Pick 6 (3/6/2015)

pick 6

Hello friends. Friday=time for our weekly Pick 6! Our Pick 6 consists of 6 informative, insightful reentry & criminal justice-related news articles and commentaries that we’ve been following throughout the week. We welcome your thoughts and feedback, so don’t be shy! And Happy Women’s History Month, by the way!

1.) 50 years after Bloody Sunday, Voting Rights Are under Attack (The Nation)

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. But even as President Obama and former President George W. Bush travel to Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the marches that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, voting rights are still under attack in 2015. As Ari Berman writes, from 2011 to 2015, 395 new voting restrictions have been introduced in 49 states (Idaho being the lone exception). 25 states have adopted measures making it harder to vote. And due to the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder, the states with the worst histories of voter discrimination (such as Alabama), no longer have to obtain “federal preclearance” before implementing changes to their voting laws or practices. With the anniversary of Bloody Sunday nearing, Berman reports that Congresswoman Terri Sewell of Selma recently told him, “My hope is that . . . people will recommit themselves to restore the teeth back into the Voting Rights Act . . . the biggest tribute that we can give to those [Bloody Sunday marchers] is fully restoring the Voting Rights Act.”

2.) The 12 key highlights from the DOJ’s scathing Ferguson report (Washington Post)

Seven months after Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown, the U.S. Department of Justice has released a report into policing and court practices in Ferguson. DOJ investigators determined that “in nearly every aspect of Ferguson’s law enforcement system,” African Americans are disparately impacted. DOJ’s report details frequent Fourth Amendment violations, stunning racial disparities in police traffic stops and use of force, and a law enforcement system that is shaped by “revenue rather than by public safety needs.” Despite only making up 67% of Ferguson’s population, African Americans accounted for 85% of police stop, 90% of traffic citations, and 93% of arrests from 2012-2014. The DOJ report states that “our investigation has revealed that these disparities occur, at least in part, because of unlawful bias against and stereotypes about African Americans.” You can read the full DOJ report here.

3.) Out of Trouble, but Criminal Records Keep Me Out of Work (New York Times)

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times chronicles the story of Michael Hugh Mirsky, a formerly incarcerated New Jersey resident, whose story is representative of the plight faced by millions of formerly incarcerated Americans. Appelbaum writes that, “The reluctance of employers to hire people with criminal records combined with laws that place broad categories of jobs off-limits, is not just a frustration for men [and women] like Mr. Mirsky; it is also taking a toll on the broader economy. It is preventing millions of American men from becoming, in that old phrase, productive members of society.”

4.) WH Task Force: All police shootings should be independently review (Washington Post)

A report by a White House Task Force charged with investigating and probing the strained and deteriorated relationship between police and the communities that they ostensibly protect was delivered to President Obama on Monday. The report calls for independent review of all police shootings, more body cameras on police officers, re-training for most officers, greater transparency by police departments (including better record keeping about police use of force), and an acknowledgement by law enforcement of “the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination and how it is a hurdle to the promotion of community trust.”

5.) Dying inmates may appeal court decisions against early release (Los Angeles Times)

On Thursday, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided that dying prisoners may appeal a judge’s decision refusing them an early release (known as a “compassionate release”). This ruling by California’s high court overturns an appellate court decision that held that only the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or the parole board could challenge a trial court’s decision to deny compassionate release to an inmate. California requires that any inmate requesting compassionate release have a doctor’s report stating that the inmate has fewer than six months to live (amongst other requirements).

6.) NYU Launches Prison Education Program Backed by Ford Foundation Grant (Newswise)

New York University has recently launched an initiative to bring college education to incarcerated individuals at Wallkill Correctional Facility in Ulster County, New York. Through a $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, NYU’s Prison Education Program (PEP) will allow incarcerated students to earn credits towards an Associate of Arts degree from NYU. Once released, the students will be able continue their education at NYU or transfer their credits to another institution. This spring, the PEP program has 36 students enrolled. These students will have an option of taking five courses that “offer both intensive liberal arts study and introductory courses from NYU’s professional schools.”

