• Implement the People’s Demands for California’s Proposition 57!
    Last November, Californians overwhelmingly passed Prop 57 with 64% of the vote. Among other things, Prop 57 expands credit earning opportunities for most people in California prisons and allows people convicted of nonviolent offenses to be eligible for early parole consideration. On July 14, 2017, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) released its draft “Regular Regulations,” which outline how they plan to implement this proposition. While there are many good things in the proposed regulations, such as increased credit opportunities for good behavior and completion of educational and rehabilitative programs, we are concerned that many aspects of the proposed regulations are far too narrow and exclude too many groups of people from opportunities for rehabilitation or early parole consideration. So, Initiate Justice conducted a survey of more than 2,000 incarcerated people to get their input on how they think Prop 57 should be implemented, since these rules will have direct impacts on their lives. Based on those survey results, and in collaboration with Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), developed the following recommendations: 1. Include Third Strikers in the non-violent early parole: The proposed regulations state that any person who is “Condemned, incarcerated for a term of life without the possibility of parole, or incarcerated for a term of life with the possibility of parole” is not eligible for nonviolent early parole consideration under Prop 57. We strongly believe that this population should not be excluded from this opportunity. The language of Prop 57 states: “Any person convicted of a non-violent felony offense and sentenced to state prison shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense” and that “the full term for the primary offense means the longest term of imprisonment imposed by the court for any offense, excluding the imposition of an enhancement, consecutive sentence, or alternative sentence.” Since a Third Strike is considered an alternative sentence under California state law, it is clear that the voters enacted legislation that included Third Strikers in the nonviolent early parole process. 2. Allow all people in prison to earn 50% good time credits: The proposed Prop 57 regulations increase good time credits on a graduated scale, depending on the offense the person was convicted of. People serving time for a violent offense will see an increase from 15% to 20% good time credit; people serving time for a serious offense under the Three Strikes Law will see an increase from 20% to 33.3%; and people currently serving time for a non-serious or nonviolent offense will see an increase from 33.3% to 50%. We believe that the incentive for good conduct should be uniform across the board, by equally rewarding all people who remain disciplinary-free, regardless of their conviction. The length of one’s sentence already reflects the severity of the offense, so we do not believe it is necessary to further punish people by limiting their access to good time credits as well. 3. Make all good time credit earning retroactive: The proposed Prop 57 regulations state that good time credits will be prospective beginning May 1, 2017. We believe this is unjust and fails to recognize the many incarcerated people who have remained disciplinary-free for years without increased incentives. This recommendation is consistent with criminologist James Austin’s 2013 declaration in response to the Three Judge Panel order to reduce CDCR’s population. Here, Austin recommended that all credit earning be retroactive and found that this recommendation could be “implemented without having an impact on public safety or the operation of the state or local criminal justice systems. In fact, they would provide large cost savings that could be used to offset any local criminal justice costs and increase the level of effective programs at the state and local levels.” 4. Award retroactive Education Merit Credits for each achievement: Award 6-month credit for every vocation, college degree, and G.E.D. obtained by people in prison. Imprisoned people should be able to get at least 6 months off per year per academic and vocational achievement retrospectively since many have completed multiple associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and certification programs. Educational advancement has been shown to be one of the top factors in reducing the recidivism rate and should be treated with as much importance while further incentivizing people to enroll in academic and vocational programs. 5. Allow people with a Youth Offender / Elderly Parole Date to earn time off their earliest parole date: The expanded Good Time and Milestone credits made possible should apply to these Youth Offender Parole or Elder Parole Hearing dates, not their original sentence. SB 260 and SB 261 were passed by the Legislature recognizing that many young people were victims of extreme sentencing; therefore, credit earning opportunities made possible by Prop 57 should be applied to their amended hearing dates in order to ensure that participation in rehabilitative programming and remaining disciplinary-free are adequately incentivized. Additionally, Elder Parole is a program that seeks to meet the court deadline to reduce the prison population. Every incarcerated person who wrote to us expressed deep willingness to embrace their rehabilitation—if given the opportunity to do so. The opportunities presented to people inside will help set them up for success once they are released, and this will ultimately create safer communities for all. Therefore, we request CDCR incorporate these recommendations in drafting the Prop 57 regulations.
