The Fortune Society News Of The Week — the week of November 28, 2016
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.
Mothers in prison
The women’s wing of the jail here exhales sadness. The inmates, wearing identical orange uniforms, ache as they undergo withdrawal from drugs, as they eye one another suspiciously, and as they while away the days stripped of freedom, dignity, privacy and, most painful of all, their children.
The New York Times
The future of mass incarceration in America
Baz Dreisinger, Mariame Kaba and Derrick Hamilton join host Leonard Lopate for a panel discussion about the future of mass incarceration, the juvenile justice system, private prisons and prison and bail reform in the U.S.
A women’s prison in Chelsea will be transformed
In October 2015, New York State awarded a lease of up to 99 years to the Novo Foundation, a private foundation focused on ending violence against women and girls, and the Goren Group, a women-led development firm, to transform the women’s prison into a Women’s Building.
The Village Voice
Citing literacy study, King calls for more high-quality education programs in correctional facilities
In a dear colleague letter that coincides with a report showing low-literacy skills among the incarcerated, King urged states to make use of expanded resources under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. With help from that law, states can shrink achievement gaps, equip incarcerated people with skills and credentials to find meaningful employment and support successful reentry.
U.S. Department of Education
Cuomo’s commitment to clemency tested in 3 murder cases
Mr. Sanchez, arrested before he graduated from high school, will soon receive his bachelor’s degree in mathematics; Mr. Gordon, the former memorabilia dealer, works with incarcerated people who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled; and Mr. Rodriguez is trusted with handling caustic chemicals and is credited by prison staff with rebuilding “much of our facility plumbing.”
The New York Times
Homeless advocates call on Gov. Cuomo to get 6,000 new supportive housing units up and running
With winter fast approaching, homeless advocates Monday are set to launch a new campaign designed to push Gov. Cuomo to follow through on a promise to fund the building of 6,000 new units of supportive housing over five years. The effort by Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing will seek to generate 20,000 emails from New Yorkers on the issue to Cuomo before delivers his State of the State address in January.
Gov. Cuomo allocates an additional $300M to NYC bonding authority for affordable housing projects
Avoiding another dispute with Mayor de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo on Friday granted the city another $300 million in bonding authority for affordable housing projects. The authorization raised to $771 million the total tax exempt bond capacity the state has allocated the city in 2016 to create or restore affordable housing.
NYCHA putting its ‘underutilized’ land in hands of developers to build more affordable housing
The city Housing Authority is turning over more of its public land to developers to build affordable housing, officials announced Friday. Chairwoman Shola Olatoye revealed that “underutilized NYCHA land” at four developments will be leased to developers to build 700 affordable apartments.
Everything you need to know about mandatory inclusionary housing but were afraid to ask
Many also object to the administration’s strategy of upzoning low-income neighborhoods to create rent-restricted housing through MIH, arguing that this introduces a large percentage of market-rate units to these neighborhoods and worsens gentrification. Yet the administration is quick to point out that the policy can also serve to create affordable housing not only in rezoning neighborhoods, but any time a private developer in any part of the city applies for an upzoning.
Obama has granted over 1,000 commutations during his presidency
President Barack Obama surpassed the 1,000 mark for commutations granted during his presidency on Tuesday after shortening sentences for 79 people. Obama has been granting commutations at rapid-fire pace in his final months in office. All told, he’s commuted more sentences than the past 11 presidents combined, the White House said.
A primer on Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General
President-elect Donald Trump’s reported choice for Attorney General Sen. Jeff Sessions has a long public record for supporters and detractors to cull through between now and his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee early next year. A former Alabama U.S. attorney and state attorney general who was elected to the Senate in 1996, Sessions has a documented trail of policy positions on almost every area of criminal justice he’ll oversee at the Justice Department.
The Marshall Project
Bail reform begins with the bench
Bail reform may finally be on the table. But the system isn’t unfair just because the bail set is often shockingly high. Defense lawyers have also long argued that the police reports that judges rely on to determine bail are vague and legally deficient. Many arrest statements do not describe the crime in question, and they often indicate that the police obtained evidence illegally.