Audio of the week: High Hurdle to College for Ex-Offenders (WNYC & The Marshall Project)

Check out this short podcast and the accompanying article. This joint effort by WNYC and The Marshall Project details a “Ban the Box” campaign to prevent colleges from asking applicants whether they have a criminal record. Currently, over half of the nation’s colleges ask applicants whether or not they have ever been convicted of a crime. This podcast/article describes the work of the non-profit Center for Community Alternatives, which argues that asking applicants about their criminal history “discourage[s] would-be applicants who feel stigmatized, and is often the precursor to an applicant process full of extra hurdles for people with records.”

Bonus: Selma still struggling with social segregation, unemployment & crime 50 years after Bloody Sunday (al.com)

50 years after Bloody Sunday, the fight against segregation and discrimination is still not over in Selma, Alabama. As one Selma native puts it, “There’s still a residue of segregation, or a ‘my side of town, your side of town,” [the population of west Selma remains almost entirely white, while the east side’s population is almost entirely black] . . . The events that happened in Selma (on Bloody Sunday) make it more of a contradiction because this should be more of a utopian society for blacks and whites.” As Conner Sheets of al.com reports, “not only is the populace of Selma effectively segregated geographically, but the city’s residents still mostly segregate themselves in social settings as well.” White flight and the exodus of once booming industry have “left most of the city’s remaining black population struggling to achieve upward mobility and start businesses and families . . . many residents are still suffering from the wounds inflicted during the Jim Crow era, which are still visible today in the sorry state of Selma’s public schools, crime rate and economic vitality.”

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, let us not forget that we still have so much more work to do . . .

For Selma (by Langston Hughes)

In places like
Selma, Alabama,
Kids say,
In places like
Chicago and New York…
In places like
Chicago and New York
Kids say,
In places like
London and Paris…
In places like
London and Paris
Kids say,
In places like
Chicago and New York…

Profiting from Failure: Corizon Health, Inc., Martin Harrison and the deadly consequences of for-profit prison healthcare

Santa Rita jail where Martin Harrison died. Copyright: The Wall Street Journal

Santa Rita jail where Martin Harrison died. Copyright: The Wall Street Journal

By: Dominik Taylor

“Martin Harrison’s legacy will be safer care for jail and prison inmates around the country. His family . . . was committed to making sure that Martin’s death was not in vain. They have succeeded completely.”[1] – Julia Sherwin, attorney for the Harrison family

On Tuesday, February 10th, 2015, the largest wrongful death settlement in a civil rights case in the history of California was reached. The parties to this settlement were the family of Martin Harrison (the plaintiffs) and Alameda County, California and Corizon Health, Inc. (the co-defendants).[2]

Defendant Alameda County is the San Francisco Bay Area county that includes Oakland, Berkeley, and Hayward, amongst several other cities. Alameda is home to over 1.5 million residents.

But who was Martin Harrison? Who or what is Alameda’s co-defendant, Corizon Health, Inc.?

Martin Harrison died on August 2010 at the age of 50. Harrison died two days after he was severely beaten and tased by ten Santa Rita Jail deputies in Alameda County.[3]

Corizon is one of the largest for-profit prison healthcare providers in the United States.[4] Corizon, a privately held corporation, operates in 27 states and services more than 345,000 inmates.[5]

Among the jails that Corizon services is Alameda’s Santa Rita Jail. In February 2013, Alameda County awarded Corizon a three-year contract extension worth $210 million.[6] Corizon and its predecessors have operated within Alameda County for last 27 years, and Corizon is responsible for overseeing the 3400 inmates in Alameda’s two jails, Santa Rita and Glenn Dyer.[7]

Harrison was held at Santa Rita Jail following an August 13, 2010 arrest for jaywalking and for having an outstanding warrant stemming from a failure to appear in court on a prior DUI charge.[8]

The State of California requires prison healthcare contractors to provide Registered Nurses (RNs) to assess inmates upon intake. However, instead of an RN, an unsupervised licensed vocational nurse (LVN) conducted Harrison’s intake screening.[9] While RNs hold professional nursing degrees, LVNs only hold a “practical” degree to provide basic nursing care. LVNs usually work under the supervision of an RN or physician. Healthcare providers, such as Corizon, can pay LVNs substantially less money than RNs, as LVNS do not have as much educational experience or training.

