John Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement whose bloody beating by Alabama state troopers in 1965 helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, and who went on to a long and celebrated career in Congress, died.
He was 80.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Lewis’ passing late Friday night, calling him “one of the greatest heroes of American history.”
“All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing,” Pelosi said. “May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make good trouble, necessary trouble.”
In a speech the day of the House impeachment vote of Trump, Lewis explained the importance of that vote.
“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us what did you do? what did you say?” While the vote would be hard for some, he said…
“We have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”
There are many ways to come to prison.
You could have been raised in a segregated high-rise ghetto, removed from mainstream society and cut off from participation in the legal economy. Or you could just have been born black.
If you inhabit a black body, you’re nearly six times more likely than whites to be imprisoned, and if you reside in a brown body, you’re three times more likely to be imprisoned.
Covid-19 came to Stateville, undetected, in the bodies of the prison guards who have direct custody of us.
Prisons are long-term care facilities, but without the actual care. Just over four decades ago, Illinois fell in line behind a national trend to abandon the goal of rehabilitation in favor of punitive sentencing practices.
These practices lay the foundation of today’s overcrowded prisons that have not spared the elderly prisoner population bearing the brunt of Covid-19.
Our group is supporting a bill in the Illinois legislature, SB3233: Earned Discretionary Release.
Raul Dorado Is An Incarcerated Writer & Co-Founder Of Parole Illinois
New research found nearly one in six cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and Illinois can be connected to people moving through the Cook County Jail.
At one point dubbed the “largest-known source” of coronavirus cases in the U.S.
According to a new study published in the journal Health Affairs, cycling through Cook County Jail is associated with 15.7% of all documented cases of the virus in Illinois and 15.9% in Chicago through mid-April.
“As the pandemic began, I realized this was going to be a huge driver,” said Eric Reinhart, a University of Chicago researcher who co-authored the report.
“The jail cycle – arresting people, cycling through the jail and back into their communities – was going to be a huge driver of COVID-19 spreading to communities.”
A coalition of 50 local and national criminal justice reform organizations, led by the Chicago 400 Alliance, is calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to ease conviction-based housing restrictions for the duration of the pandemic.
The move would allow people who have completed their sentences to finally leave prison.
“We’ve been working on this issue for years,” said alliance coordinator Laurie Jo Reynolds, “but now it’s a matter of life and death.”
Criminal justice reform organizations are calling on Gov. Pritzker to ease conviction-based housing restrictions so hundreds of people can finally be released.
She is hoping the governor will issue an executive order.
When the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic in March, the world went into frenzies and lockdowns.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 began to ravage through California’s San Quentin State Prison.
Then in May, San Quentin Mixtapes, Vol. 1 dropped: a 17-track album that was written, recorded and produced within the prison’s walls.
David Jassy is at the heart of the Youthful Offender Program Mixtape Project. In 2010, the Grammy-nominated producer was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced 15 years to life.
Jassy kept music with him as much as he could throughout transfers between prisons. Once he got his hands on a keyboard in San Quentin, he started making beats.
His music was contagious there.
“Regardless of what set or gang they belong to, I just seen how fascinated they were about music and how they all lit up,” Jassy said. “People started smiling. If they heard somebody that was a dope rapper, they just all started smiling and nodding along and encouraging each other. And, it was different. I just knew this was a different energy from everything else that was going on in prison.”
The intersection of a pandemic and a public uprising to address police brutality has created a unique moment in history—and a distinct moment for prison abolitionists.
Two arguments now entering the mainstream—that incarceration is an urgent public health crisis and that policing takes needed resources from communities—have long been argued by abolitionist organizers.
“Abolition is about fighting the prison industrial complex as a whole, because these violent systems are interlocking and feed off each other,” explained Mohamed Shehk, national media and communications director for the abolitionist organization Critical Resistance.
Every year people die in the custody of Illinois Department of Corrections, the vast majority due in part to overincarceration.
COVID-19 is highlighting this fact because it is attacking the elderly and infirm, many of whom have spent decades enduring harsh prison conditions. They die lonely deaths for no other reason than incarceration politics, and in a vain attempt to satiate the insatiable appetite some people have for revenge.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and others have recently voiced support for early releases of “non-violent offenders,” and insinuate that this shows they still consider public safety as the main priority. Not only is this insufficient to address mass incarceration, but if public safety is the main priority, then they should have no problem releasing “violent offenders.”
That’s because people convicted of violent offenses have lower recidivism rates and even a lower likelihood of committing violence if released.
The thousands of people currently serving long sentences are doing so due to racism, fear-mongering, dehumanization, political exploitation, and the false promise that harsher sentences are needed to deter crime.
Joseph Dole Is An Incarcerated Writer, Co-Founder & Policy Director Of Parole Illinois
The recent deaths of Black people either in police custody or due to police officers have led to international outcry.
The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor evoke memories of the mysterious death of a 28-year-old Black woman who died in a Texas jail five years ago Monday.
Sandra Bland, who died on July 13, 2015, was one of many who sparked the early Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to find justice in cases of Black people killed or who died in police custody.
Bland was found dead on that day in a Waller County Jail.
In 1963 in Americus, Georgia, 15 girls were jailed in a one room stockade with no running water for 45 days for their roles in Civil Rights Movement.
Ages 12 to 15, these girls had marched from Friendship Baptist Church to the Martin Theater on Forsyth Street. Instead of forming a line to enter from the back alley as was customary, the marchers attempted to purchase tickets at the front entrance.
Law enforcement soon arrived and viciously attacked and arrested the girls.
Never formally charged, they were jailed in squalid conditions for forty-five days in the Leesburg Stockade, a Civil War era structure situated in the back woods of Leesburg, Georgia.
Only 20 miles away, parents had no knowledge of where authorities were holding their children. Nor were parents aware of their inhumane treatment.
After they were released, the women didn’t speak of their ordeal for over 50 years.
California will release up to 8,000 people from state prisons to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Officials on Friday announced three separate efforts, approved by the governor, Gavin Newsom, that they say will decrease the prison population by 8,ooo by the end of August.
The measures mark the largest release efforts the state administration has taken since Covid-19 began to circulate among prison staff and incarcerated people.
“We are in the middle of a humanitarian crisis that was created and wholly avoidable,” said the California assembly member Rob Bonta at a press conference in front of San Quentin state prison.
“We need to act with urgency fueled by compassion,” he added. “We missed the opportunity to prevent, so now we have to make things right.”