• ACT NOW! WE WANT DECARCERATION OF OUR MEN AND WOMEN IN PRISON DUE TO COVID-19
    State Vs Us Magazine PO Box 29291 Baltimore, MD 21213 Attention Governors, LT Governors, Wardens, and Assistant Wardens: As you are well aware this pandemic has impacted so many lives worldwide. It is very well understood that those individuals who are incarcerated are there as a result of some crime they have committed or maybe didn’t commit either way they’re human. As a result of this virus causing a detrimental global impact incarcerated individuals who can’t practice social distancing in their already controlled environment are most susceptible. COVID-19 has directly and indirectly impacted our community and that includes incarcerated individuals and juveniles. There is no reason to act like these men, women, and children aren’t human as animals are treated better. COVID-19 should not be a death sentence for those accused of a crime nor those found guilty of a crime. The Governor has a moral obligation to ensure the safety of all humans within their state - that includes those incarcerated. As people, as humans, as children, and as adults we all have broken a law, did something wrong and some of us have been able to never see handcuffs or even a prison cell. America has proved over and over how judgment on others continues to be a plague on our community. At some point, our human must kick in and we must ask ourselves when will we act accordingly and think of others at doing right by them. Whether we are in the same tax bracket or not WE are a community. Our children are being taken from the comfort of their homes due to poverty in the middle of a pandemic. How fair is that? Children are being trafficked through the system and parents are hysterical. We ask you what if this were your child, place yourself in their shoes. The relationship between Slavery and families being separated by systems is no accident. Treating animals in the zoo better than families of color is disgusting - color does not remove our humanity - How will you sleep at night when this pandemic is over and nearly every incarcerated person is deceased - Knowing you had the power to change their outcomes and give them a chance to live. This letter serves as an effort to make our communities safer and save those lives who can’t save their own. Here is a list of demands for you to act on ASAP. This has to happen and has to happen now. History has proven that black America is 13% black and the prison population is 34% black. We are the most affected and this is your chance to correct an over 400 years long wrong. I challenge you to adhere to what is necessary and needed to not only improve families’ relationships but communities. *Better living conditions for our incarcerated individuals *Free phone calls and emails home to families *Return children who were separated from their family for reasons related to neglect *Children whose parents have been visiting with them and seeking their return *Children who the family court system has a goal of return to parent *Release all people in jail who are incarcerated on pre-trial and bondable offenses *Release all people who have a year or less *Release disable, sickly, and elderly individuals *Release non-violent offenses *Create emergency housing for returning citizens *We demand full compliance with all of the clauses of the eighth amendment cruel and unusual punishment clauses of the constitution. *We demand full compliance with the CARES ACT and immediate home confinement placement of those individuals who meet the requirements. With all love and prayer that you understand where I’m coming from as you will do the right thing. Tia Hamilton CEO, State Vs Us Magazine
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  • #Decarcerate NE: Prevent a COVID-19 Outbreak in Nebraska Jails & Prisons
    Incarcerated and detained Nebraskans are facing a high risk for a COVID-19 outbreak. Not only are these facilities operating above 150% capacity, but people live in unsanitary spaces. It is not a question of if COVID-19 will enter these facilities, but when. “It doesn’t matter what crime you committed. This pandemic is affecting everyone,” Dominique Morgan, Executive Director of Black and Pink explains, “If you were selling a little bit of dope, it shouldn’t be a death sentence. But that’s what COVID-19 is. These people inside can’t choose to social distance. They can’t say, ‘No, you can’t touch my body and shake me down.’ They don’t get to decide who comes into their institutions. They have no autonomy over their body. Imagine going through this pandemic and the fear we have as a community. Now imagine having no power. Being Black. Being trans. You have to have empathy at this time.” Pain and violence are a virus themselves. Not only do they spread without urgent corrective action, but punishment replicates pain and violence. We have space for meeting people where they are at and for healing at home in our communities. We see them everyday. Maybe we give a smile or a nod. Put people in cages, isolated and separated from communities, and we lose their humanity. We forget they too are worthy of respect and love and life. They too have inherent value. We recognize their value. That’s why Black and Pink, along with 13 other Nebraska community organizations, joined in solidarity to demand clear and specific actions for Governor Ricketts and NDCS Director Frakes to immediately implement and reduce the impact of COVID-19 including: 1. Reducing the dangerous overcrowding conditions in NDCS facilities, including the immediate release of individuals at high risk of contracting COVID-19 2. Issuing a publicly accessible Crisis Management Plan, including accountability measures for handling an outbreak 3. Prioritizing the health and safety of currently incarcerated individuals by ensuring appropriate access to medication, prohibiting use of punitive processes, and prioritizing COVID-19 treatment at hospital settings NOT facility medical units/infirmaries. The full text of the letter can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1J0sAfQIF57WJwJ5gHw__855VSa_X0uJ9/view?usp=sharing Join us in demanding that state officials release their COVID-19 emergency response plan and share how they plan to protect the health of incarcerated Nebraskans during this health crisis! #DecarcerateNE #HealthNotHell HELP US AMPLIFY: Share this petition on Twitter (copy text): Join me and sign this petition to demand that @GovRicketts and @necorrections Director Frakes release their COVID-19 emergency response plan and take immediate action to protect incarcerated people! #DecarcerateNE #HealthNotHell https://bit.ly/2Uy7TA4 Share this petition on Facebook (copy text): I refuse to wait silently while state officials endanger the health and lives of incarcerated Nebraskans. Join me today and sign this petition to demand that Governor Ricketts and NDCS Director Frakes release their COVID-19 emergency response plan and take immediate action to protect incarcerated people! #DecarcerateNE #HealthNotHell https://bit.ly/2Uy7TA4
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  • Kym Worthy-COVID-19 Demands
    The decarceral guidelines below are designed to prevent three things: social spreading, jail “churn,” and the deaths of vulnerable people. Social Spreading In order to prevent the rapid growth of COVID-19 from overburdening our health-care system and claiming lives, both those in secure facilities and the people who work in them, it is the responsibility of decision-makers at every level to prevent and contain the spread of the virus by taking action to promote the most effective strategy in abating the pandemic: social distancing in order to slow “community spread.” The Particular Issue of Jail and Prison “Churn” Jails and Prisons combine the worst aspects of a cruise ship and a large public gathering and, thus, can be the perfect breeding ground for the spread of COVID-19. People are constantly booked into and out of jail and prison facilities and each night guards, vendors, and other jail staff are going home while others are coming in- which results in a massive turnover. For example, more than half of the people in jail are only in there for two to three days. Further, enclosed structures like jails can cause COVID-19 to spread like wildfire and introducing just one person with it can lead to it impacting not just everyone inside the jail or prison but anyone leaving the facility—whether a person who is released or staff returning back to their homes— who then interact with their communities. Preventive Measures Cannot Be Taken in Jails and Prisons. Experts recommend that to protect the people most vulnerable from death or serious illness from COVID-19 that they are appropriately separated through social distancing. Yet separating sick people from well people to prevent the disease from spreading can be nearly impossible in prison due to logistical considerations.
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  • Michigan Covid-19 Statewide Immediate Release of Vulnerable incarcerated People
    Covid-19 presents a threat to human life. We believe all human life is valuable, and are ensuring that those most at risk, like incarcerated individuals, are being granted the relief necessary to protect themselves and their families. The particularly vulnerable incarcerated community members and those currently being impacted by the system need support in this moment and not continued trauma. Action is crucially important now to avoid public health mishaps like the scabies outbreak at Huron Valley Prison in 2019. Now more than ever, we need transformative criminal justice action to limit the damage that the system can do during the pandemic outbreak.
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  • COVID-19: Los Angeles Must Immediately Release People from the County Jails!