According to the Harrison family’s attorneys, Harrison told the LVN that he drank everyday and that he had a history of alcohol withdrawal.[10] Despite his repeated requests for treatment, the LVN decided that Harrison was not at risk of alcohol withdrawal. Instead of receiving medical treatment, the LVN sent Harrison to a jail cell.

While in his cell at Santa Rita, Harrison began hallucinating due to a severe form of alcohol poisoning, known as delirium tremens.[11] According to the National Health Institute, medical attention and immediate hospitalization is required for someone suffering from delirium tremens.[12] No treatment was provided for Harrison, however. He remained in his cell. For three days, he was frequently heard screaming. He was left in his cell screaming and going through withdrawals until August 16, 2010.[13] On that day, at around 6:30 p.m., deputies attempted to move Harrison to another cell.[14]

Harrison resisted as a deputy tried to usher him out of the cell. In response, the deputy Tased Harrison. The deputy then called for backup. Several other deputies—ten in total—rushed over to Harrison and repeatedly kicked, punched, and Tased him.[15] After severely beating Harrison, the officers placed Harrison in leg shackles and handcuffs.

Shortly after the beating, while a nurse was examining Harrison, he became unresponsive.[16] Harrison never regained consciousness. Two days later, Harrison died. Cause of death: “cardiac arrest following excessive exertion, multiple blunt injuries and Tasering.”[17]

As part of the settlement with the Harrison family, Corizon announced that it will stop employing LVNs to complete tasks that California law mandates that RNs perform. According the Harrison family’s attorneys, Corizon saved 35% in costs for every LVN Corizon enlisted to perform duties that RNs should be performing.[18]

Corizon also agreed to employ RNs to perform inmate screenings at all of the other California facilities that it operates it. Corizon currently has contracts in four California counties (Alameda, Fresno, Santa Barbara, Tulare).[19] Lastly, Corizon expressed a desire to ensure that it provides a better standard of care to inmates. U.S. District Court Judge Jon S. Tiger will monitor Corizon and Alameda for at least the next four years to ensure that they are complying with the terms of the settlement.

Harrison’s case is an archetype of why our nation’s prisons and jails need to provide better healthcare. Harrison never should have been sent to a jail cell. He should have, instead, received immediate medical attention for alcohol withdrawal. Mr. Harrison’s death was not in vain though, as prison reform will ostensibly be implemented in the four California counties where Corizon operates.

Unfortunately, news of a settlement in this case in is no way the end of the battle for better quality—and simply put, more humane—prisoner healthcare. The Harrison family settlement is just the latest battle in long war to reform America’s prisons and to obtain the adequate healthcare that all prisoners are constitutionally guaranteed.

In Estelle v. Gamble, a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case, the Court affirmed that prisoners have a constitutional right to adequate medical attention, and that the Eighth Amendment is violated when prisons and jails display “deliberate indifference” to an inmate’s medical needs.[20]

Writing for the Court in Estelle, Justice Thurgood Marshall stated: “An inmate must rely on prison authorities to treat his medical needs; if authorities fail to do so, those needs will not be met. In the worst cases, such a failure may actually produce physical ‘torture or a lingering death’ . . . In less serious cases, denial of medical care may result in pain and suffering which no one suggests would serve any penological purpose . . . The infliction of such unnecessary suffering is inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency as manifested in modern legislation.”

After the Harrison family settlement was reached, Alameda County Sherriff Greg Ahern was quoted as saying, “Things could have been done better and we are very sad it resulted in an inmate death.”[21] But Ahern also said that Corizon has done “a fantastic job” at Santa Rita.[22] Again, this was right after a Santa Rita inmate named Martin Harrison died… and the county sheriff publicly stated that Corizon has done a “fantastic job?” Really?

