJ

27)   Participatory Defense Movement

28)   Root and Rebound

 

LSPC Policy Director Endria Richardson Discusses Prop 64 (AUMA) on KPFA’s “Up Front” program – Oct. 3, 2016

LSPC Policy Director Endria Richardson discusses Prop 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act) and how it will affect formerly incarcerated people and communities of color in Oakland, especially in terms of policing as well as access to business permits to open dispensaries.
KPFA Report begins: 33:10.
Endria’s segment begins: 37:40

UpFront – October 3, 2016

UPFRONT

An hour-long news magazine with a strong focus on state and local issues. Hosted by Cat Brooks, Mitch Jeserich and Salima Hamirani.

Manuel La Fontaine talks about the 2016 FICPFM National Conference with Jan Miyasaki on WORT Radio

Just days after the successful conclusion of the 1st National Conference of the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People & Families Movement in Oakland, CA, LSPC Program Manager & FICPFM Leadership Council Member manuel la fontaine has an early-morning conversation with Jan Miyasaki of WORT radio (Madison, WI) and EXPO organizer & National Conference attendee Jerome Dillard.

Dorsey Nunn speaks at Underground Scholars Graduation Ceremony at U.C. Berkeley

Underground Scholars hosted the first graduation ceremony for formerly incarcerated people at University of California, Berkeley on May 15, 2016.

LSPC Executive Director & All of Us or None co-founder Dorsey Nunn recognized Underground Scholars role in UC Berkeley’s decision to Ban the Box on employment applications, & spoke to the value of having an intellectual base to the FICPFM Movement.

Landmark Agreement Ends Indefinite Long-Term Solitary Confinement in CA

Settlement Reached in California Class Action Suit Moves Out of SHU Those There 10 Years or Longer, Ends Solitary Purely Due to Gang ValidationFOR

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9/1/2015

Contacts: Denise Mewbourne, 415-625-7050, denise@prisonerswithchildren.org;
Carol Strickman, 415-625-7043, carol@prisonerswithchildren.org

Sept. 1, 2015, San Francisco – Today, the parties agreed on a landmark settlement in the federal class action Ashker v. Governor of California that will effectively end indefinite, long-term solitary confinement in all California state prisons. Subject to court approval, the agreement will result in a dramatic reduction in the number of people in solitary across the state. The class action was brought in 2012 on behalf of prisoners held in solitary confinement at the Pelican Bay prison. They were in solitary confinement often without any violent conduct or serious rule infractions for more than a decade, and without a meaningful process for transfer out of isolation and back to the general prison population. Ashker argued that California’s use of prolonged solitary confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and denies prisoners the right to due process.

“This settlement represents a monumental victory for prisoners and an important step toward our goal of ending solitary confinement in California, and across the country,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement. “California’s agreement to abandon indeterminate SHU confinement based on gang affiliation demonstrates the power of unity and collective action. This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters.”

“The seeds of this victory are in the unity of the prisoners in their peaceful hunger strike of 2011. That courageous and principled protest galvanized support on both sides of the prison walls for a legal challenge to California’s use of solitary confinement,” said Carol Strickman, staff attorney at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) which is co-counsel in the case. (For more information on LSPC’s 25 years of supporting people in solitary confinement prisons see our website and our timeline of work.) 

“Today’s victories are the result of the extraordinary organizing the prisoners managed to accomplish despite extreme conditions,” said Center for Constitutional Rights President and lead attorney Jules Lobel. “This far-reaching settlement represents a major change in California’s cruel and unconstitutional solitary confinement system. There is a mounting awareness across the nation of the devastating consequences of solitary – some key reforms California agreed to will hopefully be a model for other states.”

When the case was filed in 2012, more than 500 prisoners had been isolated in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay for over 10 years, and 78 had been there for more than 20 years. They spent 22 ½ to 24 hours every day in cramped, concrete, windowless cells, and were denied telephone calls, physical contact with visitors, and vocational, recreational, and educational programming. Hundreds of other prisoners throughout California have been held in similar SHU conditions.

LSPC Staff Attorney Carol Strickman helped compile extensive expert evidence in the case that established severe physical and psychological harm among California SHU prisoners from prolonged solitary confinement. Plaintiffs worked with 10 experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, medicine, prison security and classification, and international human rights law. The resulting reports provide unprecedented and holistic analysis of the impact of prolonged solitary confinement on human beings, and provided guidance in the construction of settlement reforms.

Today’s settlement transforms California’s use of solitary confinement from a status-based system to a behavior-based system – prisoners will no longer be sent to solitary based solely on gang affiliation, but rather based on specific serious rules violations. It limits the time a prisoner can spend in the Pelican Bay SHU to five years and reduces the step-down program for transfer from SHU to general population from four years to two years. The agreement creates a new non-solitary but high-security unit with improved conditions for the minority of prisoners who have been held in any SHU for more than 10 years and who have a recent serious rule violation.

Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas will oversee these reforms for two years, which may be extended if the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is found to be violating prisoners’ constitutional rights. Representatives of the prisoners who brought this lawsuit and plaintiffs’ counsel will meet with CDCR regularly to ensure compliance. Plaintiffs’ counsel will receive extensive documentation of the new policies and practices and will meet frequently with Judge Vadas to oversee the agreement.

Ashker v. Governor of California amended an earlier lawsuit filed by Pelican Bay SHU prisoners Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell, representing themselves. In addition to LSPC, co-counsel in the case are California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Ellenberg & Hull, Christensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone.

Read the settlement submission here, and a comprehensive summary of the settlement terms here. All documents in the case are on CCR’s case page. Since they cannot speak from prison, CCR is making downloadable video clips from the plaintiffs’ depositions available here.

There will be a rally and press conference in Oakland, at the Elihu M. Harris State Building, 1515 Clay St., 12pm PDT. Contact the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition at 408.910.2618 for further details. (The press conference will be livestreamed at http://livestre.am/5bsWO)

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