    We are not alone in recognizing this crisis of criminalization and incarceration here in Los Angeles and how COVID19 will exacerbate that crisis. Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the recommendations outlined in the Alternatives to Incarceration Working Group’s historic and unprecedented report, “Care First, Jails Last: Health and Racial Justice Strategies for Safer Communities.” Shortly thereafter, Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas published a letter outlining his concerns about COVID19’s spreads to the LA jails and calling for a reduction in jail bookings, early release, plans for quarantine and treatment, concerted efforts to reduce virus transmission and a plan for expected staffing shortages. We are also not alone in calling for significant and timely steps towards decarceration. On Saturday, March 14, Judges from the Cleveland, Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Court announced their intention to seek the release of hundreds of people incarcerated in their county jails. Like us, these judges recognize that jails pose threats to our larger community and the incarcerated people themselves. On Tuesday, March 17, the New York City Board of Corrections, the independent oversight Board for the city’s jail system, issued a call for incarcerated people at high risk to be immediately released and for the overall jail population to be rapidly and drastically reduced. Also on Tuesday, March 17, thirty one elected prosecutors from around the country, but not from Los Angeles, published a letter advocating that counties “implement concrete steps in the near-term to dramatically reduce the number of incarcerated individuals” to prevent the potentially “catastrophic” spread of COVID19. We also join epidemiologists in warning that it is not a matter of if COVID19 enters your facility -- but when. For these reasons, we demand that you, as correctional health care leaders, do your part. We ask that you: 1) Prepare a list of your incarcerated patients who are most medically vulnerable and who require immediate release. We demand that you prepare that list within one week, notify the public that the list has been made available to correctional authorities, the courts and city/state leaders, and advocate for their early release with linkages to housing and healthcare services. 2) Use the legal authority granted to you to declare COVDI19 a liable danger to those currently held in the county jails and advocate for their immediate release to safe and meaningful housing. 3) Identify, coordinate and provide the services incarcerated people need upon their release (e.g. HIV care for those who are HIV+, substance use treatment centers for those with substance use disorders, homes and shelters for those who are houseless, etc) to ensure their ongoing protection from this epidemic. The County should use the recently approved recommendations from the Alternatives to Incarceration Working Group to build infrastructure that addresses and also outlives this emergency to achieve our shared goal of reducing the jail population.
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  • Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 by Decarcerating Mecklenburg
    Dear local leaders: As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, we – a coalition of concerned organizations, attorneys, and community members – urge you to undertake all possible measures to prevent the spread of infection in Mecklenburg County’s jails. An outbreak of COVID-19 in the jails would be swift and deadly, and it would overwhelm the county’s hospitals and health system. The next week is crucial to limiting COVID-19’s spread. Now is the time for decisive emergency measures to save lives. COVID-19 poses severe risks whenever people are in close physical proximity with others, regardless of whether an individual has shown symptoms of infection. People in jail are unable to distance themselves from others and take the preventative measures that are necessary to prevent infection and protect the population. Worse, jails are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks because the underlying health conditions that can cause infection or exacerbate harm are very prevalent among incarcerated people. This will make the spread of COVID-19 inside jails fast and lethal, threatening everyone incarcerated in a jail, along with their loved ones, jail staff, and the state’s public health infrastructure at large. The safest way to ensure that the jail does not become a vector for COVID-19’s spread is to cut the jail population and halt new admissions. This is particularly imperative for anyone who a judge has already approved for release pending payment of money bail; anyone detained under an ICE hold; and anyone detained for a Failure to Appear or parole/probation violations. Release