The New York Times
33 states reform criminal justice policies through justice reinvestment
In the years since the wave of reforms began, the total state imprisonment rate has ticked downward while crime rates have continued their long-term decline. At the same time, states that have enacted justice reinvestment laws expect to save billions of dollars as a result of their reforms.
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Sentenced to prison, but trapped in jail
MDC is a detention center—a short-term facility designed to hold people while they await sentencing. Detention centers tend not to have the same level of medical and mental health care and other services as prisons, since people aren’t supposed to be there as long. Incarcerated people complain of rotten food, being denied access to sunlight or fresh air, being made to stand for hours on end, and being unable to get appropriate medical care, especially gynecological care.
Budding entrepreneur leaves prison past behind
I met Mr. Eleby a year ago when I wrote about Refoundry, a training program for formerly incarcerated people that doesn’t accept government funding. It aims to teach self-sufficiency and help participants launch their own businesses. At the time, he was earning $12 an hour from Refoundry and sharpening his carpentry skills. But his eyecatching table designs, fashioned from salvaged wood, were catching on at local venues like Brooklyn Flea.
The Wall Street Journal
For the wrongfully convicted, time runs short to get tax relief
For those once wrongfully convicted of a crime who have been exonerated, time is once again not on their side. A federal law that allows them to recoup taxes paid on any compensation they received for their wrongful convictions is about to expire, and yet many of them don’t know the law exists or how to take advantage of it. But one man has made it his mission to set things right.
The Huffington Post
A story of racial bias, the absence of mercy, and a death in prison
The Alabama Department of Corrections refused to allow Mr. Chance to be furloughed to Michigan, where his daughters could provide care for him. Instead, amidst complaints about inadequate medical care, Mr. Chance recently was taken to an outside hospital for treatment, but he was not allowed to stay despite medical records indicating he required hospitalization. Last week, Mr. Chance died in prison. He was 59.
Equal Justice Initiative
From incarcerated person to entrepreneur
The six-month Changing Perceptions program enables the formerly incarcerated to rejoin the workforce by creating their own businesses. Participants are taught entrepreneurship and the essentials for business success, including how to obtain business licenses and access capital. Current participants have started or are starting businesses in towing, heating and ventilation, accounting, cosmetology, and pest control.
American Enterprise Institute
Report documents the criminalization of homelessness
The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School has released a new report titled “Forced into Breaking the Law”: The Criminalization of Homelessness in Connecticut. The report examines how Connecticut’s homeless residents face the threat of criminal sanctions for simply existing. The report also documents how Connecticut city ordinances, such as those prohibiting loitering, panhandling, and sleeping in public, punish people for performing necessary, life-sustaining functions, which effectively criminalizes homelessness itself.
Yale Law School
Finding hope in the Flint police department
Those police officers who make it are resilient men and women of all races who have been tested in just about every way possible. When those people come together and realize that they’re all in the same boat, what you have is a strong, experienced, formidable police force.
The New York Times
Iowa Supreme Court shortens prison terms for many juvenile justice involved people
As many as 150 Iowa juveniles imprisoned for felony convictions including kidnapping and attempted murder will get their sentences shortened by years as a result of an Iowa Supreme Court decision released Friday.
The Des Moines Register
Advocates in Baltimore help expunge arrests that didn’t lead to charges
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have criminal records from minor charges. In many cases, those records never go away, even if the charges do. Those public records can be visible to potential employers. About 20 states have some way of clearing those records, but the process can be complicated and expensive. Mary Rose Madden from member station WYPR reports that in Baltimore legal advocates are trying to help people clear their slates.
From Princeton to prison, in this jailhouse classroom everyone learns
The four Princeton students are among dozens of volunteers in the Petey Greene Program who spend two hours a week in a state prison tutoring incarcerated people working toward their high school diploma or equivalency. The program began in 2008, in large part as a response to an increased need for tutors in the prisons’ short-staffed education programs.