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  • Tell Gov. Cuomo: Return Racist Donor's Money
    "The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman,” Malcolm X once stated. Fifty-five years later, women leaders of color are still under attack, from Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Senator Kamala Harris, to the racism and Islamophobia launched at the women of color that co-chaired the Women’s March. As a Black Muslim woman, mother of 7 daughters and 2 granddaughters, I will not sit idly by and allow attacks on Black and Brown women to continue. And now a hedge fund billionaire has accused the highest ranking African American elected official — the highest-ranking African-American woman to hold elected office in the history of New York State — of being worse than the Ku Klux Klan. As reported in the New York Times on August 10, Dan Loeb, one of the wealthiest men in America, launched a viciously racist attack against New York State Democratic Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, saying she has done “more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.” Loeb is a hedge fund billionaire who has contributed over $170,000 to Governor Cuomo’s campaign accounts, according to The New York Times, and this does not even include pass-through donations from political action committees. This attack on Senator Stewart-Cousins is nothing new for him. From public education to the economy, Loeb has repeatedly used his wealth to promote an agenda that has devastated communities of color and working families. Governor Andrew Cuomo positioning himself to run for President in 2020. If Cuomo wants us to believe he has what it takes to challenge Donald Trump and his racist worldview, he needs to have the political courage to break ranks with Loeb now! If he wants have Democratic Party support, he needs to stand with the most important and dedicated bloc of Dem voters: Black women! There is no place for Cuomo’s alliance with Dan Loeb in American politics. From the State House to the White House, from Main Street to Wall Street, NO MORE! Join me in demanding that Governor Cuomo immediately break all ties with Loeb, and refund every dollar he has ever received from Loeb and from political action committees that Loeb finances.
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  • Kick Racist Cops Out of Our Community! Tell MPD To Fire Officer Vincent Altiere!
    On June 2, 5, and 13, 2017, Officer Vincent Altiere, Badge #4440, of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department, was seen in the DC community and at the DC Superior Court (where he was present to testify in a criminal case), wearing an offensive, racist, and threatening shirt. The shirt displays symbols of police harassment, hate, and death while prominently displaying the symbols and emblems of the Metropolitan Police Department. We're asking that you join us, together we can voice our extreme concern about this offensive shirt and demand that Mayor Bowser's administration, Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Police Complaints take immediate disciplinary action against Officer Altiere and any other Officers who have worn this or similar shirts. Our effort is already having an effect, the Metropolitan Police Department has already stated that they're taking Officer Altiere off the street for the time being. We are also demanding that officials take proactive measures to address a department culture that allowed this type of misconduct to go unchecked. The shirt displays a “sun cross,” replacing the letter “O” of “PowerShift” with a notorious white supremacist symbol adopted by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist hate groups. Immediately below is the image of the Grim Reaper, a personification of death in the form of a hooded skeleton, holding an assault rifle and a Metropolitan Police Department badge. Below, the shirt reads “Let me see that waistband jo,” referring to “jump outs” and the routine practice of demanding to see the waistbands of individuals, who are disproportionately young Black and Brown men, often for no legitimate reason. Given the prominent placement of MPD logos and a badge number, the shirt does not appear to be attributed to Officer Altiere alone, but instead, appears to have been designed for a group of officers associated with the MPD Seventh District. Ninety-five percent of the residents in MPD’s Seventh District are black and too many Seventh District residents have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of the police. It is time for the leadership of this city to acknowledge and address the systemic violation of rights, and threat of violence to Black people here in Washington D.C. White supremacy and insinuated threats of death should never be associated with or tolerated in police departments who are sworn to protect and serve. Such ideologies are dangerous and demonstrate a blatant