is also crucial for those who are elderly or have medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable. In contrast to reducing jail populations, restrictive measures such as segregation and lockdowns will not contain infection. In a county jail, people are incarcerated for a relatively short period of time before returning to the outside community, and every day new people are booked into the facility if law enforcement continue making arrests. Jail staff necessarily come and go everyday as well, returning to their families and communities. This constant turnover will compromise any effort to contain COVID-19, especially since people may be infected and contagious but not show symptoms. Restrictive measures inside could also discourage incarcerated people from reporting symptoms or seeking care, which will multiply infection. Reducing the jail population is consistent with the county sheriff’s obligation to safely manage county jail populations and the guidance of correctional experts. Dr. Marc Stern, who served as Health Services Director for Washington State’s Department of Corrections, recently urged: “With a smaller population, prisons, jails, and detention centers can help diseases spread less quickly by allowing people to better maintain social distance.” Dr. Stern also explained that reducing the jail population will ease staffing burdens: “If staff cannot come to work because they are infected, a smaller population poses less of a security risk for remaining staff.” Jurisdictions across the country have already started taking the important public health measure of reducing their jail population. The Bail Project has worked to provide free bail assistance to people detained pretrial in the Mecklenburg County Jail. Since its tenure in Charlotte began in August 2019, the organization has posted bail for over 200 people, of which more than 90% then returned to court without any need for detention, even though their bail amount would otherwise have kept them incarcerated. We know from this experience that reducing the jail population to protect public health will be safe, lawful, and just. Every time the county introduces another person to the jail environment, there is a risk of worsening the spread of COVID-19 among the incarcerated population, jail staff, and the broader community. We urge you to undertake all possible avenues for limiting that peril and preventing deaths across the community. Signed, The ACLU of NC Global Missions of the A.M.E. Zion Church The Bail Project Beauty After the Bars Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN Charlotte) Project BOLT Charlotte Uprising Comunidad Colectiva Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office Poor No More Racial Justice Engagement Group of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte Southeast Asian Coalition Court Support Services Team TRU BLUE
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  • Support Parole and Compassionate Release for Dr. Mutulu Shakur
    Dr. Shakur is recognized as a leading member of the movement for human rights for African Americans. He has spent over three decades behind bars because of his political beliefs and the actions motivated by those beliefs. He is also recognized as a Doctor of Acupuncture who pioneered the use of acupuncture for drug addiction. Acupuncturists all over the United States and Canada are still utilizing his work to this day. Mutulu's convictions come out of a complex and turbulent moment in American history, when civil unrest fractured our country into pieces. They arise from his commitment to the social justice movement for Black liberation, originating in the 1960's. He was targeted and victimized by the FBI's now-infamous Counter- Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) as early as 1968. He was convicted of RICO conspiracy and connection to the 1981 Brinks Robbery, and the earlier prison escape of Assata Shakur. Dr. Shakur has taken full responsibility for his life and his actions. Dr. Shakur has received a diagnosis of life-threatening advanced bone marrow cancer. He had already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and glaucoma. In 2013, he suffered from a stroke that required several months for recovery. In 2019 he experienced increasing pain; after months of medical neglect, advanced bone marrow cancer was diagnosed. Now Mutulu is suffering from extensive painful bone lesions, caused by the growth of the bone marrow cancer in parts of his spine, ribs and pelvis. The cancer has also destroyed a large area of bone around his right 7th rib, replacing bone with cancer cells, creating a propensity to break. Dr. Shakur is 69 years old, and aging in prison after 34 years of incarceration. He needs treatment and recovery in humane conditions immediately. We fear for his survival and his life.