A man had just died and the county was protecting its corporate friend, not human beings. This response points to why the close relationships between corporations like Corizon and state and local governments must be stopped. To understand the depth to which the bottom-line and profit driven Corizon has no business running the healthcare system in our jails, let’s take a look at another state. A state where Corizon has a heavy presence as the holder of a lucrative contract to provide healthcare to prisons and jails. That state is Alabama.

For the last two and a half years, the Alabama Department of Corrections has contracted with Corizon. Prior to that, Alabama contracted with Corizon’s predecessor, Correctional Medical Services, from 2007-2012. On February 9, 2015, Corizon announced that Alabama’s Department of Corrections (ADOC) approved a renewal of Corizon’s $224 million contract.[23] This contract extension brings the contract’s total cost up to $405 million, a staggering amount.[24] Despite the re-upping of the contract between Alabama’s DOC and Corizon, it cannot be said that Corizon has done anything close to a “fantastic job” in Alabama, where Corizon is responsible for providing healthcare to the State’s 25,100 inmates.

As revealed in May 2013, Alabama actually gave Corizon failing marks on an internal audit of the healthcare provider’s job in Alabama facilities.[25] Despite the failing grades, Alabama still extended Corizon’s contract through September 2017. And Alabama isn’t the only state where Corizon has failed internal audits. In 2014, the Secretary of Florida’s Department of Corrections threatened to withhold payment of a five-year, $1.2 billion contract, because Corizon “continues to fall below the contractually required standard.”[26] Audits of Corizon in Florida showed that Corizon was providing deficient medical care, nursing, and administration.[27] Corizon has also been subject to lawsuits in Georgia, New York, New Mexico, Minnesota, Washington D.C., and has been accused of providing deficient healthcare in Mississippi and Maine.

On June 17, 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a federal lawsuit against Alabama’s Department of Corrections (ADOC), alleging that ADOC is violating federal laws by ignoring the medical and mental health needs of prisoners.[28] The class action lawsuit contains 40 named plaintiffs who allege that ADOC failed to provide adequate health care, and that this failure constitutes a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.[29] Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that, due to ADOC’s “deliberate indifference,” Alabama prisoners oftentimes go for months without appropriate diagnoses, and that prisoners have died because they were not treated for condition such as diabetes and cancer.[30]

The SPLC lawsuit isn’t for the faint of heart. SPLC has reported that numerous Alabama prisoners have had toes, feet, and legs amputated as a result of receiving poor diabetes treatment.[31] SPLC also reported staph outbreaks, scabies outbreaks, raw sewage being allowed to leak into a facility, and that a prison guard was allowed to continue working, despite the fact that he had TB.[32] The case is scheduled to go to trial in 2016.

Corizon is not a named defendant in the SPLC lawsuit. But Corizon is paying for prominent Alabama-based law firm Maynard Cooper & Gale to defend the State of Alabama in the lawsuit.[33] Under the terms of Corizon’s contract with the State, Corizon must pay for any litigation resulting from Corizon’s provision of healthcare in Alabama prisons and jails.[34] Of course, both ADOC and Corizon dispute the claims made in SPLC’s lawsuit. [On an interesting yet seemingly unrelated note, Maynard Cooper & Gale announced in August 2014 that it was opening its first office outside of Alabama. That office is in San Francisco.[35]]

In California, Corizon saved 35% costs by tasking LVNs—instead of RNs—to conduct inmate intakes. Corizon’s cost-saving policy led to Martin Harrison being placed in a jail cell, instead of in a hospital bed. After being trapped in his cell for three days and suffering from alcohol withdrawals, Santa Rita deputies literally beat Harrison to death. Despite Harrison’s death, Alameda renewed its contract with Corizon in 2013.

Through continuing it relationship with Corizon—despite the Harrison family lawsuit—Alameda County, just like the state of Alabama, is placing inmates at risk of pain and suffering in arguably unconstitutional conditions. Simply put, Corizon is placing profits over people. Yes, private corporations place profits over people on a daily basis. But if a private corporation makes hundreds of millions of dollars off government contracts, as Corizon does, isn’t it fair to expect that the company do a “fantastic job?” Certainly, corporations like Corizon must at least be expected to pass internal audits, right? Apparently not.

