The Fortune Society News Of The Week — the week of January 2, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

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


A communal struggle on the bus to Rikers

Going to jail might seem like an intensely personal experience, the sort of thing that one must pass through alone. But those close to the incarcerated person are also affected: To paraphrase an old saying, when someone serves time, the family serves it with them.

The New York Times


For thousands in New York’s prisons, Christmas is just another day in solitary confinement

Nicholas Zimmerman will spend Christmas locked in his cell at Clinton Correctional Facility, the men’s state prison 20 miles from the Canadian border. Instead of opening presents with his family, he’ll wake to a breakfast tray slid through a slot in his door. He’ll spend most, if not all, of the day inside his cell. Maybe he’ll be allowed out for one hour where he can exercise alone in a caged yard. If he’s really lucky, he’ll also be allowed to shower.

The Village Voice


Gov, defy gravity-knife injustice

For years, the NYPD and city prosecutors have exploited New York’s broadly worded 1958 gravity knife statute to arrest and prosecute thousands of New Yorkers who possess common folding knives that are designed, marketed and sold as work tools, not weapons. Gov. Cuomo has the opportunity to sign a new law that would prevent these injustices that, unsurprisingly, are experienced disproportionately by black and brown men.

Daily News


Legal defense bill remains in limbo after failed special session plan

A push to have the state cover the cost of lawyers for poor defendants was almost resolved as part of a special session of the Legislature, sources said, but remains in limbo after the session planned for this week evaporated. The fate of legislation requiring the state to pick up the cost of indigent legal defense is now in the hands of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has until midnight Saturday to either sign or veto that bill and two dozen others sitting on his desk.



U.S. correctional population at lowest level in over a decade

The nation’s jail and prison population decreased in 2015, according to federal data released on Thursday, and the number of adults locked up or on parole or probation fell to a level not seen since 2002 while overall crime continued to drop.

The New York Times


Could 2017 be the year for justice reform?

2016 will never be known as the year America engaged in deep policy debates. The presidential campaign became mired in personal attacks, Republicans and Democrats retreated to their corners, and there wasn’t much oxygen left for conversations on how to fix our country’s biggest problems. For that reason, groundbreaking bipartisan efforts on the Hill to reform our federal justice system failed to get a floor vote in either chamber in the 114th Congress.



The Obama legacy: chipping away at mass incarceration

In 2015, Barack Obama traveled to Oklahoma to meet with incarcerated people at the El Reno prison—the first sitting president to actually walk into a federal prison. After meeting with men in the prison, he was struck by how much they have in common. He told reporters, “These are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made.”

Talk Poverty


For moms in prison, distance can hurt as much as time

On board a pair of buses making the nearly three-hour journey to central Illinois from Chicago a week before Christmas, everyone has a number. The passengers are bundles of sleepy children, some accompanied by grandparents, who offer up a “one,” “three,” maybe “four.” The numbers represent the months ― and in some cases years ― since they have seen their mothers at the Logan Correctional Center.

The Huffington Post


Punished twice

Prisons across the U.S. routinely flout the Americans With Disabilities Act, subjecting thousands of incarcerated people with physical and mental health problems to painful and sometimes humiliating conditions, according to watchdog groups, incarcerated people, corrections officials, and a former Justice Department official in charge of enforcing the law.

Vice News


SBA to launch $1.2 million aspire challenge for entrepreneurship training and microloans to help previously incarcerated citizens

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced the Aspire Challenge, a prize competition of up to $1.2 million to expand access to entrepreneurial education and microloans for formerly incarcerated individuals. The competition will make up to 16 awards of $75,000 to organizations across the nation to assist in delivering entrepreneurial training and microloan assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals.

PR Newswire


‘I’ll be waiting’

Since my incarceration, none of my brothers or my other sister have “made the time” to write, visit, send money for commissary, or be concerned with my well-being — only Angela. So I was thrilled when, during that phone conversation on that Aug. 15, Angela said, “You know I’ll be up there tomorrow for your birthday!” Then, to rib a guy closing in on 50, she added, “How does it feel to turn 40?”

The Marshall Project


Second chances for formerly incarcerated moms

A few years ago, Crystal had no idea what her life would be like or even that she’d have a daughter. She was on drugs, had gotten arrested for a burglary she didn’t remember committing, and was 5 weeks pregnant but didn’t know it. When she first found out she was pregnant, her first thought was “This can’t be happening. I shouldn’t be having a baby.”

Fox 5


When defendants cannot afford a lawyer, and neither can New Mexico

When Bennett J. Baur, New Mexico’s chief public defender, took office in April, he set out to review the workload of every lawyer on his team, ahead of another year of belt-tightening in a state whose budget has been crippled by the slump in oil and gas prices.

The New York Times

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