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  • Josh Shapiro: Stop Condemning Rehabilitated People to Die in Prison at The Board of Pardons
    Attorney General Josh Shapiro is one of five members of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and is the main road block to freedom for rehabilitated people who are trying to come home after decades of incarceration. AG Josh Shapiro has cast himself as a forward-thinking Attorney General who supports innovative approaches to criminal justice and is part of the #resistance to the Trump administration. The Board of Pardons plays a crucial role in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system--allowing people serving life and other long term sentences to be released after they’ve been rehabilitated. Sadly, AG Shapiro has repeatedly blocked the Board from fulfilling this function by being the most frequent ‘no’ vote against rehabilitated people who present no risk to society. Josh Shapiro has voted against people whose prison wardens came to testify for them. He has voted against people who had the support of the victims family. He has voted against people with serious health conditions and little time left to live. Many of the people who Josh Shapiro has voted against are elderly prisoners who languish in prisons at a tremendous cost to society. Many are people who have turned their lives around after many years of incarceration and take part in productive and positive efforts from behind prison walls. Some are members of faith communities. All of them are someone’s child, friend, parent, or beloved family member. AG Josh Shapiro cannot claim the mantle of a forward thinking attorney general and be the main road block to freedom at the Board of Pardons. We call on Mr Shapiro to keep the Board of Pardons functioning as it was designed to by voting in favor of the reformed citizens that the Chair and other members of the Board recognize as worthy of mercy and release. If the Chair of the Board of Pardons, Lieutenant Governor Fetterman, is voting in favor of someone we see no reason why AG Shapiro should be the one to deny them. We call on Josh Shapiro to stop upholding the practice of mass incarceration and support the release of those who have paid their debt to society.
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  • #JusticeForGary
    My son, Gary White, should be at home with his wife and his three little girls right now. Instead, he is serving a 20 year prison sentence after an investigation full of police misconduct that happened under supervising Officer Brian Seyfarth’s watch. On a night in November 2017 on his way to the store, my son, Gary White accidentally hit a white woman, Megan Gunter Smith, who had just run straight into traffic. Multiple witnesses stated they would've hit the woman as well since she ran directly into traffic. Not realizing he hit a person (he thought it was an animal), Gary parked his car in a nearby Walmart parking lot. He went back to the scene, called his family, then stayed at the scene until the police arrived. But once they arrived, Officer Thomas Borum illegally drew Gary’s blood without his consent. He then stored that blood in a police locker for days, a clear mishandling of evidence. Officer Borum’s supervisor, Officer Brian Seyfarth, is running for election as Adams County Sheriff next week and intends to represent the people of Natchez, Mississippi. Yet, he has yet to make a public statement about why he allowed this police misconduct to happen under his supervision. In March of 2019, the courts used the blood that Officer Borum illegally drew from Gary to pile on additional charges, bringing his sentence from 2-3 years to 20 years. Gary is now in jail. His family has had no rights to visit him in county jail for almost 7 months and he was being deprived of water, food and air conditioning in his cell. As of last week, Gary has been moved to the Parchman State Penitentiary. The situation will most likely only get worse in Parchman. This conviction comes on the heels of 2 recent accidents in which black citizens in Natchez were killed by white motorists with no charges and no trial. But when a white woman was killed in an accident that several eyewitnesses have come forward to say wasn't Gary's fault, the punishment was swift, severe, and and completely life-altering. The message that this racial disparity in law enforcement sends is clear: Black people's lives matter less that anyone else's in Natchez, Mississippi. Mississippi has the 3rd highest incarceration rate in the country. Mass incarceration, over-policing and wrongful convictions of Black and brown communities in Mississippi are part of the systemic issues that have led to such a high statistic. We need to demand transparency and accountability in these cases to bring about a fair trial. As Officer Borum's supervisor, Officer Seyfarth failed to live up to his responsibility to ensure that evidence was not mishandled in the pursuit of justice. Let him know that no one who turns a blind eye to racist corruption in his own department is fit to serve in public office. Demand that Officer Brian Seyfarth make a public statement about the mishandling of evidence that happened under his watch immediately!
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  • Police Accountability Monitoring Program & Enforcement Reform (PAMPER)
    COPWATCH AMERICA INCORPORATED HAS A PRIMARY GOAL TO MINIMIZE & ELIMINATE UNJUSTIFIED DEATHS DUE TO ILLEGAL ACTIONS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT IN AMERICA AGAINST CIVILIANS. COPWATCH AMERICA INCORPORATED USES UNITED STATES/STATE LAWS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, CIVILIAN COMPLIANT REVIEW COMMITTEES, POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY MONITORING PROGRAMS, AND OTHER FORMS OF RESOURCES & ACTIONS TO ESTABLISH TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY IN EACH AND EVERY LAW ENFORCEMENT DEPARTMENT/AGENCY IN AMERICA.