Over the last two decades, private for-profit healthcare providers, such as Corizon, have continually struck lucrative deals with state and local governments.[36] This is as, prison healthcare has become increasingly privatized by state and local governments in an effort to cut costs while meeting the requirements of Estelle. Corizon makes over $1.5 billion annually from its revenue and contracts with state and local governments.[37] Corizon frequently employs cost-cutting measures to ensure that it maximizes its potential revenue. Corizon’s cost-cutting is partially responsible for the death of Martin Harrison. Corizon’s cost-cutting and lack of responsiveness are part of the reason Alabama’s Department of Corrections is being sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

As noted in a 2014 report by the non-profit Prison Legal News, “When Corizon compromises medical care to save money, such as curtailing the use of ambulances for emergency transports, reducing the number of on-site doctors or sending fewer prisoners to outside hospitals for needed treatment, government officials typically fail to take corrective action and deny responsibility for the resultant deaths and injuries.”[38]

Alameda County and Alabama DOC’s continued relationships with Corizon serve as perfect examples of state and local governments denying responsibility and failing to take corrective action for the deaths and injuries that have resulted from Corizon’s substandard, shoddy, and frankly unacceptable healthcare services.

Julia Sherwin, attorney for the Harrison family, stated, “Martin Harrison’s legacy will be safer care for jail and prison inmates around the country. His family . . . was committed to making sure that Martin’s death was not in vain. They have succeeded completely.”

The Harrison family’s settlement cannot be deemed a complete success. The Harrison family settlement is just the latest battle in long war to reform America’s prisons and to obtain the adequate healthcare that all prisoners are constitutionally guaranteed.

A record-breaking settlement in the Harrison case and SPLC’s lawsuit against ADOC should be used as a springboards for concerned tax-paying citizens and prison reform advocates to start a more serious, focused discussion on the provision of healthcare in prisons and on the lack of responsibility demonstrated by state and local governments in doling out prison healthcare contracts. Serious questions need to be asked and state and local governments must be held accountable. Private for-profit prison healthcare providers must be held accountable.

It all boils down to this: As the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in Estelle, prisoners have a constitutional right to adequate healthcare. If state and local governments are going to contract with for-profit private corporations to provide prisoner healthcare, then it is absolutely imperative that those corporations deliver the care that prisoners are constitutionally entitled to. If providers, such as Corizon, continuously fail time after time, in county after county, and state after state, then state and local governments must end their relationships with these corporations.

Alameda County and Corizon are splitting the cost of the $8.3 million settlement with the Harrison family. That’s $4.15 million a piece. Martin Harrison is dead as the result of Corizon’s cost-cutting measures and a lack of oversight or responsibility by Alameda County. Instead of splitting the cost of a settlement, it’s fair to wonder whether a better solution would be for Alameda County to ditch Corizon completely. Alameda County is responsible for ensuring that its prisoners receive the adequate healthcare that they are constitutionally entitled to. If Alameda County and counties like it across the county do not take this responsibility seriously, then it is up to us to demand they do so.

[1] http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27500344/alameda-county-8-3-million-jail-death-settlement

[2] According to the Contra Costa Times, in a separate 2013 lawsuit, Alameda County and Corizon Health, Inc. settled with Martin Harrison’s fifth child (a minor).

[3] http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27500344/alameda-county-8-3-million-jail-death-settlement

[4] http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/11/usa-prison-settlement-idUSL1N0VK2H620150211

[5] http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/11/usa-prison-settlement-idUSL1N0VK2H620150211

[6] http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27500344/alameda-county-8-3-million-jail-death-settlement

[7] http://www.corizonhealth.com/Corizon-News/corizon-awarded-alameda-county-contract-extension

[8] http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/8-3-million-settlement-in-death-of-Alameda-6073319.php

[9] http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27500344/alameda-county-8-3-million-jail-death-settlement

[10] http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/8-3-million-settlement-in-death-of-Alameda-6073319.php

[11] http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27500344/alameda-county-8-3-million-jail-death-settlement

