The Fortune Society News Of The Week — the week of July 4, 2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.

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7 crazy things that you never realized America’s prisons were lacking

Prison reform is happening. That’s the bit of good news. But it comes with some caveats. For one, the state of our prisons in the United States has been so poor that it’s considered a milestone when non-toxic drinking water — which a judge ordered necessary in a Texas prison last week — is granted for incarcerated individuals.

A Plus


Living boldly after 40 years in the closet

“In 1969, the historic Stonewall riots took place in Greenwich Village in response to a police raid on a gay bar. These violent demonstrations, which lasted six days, were a crucial turning point and set the foundations for modern LGBTQI movements around the nation and world. I vividly remember watching the riots unfold from the window of my apartment in Sheridan Square.”

Huffington Post


Harlem program offers free fruit and vegetables to community

Wednesdays at 3 p.m. are primetime for fresh produce. Like clockwork, long lines wrap around the block at the Castle Gardens, at 140th Street and Riverside Drive, as hundreds of West Harlem residents wait to pick up a bag of farm-fresh goods. The program is one of many run by the Fortune Society, an organization that provides services to formerly incarcerated men and women.

DNAInfo


The next battle in Albany: Expungement Law

For hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers – most all of them black and brown – having a criminal record is a life-altering event. Doors that were once open – to jobs, a place to live, a license to practice a trade, to the right to serve on a jury or in some cases even the right to vote – are closed. Your ability to provide for yourself and your family: in many cases changed forever.

Amsterdam News


A proper farewell, finally, for a victim of an anti-gay rampage in New York

It is more than about time, 36 years later, to bid a proper farewell to Vernon Kroening. On the night of Nov. 19, 1980, heading home from a musical rehearsal, Mr. Kroening stopped at the Ramrod bar in the West Village. That placed him in the line of fire when Ronald K. Crumpley, a homophobic former transit police officer and minister’s son, went on a murderous rampage through the neighborhood, shooting a submachine gun indiscriminately into a crowd of men standing in front of the Ramrod and Sneakers, another gay bar, on West Street.

The New York Times


NYC official says rape is inevitable at Rikers Island: If true, we cannot send anyone there

In the most recent acknowledgement of what federal prosecutors dubbed a “culture of brutality” at Rikers Island, a mayoral appointee to the agency overseeing NYC jails, said eliminating rape at Rikers Island is an impossible task, providing yet more motivation for advocates seeking to close the troubled jail complex for good.

Huffington Post


Open letter to the Mayor: NIMBY needn’t block plans to replace Rikers with jails that work

“While there may be an initial reaction that homes, schools or bus­inesses shouldn’t be next door to a jail (“NIMBY” or “Not In My Back Yard”) it is easy to demon­strate that secure, modern jails located next to (or even on top of) the courthouses in each borough are much safer and more economical than having to secure and transport incarcerated individuals from Rikers to court­s in each borough on vans or buses, walk them in and out on a chain, etc.”

City Limits


Repping and reforming through Hip-Hop at Rikers Island

Local music production company Audio Pictures and Columbia University have launched a hip-hop program entitled “Beats Rhymes and Justice” at New York’s Rikers Island Prison Complex, enabling the younger inmates at the nation’s second largest jail to hit the booth and the boards.

Ebony


Another legislative session ends with thousands still in solitary

“There are 2.5 million people incarcerated today in the United States, and while it’s rare for the experiences of these people to be given a public viewing such as Mariposa provides, public demands to reform prison conditions and to end mass incarceration are growing. As are calls to end the torturous practice of solitary confinement.”

Gotham Gazette


Gianaris joins activists to demand an end to solitary confinement

A statewide organization, dedicated to ending the use of solitary confinement in the state prison system, called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long Term Solitary Confinement Act, known as HALT, immediately upon returning to session in January.

Times Ledger


The power of Pell Grants for incarcerated people

The Obama Administration selected sixty-seven colleges and universities across twenty-seven states to participate in the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, which aims to “create a fairer, more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on communities.” The new initiative could make Pell Grants available to as many as twelve thousand people behind bars.

The New Yorker


Obama is reinstating pell grants for prisoners

The Obama administration is set to announce on Friday that it will reinstate Pell grants to a limited number of prisoners seeking college degrees. It would be the first time that those behind bars could have access to Pell grants since Congress expressly excluded prisoners from the program in 1994.

The Marshall Project


President Obama announces new actions to reduce recidivism and promote reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals

[President Obama’s] administration announced a series of education and jobs programs along with other supportive measures designed to ensure that people who are returning from prison to the community are equipped with the skills and resources necessary to obtain employment, support their families, and contribute to society.

The White House


What you do while you wait for your husband to go to prison

“My husband had no prior criminal record, and at 56, he never thought prison would be part of his life story. After the trial, we were in financial trouble, and we had to put our house up for sale, so we chose new carpet, painted the basement, cleaned the garage, purged closets, went to the hazardous waste dropoff — all to get the place ready for buyers.”

The Marshall Project


A personal look: The impact of mass incarceration on parenthood

In 1996, when Daryl Atkinson was 25 years old, he was sentenced to 10 years at a state prison for a first-time nonviolent drug offense. Daryl ended up serving 40 months due to good behavior, but for Daryl, those months were critical for building his relationship with his daughter — and he missed out on them completely.

Indianapolis Recorder


Helping police, families, and communities keep kids out of the justice system

The Vera Institute of Justice released a brief detailing strategies that can help police, families, and communities respond to misbehaving youth through services and support, rather than arrest and jail. Many communities struggle with how to respond to young people who are “acting out”—running away, skipping school, disobeying adults, or involved in family conflicts. Too often, police are called and the only responses available to them are to either arrest the young person or ignore the problem behavior, neither of which resolves the situation.

The Vera Institute of Justice


Prisons, policing at forefront of state criminal justice action

Faced with overcrowded prisons and evidence that lengthy sentences don’t deter crime, more states opted this year to revamp sentencing laws and send some people convicted of lesser, nonviolent crimes to local jails, if they’re locked up at all.

The Pew Charitable Trusts

 

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