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  • Protect Our Privacy! No More Surveillance for People in Michigan!
    The right to privacy and due process under the law belongs to everyone. Residents, technologists, organizers, activists, artists, educators and legislators are learning the implications of police use of facial recognition technologies. Inaccuracies in the technology for darker skin tones, women, and children place many Americans at risk of having their civil and human rights violated. This is a particularly troubling situation for Detroit, where the population is over 80% Black. This would be the largest experiment on Black people in the United States, in modern times. We don't deserve a justice system regulated by faulty algorithms. We don't deserve a justice system that relies on profiling, and we can’t trust a technology that has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted. Facial surveillance technology does not keep us safe, in fact it does the opposite. Please support Senator (R) Peter Lucido's Senate Bill 342 (SB342), co-sponsored by Senator (D) Stephanie Gray Chang. The legislation would prohibit law enforcement officials from obtaining, accessing or using any facial recognition technology, along with any information gathered from such technology. Any information obtained in violation of the law would be inadmissible in court “as if the evidence, arrest warrant, or search warrant was obtained in violation of Amendment IV of the Constitution of the United States and section 11 of Article I of the state constitution of 1963.” In effect, the passage of SB342 would impose a total ban on the use of facial recognition technology by Michigan law enforcement. State Rep (D) Isaac Robinson's House Bill 4810, which would create a five-year moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement. HB 4810 will also prevent the use of facial recognition software to obtain warrants or otherwise enforce the law. The prohibition includes footage obtained from surveillance cameras, unmanned aircraft, body cameras, and street and traffic light cameras. The bill was co-sponsored by state Reps. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) and Jewell Jones(D-Inkster). Recently, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners tabled a vote on the use of facial recognition technology to monitor city neighborhoods but approved the use of traffic cameras with the capacity to use the technology. Detroit Police Chief Craig recently admitted to using the technology under a standard operating procedure, through their Project Green Light Program for over a year. Until recently, there had been no public discourse around DPD's use of facial recognition technology. The Detroit Police Board of Commissioners is expected to approve the use of the technology despite public opposition. Serious concerns exist regarding the use of facial recognition technology as it has been shown to misidentify African-American faces, darker skin tones, women and children. It’s time for Michigan to show the world that we respect, and will protect our right to privacy and due process under the law. Urge your legislators to support SB342 and House Bill 4810 BYP100 - Detroit Chapter Black Out Green Light Coalition Detroit Community Technology Project Detroit Digital Justice Coalition Detroit Coalition for Peace
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  • Layleen Polanco: Enough is Enough Close Rikers NOW, No New Jails
    Dear Mayor Bill de Blasio, Layleen Polanco Xtravaganza, an Afro-Latina trans woman, died in solitary confinement. This PRIDE month I am saying enough. Layleen should not have been arrested by the NYPD. Even before her arrest as part of a predatory NYPD sting operation, she was struggling with homelessness. From there she was routed through every possible "progressive" criminal court and jail reform project: from a sex work "diversion" court to the Transgender Housing Unit in the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers when a warrant was issued for her arrest after she missed a "supportive" service appointment. None of these "progressive" reforms that were designed to save her life worked. Layleen died in a cage on solitary after being criminalized for being trans, for being poor, and for engaging in sex work. Jails kill people. But now you are planning on keeping Rikers open until 2026, when the next mayor can keep the jails open indefinitely, after having spent $11 billion to build four new jails! We could close Rikers now without building a single new cage in NYC if we ended the unjust and dangerous practice of pretrial detention. Then, we could devote $11 billion to communities, not incarceration. The time is now. We must Close Rikers with No New Jails. Mayor De Blasio, we call on you to stop your jail plan and commit to closing Rikers with no new jails. I want $11 billion for Black trans women and all oppressed and criminalized communities, not for jails. Art Credit: Vienna Rye (@vrye)
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