[12] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000766.htm

[13] http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/02/10/alameda-county-jail-health-care-company-settle-suit-over-inmate-beating-death

[14] http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/02/10/alameda-county-jail-health-care-company-settle-suit-over-inmate-beating-death

[15] http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/02/10/alameda-county-jail-health-care-company-settle-suit-over-inmate-beating-death

[16] http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/02/10/alameda-county-jail-health-care-company-settle-suit-over-inmate-beating-death

[17] http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/02/10/alameda-county-jail-health-care-company-settle-suit-over-inmate-beating-death

[18] http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/02/10/alameda-county-jail-health-care-company-settle-suit-over-inmate-beating-death

[19] http://www.corizonhealth.com/About-Corizon/Locations

[20] 429 U.S. 97

[21] http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27500344/alameda-county-8-3-million-jail-death-settlement

[22] http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/02/10/alameda-county-jail-health-care-company-settle-suit-over-inmate-beating-death

[23] http://www.corizonhealth.com/Corizon-News/alabama-department-of-corrections-renews-contract-with-corizon-health

[24] http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/02/alabama_department_of_correcti_1.html

[26] http://www.northescambia.com/2014/09/florida-dept-of-corrections-targets-problems-with-inmate-health-care

[27] http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/09/alabamas_inmate_health_care_su.html

[28] http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/06/splc_story_on_inmate_health_ca.html

[29] http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/06/splc_story_on_inmate_health_ca.html

[30] http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/06/splc_story_on_inmate_health_ca.html

[31] http://media.al.com/news_impact/other/Alabama%20Prison%20Report_final.pdf

[32] http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/06/cruel_confinement_report_packe.html

[33] http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/08/powerful_law_firm_to_defend_al.html

[34] http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/08/powerful_law_firm_to_defend_al.html

[35] http://www.bizjournals.com/birmingham/news/2014/08/13/four-questions-with-maynard-cooper-s-managing.html?page=all

[36] http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/Assets/2014/07/StatePrisonHealthCareSpendingReport.pdf

[37] https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2014/mar/15/corizon-needs-a-checkup-problems-with-privatized-correctional-healthcare/

[38] https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2014/mar/15/corizon-needs-a-checkup-problems-with-privatized-correctional-healthcare/

Pick 6 (2/27/15)

noun_103075

Hello friends. Friday=time for our weekly Pick 6! Our Pick 6 consists of 6 informative, insightful reentry & criminal justice-related news articles and commentaries that we’ve been following throughout the week. We welcome your thoughts and feedback, so don’t be shy!

1.) The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’ (The Guardian)

In an exclusive, Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian describes the horrific treatment of detainees at a secretive, off-the-books interrogation”black site” known as Homan Square. Homan Square is a “nondescript warehouse,” but it isn’t located at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib . . . it’s located on the west side of Chicago and is operated by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Among the alleged atrocities committed by CPD are: keeping arrestees out of official booking databases, shackling and beating arrestees for extended periods of time, denying attorneys access to the “secure facility,” and holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours. At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

2.) Free state ID cards proposed for newly released prisoners (Seattle Times)

Not having proper identification can be a major hurdle for newly released prisoners. Identification is required to get housing, to get a job, to cash a check, and even to get a library card. In Washington, getting a new driver’s license or state identification card usually costs between $45-$54 (not to mention, the time and cost of transportation required to get to a Department of Licensing office). Unfortunately, many Washington prisoners are only released with as little as $40. But a new bill, proposed by state legislator, Cyrus Habib, would issue free temporary identification to all reentering individuals as they are released from jail or prison.