disregard for Black and Brown life. They are at the root of rampant police abuse and result in the unconstitutional terrorizing of Black and Brown communities and the callous murder of Black and Brown men and women at the hands of the police, both in Washington, DC and across the country. On behalf of a number of community organizations and community members, Law4BlackLives-DC has formally filed complaints with both the Internal Affairs Division of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Police Complaints regarding this shirt and the message it propagates. The shirt stands alone as an affront to the community. It also embraces ongoing patterns of constitutional violations and constitutes a blatant disregard of MPD’s own general orders, including MPD General Orders 110.11, 201.26, 304.10, and 304.15. We are also asking concerned community members to let Mayor Bowser know that she must step in to check this culture for the people of Washington D.C. Such Officers are a threat to public safety and erode public trust in the police. Inaction by the Metropolitan Police Department, Office of Police Complaints, and the Mayor's office would be an endorsement of this shirt’s hateful message and an acceptance of a policing culture infected by racism and violence. We're going to keep pushing until we win substantive change, we won't rest until he is fired and everyone who has taken part in this disgraceful conduct is gone. Thank you, Law4BlackLives-DC
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  • School District of Philadelphia Ban Suspensions of Our Earliest Learners
    According to Pennsylvania’s most recent Safe Schools Report, the District suspended 615 Kindergarteners, 1081 first graders, 1779 second graders, 2192 third graders, 2295 fourth graders, and 2260 fifth graders during the 2015-16 school year. Worse, the District disproportionately suspends Black students, even though Black students are not more prone to misbehavior. According to the most recent Civil Rights Data Collection (“CRDC”) published by the U.S. Department of Education, Black students (male and female) in the District are 2.65 times more likely to be suspended at all, and 3.08 times more likely to be suspended multiple times, than their white peers. Last year, the School Reform Commission agreed to stop pushing our youngest learners out of the classroom by banning the suspension of Kindergarten students. Although there has been a dramatic reduction in the suspension of Kindergarten students, problems remain. The District continues to suspend Kindergarten students despite their own discipline policy, and has refused to extend the ban to other early learners. It is evident that this disproportionately affects households that live close to or below the federal poverty rate. Parents in these cases, often employed in low wage hourly positions subject to poor scheduling, non existent sick and personal leave policies, and little to no benefits, forfeit the family's income to care for their child. This creates economic instability and injustice for working parents who are attempting to provide for their families and build wealth, and therefore a cycle of disadvantaging the poor.
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  • #EndWarOnYouth: Justice for Woodland Hills Students
    On Monday, April 3, 2017, Que'Chawn Wade, 14, was violently assaulted by Churchill police officer Steve Shaulis at Woodland Hills High School. Officer Shaulis publicly used derogatory slurs, put him in a chokehold, body slammed, and repeatedly punched Que'Chawn in the head, causing him to lose two teeth and sustain bruises and multiple lacerations to his face and neck. Instead of firing, arresting, and charging police officer Shaulis, the Churchill Police Department arrested and charged Que'Chawn. The Woodland Hills School District is notorious for police violence, child abuse, and for the criminalization of Black youth. In November of 2016, a student released a tape of Principal of Woodland Hills High School Kevin Murray threatening to punch him in the face. Principal Murray was allowed to return to the school as Principal in January 2017, just a few months before Que’Chawn was assaulted under his watch. But the student who taped the principal faces wiretapping charges. In 2015, a student was brutally assaulted and tased by Officer Shaulis while being held down by Principal Murray. We are clear that there is a war on Black youth. From the #AssaultAtSpringValley to the #AssaultAtWoodlandHills, school police, and the schools’ and districts’ compliance, reign terror on Black students. Without any justice for Que'Chawn, the Woodland School District, Allegheny County, and the state of Pennsylvania are sending a message to children and families, that we are disposable. Our families know police do not belong in schools. Hold police officer Steve Shaulis and Principal Kevin Murray accountable. End the war on youth.
