750,000 People You Didn’t Know Could Vote

Renaldo Hudson knew he needed to change his life when he got uninvited from a death row birthday party, for scaring the other inmates.

He laughs ruefully telling the story now.

Mr Hudson committed murder as an abused, drug-addicted teenager, and served 37 years in the Illinois justice system. He walked out a very different man, but considers he was fortunate to emerge at all. And having worked as a peer educator in prison, he’s thought deeply about how to support incarcerated people and preserve their links to the outside world.

Now 56, he has a vocation for 2020: “I want to encourage a million people to vote!”

Why voting? Because it’s a right that hundreds of thousands of people in jail don’t know they have – and that unawareness locks them out of participating in democracy, and shaping their communities.

Mr Hudson is one of scores of activists pushing to prevent the mass disenfranchisement of up to 750,000 people in US jails.

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The Radical Humanness Of Norway’s Halden Prison

To anyone familiar with the American correctional system, Halden seems alien.

Its modern, cheerful and well-­appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere — these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also something more: the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness.

The treatment of inmates at Halden is wholly focused on helping to prepare them for a life after they get out. Not only is there no death penalty in Norway; there are no life sentences. The maximum sentence for most crimes is 21 years.

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Kamala Harris, Prosecutor’s Tale

Harris offered a pair of stories as evidence of the importance of a Black woman’s doing this work. Once, ear hustling, she listened to colleagues discussing ways to prove criminal defendants were gang-affiliated.

If a racial-profiling manual existed, their signals would certainly be included: baggy pants, the place of arrest and the rap music blaring from vehicles.

She said that she’d told her colleagues: “So, you know that neighborhood you were talking about? Well, I got family members and friends who live in that neighborhood. You know the way you were talking about how folks were dressed? Well, that’s actually stylish in my community.”

She continued: “You know that music you were talking about? Well, I got a tape of that music in my car right now.”

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New Pilot Program Will Pair Mental Health Experts With Police

Mayor Lightfoot noted that police cannot be the first and only responders on each call for service. That’s why she said the city will spend $16.5 million on community-based violence reduction efforts, including a new $1.3 million co-responder alternative dispatch pilot program.

Through the program, officers responding to a mental health crisis calls will be joined by a trained mental health professional, community paramedic and crisis intervention-trained officer.

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ACTION STEPS

To move towards the abolition of jails, prisons, and detention centers and to build in their stead just and equitable systems that advance public health and well-being, APHA urges federal, state, tribal, territorial, and municipal governments and agencies to:

  1. Immediately and urgently reduce the number of people incarcerated in jails, prisons, and detention centers, regardless of conviction, especially in light of pressing concerns related to COVID-19 transmission;
  2. Immediately and urgently develop, implement, and support existing community-based programming interventions, including by using emergency funding, to address the medical and social needs of people who have been harmed by the criminal legal system, including those transitioning from incarceration, particularly those being released in response to COVID-19;
  3. Re-allocate funding from the construction of new jails and prisons to the societal determinants of health, including affordable, quality, and accessible housing, healthcare, employment, education, and transportation;
  4. Remove policies and practices that restrict access to stable employment and housing for formerly incarcerated people, including immediately investing in housing for quarantine purposes after release from carceral settings;
  5. Meet patient rights requirements to be in the least restrictive environment for care, by redirecting funding and referrals from jails, prisons, and involuntary and/or court-mandated inpatient psychiatric institutions to inclusive, community-based living and support programs for people with mental illness and substance use disorder;
  6. End the practice of cash bail and pretrial incarceration;
  7. Develop, implement, and support non-carceral measures to ensure accountability, safety, and well-being (e.g., programs based in restorative and transformative justice);
  8. Decriminalize activities shaped by the experience of marginalization, like substance use and possession, houselessness, and sex work;
  9. Restore voting rights for all formerly or currently incarcerated people to ensure their basic democratic right to participate in elections.

Further, APHA urges that Congress, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to:

  1. Fund research on the effectiveness of alternatives to incarceration (e.g. transformative justice);
  2. Fund research on policy determinants of exposure to the carceral system, with a particular focus on policies that disproportionately target marginalized communities;
  3. Put forth a set of recommendations that will decrease the population within carceral settings based on the principles of human rights and health justice.

Lastly, APHA calls on state and local health departments to:

  1. Provide accurate, timely, and publicly available data on incarcerated and released populations at the state and facility-level, as well as COVID-19 testing, positive and resolved cases, and mortality.
  2. Advocate for and support decarceration and defunding of all carceral facilities and systems

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San Quentin Ordered To Reduce Prison Population By 50%

The population of San Quentin state prison has been ordered to be reduced to less than half its capacity by a California appeals court.

The Associated Press reports that the court cited deliberate indifference to the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the prison population in its decision. Unless prison officials successfully appeal the decision, they will have to transfer or parole about half of the roughly 2,900 inmates currently at San Quentin.

In its ruling, the court referred to San Quentin’s coronavirus outbreak as the worst epidemiological disaster in California correctional history.

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Prison Pandemic

5 Prisoners at Champaign County Jail have tested positive for the coronavirus.

This started when 1 of the Prisoners was taken to Carle for a medical procedure and was tested for the virus out of precaution. The rapid test came back positive.

Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman said the jail wasn’t built for a health pandemic, so they are following protocols to prevent an outbreak from occurring in the main faculty.

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Petition For Prison Reform

The tragic death of George Floyd is but one piece of a much larger picture.

We cannot begin to talk about systemic racism without also addressing the epidemic that is mass incarceration throughout America, and, the disproportionate number of black and brown people who occupy the beds within these facilities.

Comprehensive prison reform needs to be an issue that becomes synonymous with police brutality, misconduct, prejudice, and reform.

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Overhaul The Parole System

Prison reform is crucial to ensure Illinoisans of all backgrounds are treated fairly. We must stop monitoring individuals who have served their time and are not a threat to society.

Neither diversion programs or reentry programs are new to the state of Illinois. The challenge for us in Illinois is implementation and bringing these things to scale

Do not subscribe to putting someone in prison as a means to addressing substance abuse.

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More Incarceration Will Not Make Us Safer

Since 2000, the increased use of incarceration accounted for nearly 0% of the overall reduction in crime.

Research consistently shows higher incarceration rates are not associated with lower violent crime rates.

Incarceration rates and neighborhoods with concentrated incarceration, the increased use of incarceration may be associated with increased crime.

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