3.) Want to visit an inmate? Increasingly, you’ll have to log on (San Fransisco Chronicle)

Hamed Aleaziz reports that several California counties, notably; Napa, Solano, and San Mateo are moving away from allowing prisoners to have in-person visits, and are instead replacing them with Skype-like digital video-chats. Supporters argue that using video-chat technology saves money and strengthens security. Supporters are quick to note that families can now video-chat with their incarcerated loved ones from home, without having to make a trip to jail. But as Bernadette Rabuy of the non-profit Prison Policy Initiative notes, “Inmates and their families find video visits to be more impersonal.They talk about being able to hold their hand on the piece of glass and the other incarcerated person holding their hand up. Moments like that feel impossible with video visits.” A 2011 Minnesota Department of Corrections study concluded in-person prison visits “establish a continuum of social support,” and that visited inmates were 13% less likely to be convicted of a new felony after release. According to Keramet Reiter, an assistant professor of criminology at UC Irvine, “The data is pretty good. The more in-person visits prisoners have, the better off they are likely to be when they get out.” Also problematic is the fact that the video-chats are expensive. The companies providing video-chat technologies for prisons and jails charge families up to $20 for as little as 20 minutes of talk time. These companies then split profits with the county (Napa receives 20% of fees obtained from video chats to its inmates).

4.) Santa Clara County increases oversight of cases of youths being charged as adults (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

California prosecutors have wide discretion in deciding whether to charge juvenile suspects as juveniles or as adults. A 2013 internal review by Santa Clara County’s District Attorney’s Office revealed that a higher percentage of Latino kids face adult charges than other ethnicities. In response to this finding, Santa Clara’s DA has teamed up with Santa Clara’s Public Defender’s office and several Bay Area youth advocacy groups to examine these cases more stringently. Specifically, the DA has asked youth advocates who favor rehabilitation over prison to review and critique the DA’s decision to charge juveniles as adults. The committee of advocates is currently reviewing every 2014 Santa Clara case where a juvenile was charged as an adult.

5.) Eric Holder’s parting shot: It’s too hard to bring civil rights cases (Politico)

Last Saturday (2/21) marked the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination. In a recent exit interview, Politico asked outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder what book he would recommend to a young person coming to Washington, D.C. Holder’s answer–“The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”Holder also stated that before leaves office, he will call for a lower standard of proof for civil rights crimes (see # 6, below). “I think some serious consideration needs to be given to the standard of proof that has to be met before federal involvement is appropriate, and that’s something I am going to be talking about before I leave office.” Holder’s remarks come days after the Department of Justice announced that it has closed its investigation in the shooting death of unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin. DOJ will not be filing federal hate-crime charges against Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman.

6.) Why Is It So Hard to Prove a Civil Rights Crime? (The New Republic)

Cristian Farias discusses the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision not file federal hate-crime charges against George Zimmerman and the limits of federal hate crimes laws. Farias writes, “Willfulness, in civil rights cases or otherwise, is by far the most difficult thing to prove in criminal law. And absent a damning confession from Zimmerman or a mountain of circumstantial evidence showing that he harbors resentment toward black teenagers, making that showing is hardso hard, DOJ determined, it couldn’t risk pressing charges and losing later.”

Bonus: Tomorrow, 2/28, marks the end of Black History Month. If you have some spare time this weekend, cozy up with your loved ones and take 2 hours to watch “Freedom Riders,” the beautifully directed, 2010 documentary by Stanley Nelson Jr. “Freedom Riders” is the powerful, harrowing, and inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Jim Crow South. The Freedom Riders challenged the status quo by riding interstate buses and trains in the South to challenge local laws or customs that enforced illegal segregation in seating. They called national attention to the blatant disregard for federal laws and the local mob violence used to enforce segregation in the South. You can watch Freedom Riders for free online courtesy of PBS. Here’s a link to the film.

Weekly Pick 6 (2/20/15)

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Hello friends. It’s Friday, so you know what that means…it’s time for our weekly Pick 6! Our Pick 6 consists of 6 informative, insightful reentry & criminal justice-related news articles and commentaries that we’ve been following throughout the week. We always welcome thoughts and feedback, so don’t be shy!

1.) Holder backs death penalty moratorium (Politico)

As John Gerstein reports, Attorney General Eric Holder is endorsing a halt to all executions nationwide while the Supreme Court considers whether some lethal injection methods are unconstitutional. Speaking in a personal capacity on Tuesday, AG Holder stated, “I think fundamental questions about the death penalty need to be asked. And among them, the Supreme Court’s determination as to whether or not lethal injection is consistent with our Constitution is one that ought to occur. From my perspective, I think a moratorium until the Supreme Court made that determination would be appropriate.”