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  • Free The Children of Kiarre Harris
    In November of 2016, Kiarre Harris, an African-American single mother, chose to homeschool her children and remove them from a failing school in Buffalo, New York. Ms. Harris properly withdrew her children from the public school and fully complied with NYS regulations regarding homeschooling. The Buffalo Public Schools District notified Child Protective Services that the children were not attending school. Without the knowledge or notice to Ms. Harris, Child Protective Services secured a removal order from a Family Court Judge---based on educational neglect. When police first notified Ms. Harris of the removal order (which they did not provide a copy of), Ms. Harris refused to turn her children over to the police. She was arrested for obstruction. Two days later, on January 18, 2017 the children of Ms. Harris were taken away from her and placed into foster care. An ongoing Family Court has now been triggered and Ms. Harris has been granted only limited supervised visitation of her two children. This entire incident began with Ms. Harris' decision to homeschool her children and the Buffalo School District calling Child Protective Services with baseless allegations of educational neglect. Jailing a mother who has complied with the law; taking her children away, and subjecting the family to ongoing legal proceedings can not be allowed to happen. This sends a chilling message to parents who choose to fight for the betterment of their children's education. We need to make it clear: the policies and practices of the Erie County unit of Child Protective Services are racially discriminatory and adversely impact parents of poor and minority children. Kiarre Harris should be admired for doing all in her power to make sure her children have the best education possible. #KiarraHarris #HandsOffHarrisChildren
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  • Protect HBCUs from Biased Policing & Surveillance
    The president of Shaw University has requested a police substation right on the campus of an HBCU under the guise of "public safety." This sets a dangerous precedent for schools, HBCUs, public or private, in Raleigh and beyond. Raleigh Police Department (RPD) disproportionately stop, search, and arrest youth of color for minor infractions. • National studies show that black and white populations use marijuana at about the same rates; yet in Wake County where RPD is the largest law-enforcement agency, black people represent 67% of low-level marijuana arrests but only 21% of the population. • From 2010-2015, black drivers were 2.7 times more likely to be searched by police following a traffic stop but 10% less likely to have contraband. • From 2002-2013, black men under age of 30 were searched at a rate of about 7%, whereas white men were searched at a rate of 4%. As men of color age, the likelihood of being searched significantly decreases. Increased presence of police on campus will not make students safer or improve-police community relations but increase tensions and once again create a pipeline to the criminal justice system. "The university should spend less time trying to monitor student behavior and more time investing in the school," said James Crawford a Shaw Junior from Fayetteville quoted in a January 22nd article of the News & Observer. What Raleigh needs is increased investment in black futures: education, counselors, mental health services, jobs programs, affordable housing, and beyond. For black youth, more interactions with police doesn't mean increased public safety.
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  • Justice for Oakland Students: Hire Local, Long-term Superintendent
    Please join us in this effort by: 1) Signing this petition and 2) Sharing this link with the hashtags: #newoaklandsuperintendent #justice4oaklandstudents #J4OS The revolving door of Superintendents in OUSD has resulted in the majority of African American, Latino and other under-served students failing to get the supports they need to thrive. We can’t afford more of the same – we need a new kind of Superintendent (non-Broad trained) who will turn this district around so all of our students graduate college and career ready. It is critical our next leader has the courage to take a stand against the anti-Black, anti-immigrant political climate fostered in by Trump and “the Right”. We need a leader who will work to end the criminalization and displacement of low-income, working class youth of color and their families in Oakland. We need a leader who understands that power, resources, support and decision-making – when put in the hands of those most impacted at the school sites – results in better outcomes for students. Our Board of Education needs to know our community is stepping forward to hold them accountable for: 1) Engaging the community in the hiring process: Establish a Board committee with the responsibility to engage all stakeholders (students, parents/families, educators) in defining Superintendent hiring criteria and in the interview process. 2) Selecting a new permanent Superintendent who: • Will bring a vision and system-wide plan for real results for African-American, Latino, and all High-Need students, based on the priorities set by students and families. • Will ensure budget equity by prioritizing direct funding to schools, not in high salaries in Central office. • Is committed to principles of: social justice, meaningful engagement of students and parents, and democratic decision-making and shared governance. • Will end the proliferation of charter schools, provide more oversight of existing charter schools and reinvest in making all in-district schools excellent. • Believes schools are part of community transformation and will work towards transforming OUSD as a quality full-service community school district. • Will retain and support teachers by: Increasing pay, training and diversity. • Will end criminalization of youth by: Divesting from the school police budget and reinvesting in Restorative Justice and real school safety. • Is local (deeply knows and loves Oakland) and will stay long-term (at least 5 to 10 years). • Has a demonstrated track record of improving student outcomes in OUSD and is able to work effectively with the Oakland Board of Education and all stakeholders. We have an urgent need to get this on everyone’s radar. You can do this by: • Signing this petition to make your voice heard now and get updates • Share this information with others! Repost the infographic and petition to your facebook page • Email and call board members to demand accountability to this vision • Mobilize to Board meetings and community forums – to ensure we get the right leader for our district! The Justice for Oakland Students Coalition: Is a group of deeply concerned students, parents/families, educators, and community organizations - including Oakland Kids First, Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN), Black Organizing Project (BOP), Parents United for Public Education, and other groups – who came together to demand a new Superintendent that will ensure Black, Brown, and all High-Need students in OUSD get the high-quality education they deserve. http://tinyurl.com/hmvb2gk
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  • Oregon: Fund Education not Executions!
    Oregon is spending millions of dollars on a death penalty system disproportionately invoked against Black people. While Black people only make up 2% of Oregon’s population they make up 9% of the population housed on Death Row. While spending millions of dollars to disproportionately imprison Black people, Governor Brown recently announced a state budget which could increase taxes and cuts services to the same communities who face this unfair criminal justice system. Instead of causing further damage to these communities by cutting vital services, Governor Brown should effectively end the use of the death penalty, save Oregon millions of dollars, and end an unjust practice that disproportionately targets the Black community.
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  • We Demand A New Vision for Criminal Justice in Champaign County
    For five years Build Programs, Not Jails has fought against jail building in our county. It is time for social and racial justice. Our county jail population is 65-70% Black in a county that is 13% Black. Time to end racism, to reduce the jail population and reallocate funding from law enforcement to providing services and creating pathways to success for people in our county.
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  • Tell Ohio Senate: No More Pre-K Suspensions
    I am a parent of two Black children. In schools across America, Black children account for 18 percent of preschool enrollment but almost half (48 percent) of children suspended more than once in a school year. My son was one of these students. My son was expelled from school at age of 5 years old, as a pre-schooler, his very first year of school. From the beginning, children are being taught that they deserve the harsh and punitive treatment that first experience in the classroom and will soon confront in the world. We are here to say that Black children matter. For the first time, the state of Ohio has an opportunity to be a leader in changing these policies by passing HB 410 with amendments that would begin making it possible for parents like me to finally have a say in what happens to their children. Several other states are leading the way in banning the suspension and expulsion of students in early grades. From New Jersey to Oregon, states have eliminated suspensions for pre-schoolers and students up to 5th grade. We know that even this is not enough to mitigating the negative impact on children as young as 4 years old. In addition to Amendment 2629 to end pre-school suspensions, we support provisions in HB 410 that prohibit the use of suspensions and expulsions for truancy as well as the following: Amendment 2630 – Tiered discipline: Students should not be suspended for issues that could be easily resolved with a phone call home. Amendment 2639 – Make up work: It goes without saying that suspensions cause students to get behind on work. Education is a human right. No students should be denied classroom instruction because of racist disciplinary policies. Amendment 2605X4 – Tolling of suspensions during the summer: Students who were suspended at the end of the school year should be able to start the new school year with a fresh start. Rather than applying remaining days suspended to the new school year, students will be allowed to participate in community service over the summer instead. We urge you to include language in this amendment stating that participation in any community service or alternative consequence will not require families to incur additional costs, such as transportation costs. The same year my child was suspended, Kylen English, a 20-year-old lost his life while in custody of Dayton police. He was handcuffed in the back of a police car the last time he was seen alive. Within a few months, we started Racial Justice NOW! because we knew that unless we built real political power for Black students and families to change the written and unwritten rules, our lives would continue to be at stake. It will be 5 years this November that I co-founded and became Executive Director of Racial Justice NOW! I also serve as Co-Chair of the Dignity In Schools Campaign, a coalition of over 100 organizations from 27 states dedicated to dismantling the school to prison pipeline. And while we have made strides towards dismantling the school to prison pipeline, the rate at which change is happening is killing our children. My hope is that in this political moment, even more people will join the fight to fight for the futures of Black children. The fight for Black children is the fight for the future.
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    Created by Zakiya Sankara-Jabar
  • Education Justice is Racial Justice
    The United States promises our children equal access to a free public elementary and high school education. But too many Black and Brown children have been denied schools good enough to make this promise meaningful. Instead of honestly acknowledging the root causes of struggling schools and investing in real equity in public education, today’s policymakers and deep-pocketed corporate education “reformers” offer misguided strategies that fail to address the central problem: a failure to invest in Black, Brown and poor children, the educators who teach them and the communities in which they live. This is a crisis in values, in what we believe and who we believe in. It is a crisis of civil rights — and of human rights.
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    Created by Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) Picture