2.) A look at 20 years of shootings by cops (San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego County, California’s District Attorney’s Office recently released a report detailing and analyzing police officer-involved shootings that occurred between 1993 and 2012 in San Diego, California’s second most populous county. Over half of the shootings taking place during this 20 year span resulted in death. Nearly half of the shootings happened immediately upon the officer arriving on scene. As Pauline Repard reports,19% of people shot by officers were black, a significantly higher percentage than the County’s overall black population, which is just 4.8%. Of the 367 people shot, 81% had mental heath issues or had drugs in their system. 56% of people shot were were 18-32-years old. From 1993 to 2012, San Diego prosecutors only filed charges against two officers, once in 2005 and once in 2009. Juries found both officers not guilty.

3.) How communities are keeping kids out of crime (Christian Science Monitor)

In this feature, Stacy Teicher Khadaroo takes a look at how Lucas County, Ohio and other state and local governments are at the forefront of a movement to stop incarcerating so many youths. As Khadaroo writes, “Driven by the high cost of incarceration and a growing understanding of adolescent behaviors, states and localities are launching initiatives to provide counseling, drug treatment, and other support for young offenders rather than locking them up. The idea is to save money – and try to keep them from committing more crimes by addressing their problems at the roots.”

4.) Making Overseers into Advocates: A social worker’s take on the misery of probation (The Marshall Project)

In a commentary, Philadelphia social worker, Jeff Deeney, describes life working inside of Philadelphia’s probation office. Deeney describes the probation office as a “gloomy, misery-inducing dump absolutely nobody enjoys coming to, POs or probationers.” Deeney further writes that, “Probationers continually complain about what they feel are probation officers who are abusive, disrespectful, racist or petty power trippers out to wreck your life just to show you they can. Conversely, POs feel underpaid, underappreciated and under constant assault by criminals who would just as soon stab them in the back if they thought they could get away with it . . . Authority and the anti-authoritarian become locked in a bitter embrace that, based on what I’ve seen over the years, is mutually destructive.” Deeney’s takeaway message is that probation offices must be changed from “places of control and enforcement to places of support and encouragement . . . Not just because the studies all show social support reduces recidivism, but because we believe in treating people with dignity and respect.”

5.) Prison banker eliminates fees for money order deposits in Kansas (Center for Public Integrity)

JPay Inc., the biggest provider of money transfers to prisoners, has stopped charging fees to families sending money orders to inmates in Kansas. The change that means inmates’ families can now send money for free in every state where JPay operates (other than holdout Kentucky). JPay is credited with popularizing electronic payments to prisons, while also creating a multi-billion dollar industry (here’s more info. on the prison-industrial complex). Prior to the advent of JPay and similar companies, inmates’ families typically mailed money orders directly to the facility where their relative was locked up.

6.) 50 Years After His Assassination, Malcolm X’s Message Still Calls Us to Seek Justice (The Root)

Malcolm X was assassinated 50 years ago tomorrow (February 21st). Prominent historian, author, and Tufts University Professor, Peniel Joseph takes a look at why, even 50 years after his death, Malcolm X remains one of the most important intellectuals, organizers and revolutionaries that America has ever produced. Professor Joseph writes, “Fifty years after his death, the struggle for black liberation continues with nationwide protests that recall the tumultuous 1960s, when Malcolm’s message of uncompromising struggle frightened white and black political leaders alike. Today’s rising activists, who boldly demand an end to racial and economic injustice beyond token political reforms, are channeling the best part of Malcolm’s legacy—one that, even in the face of death, cries out for justice by any means necessary.”

Bonus: If you have a moment to spare, take some time out of your weekend and listen to one of Malcolm X’s most famous and powerful speeches, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” given on April 3, 1964 in Cleveland, Ohio. A transcript of the speech is available here. And audio of the speech is available here. #BlackLivesMatter

Have a good weekend everyone, and we will see you soon.

Weekly Pick 6 (2/13/15)

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Hello friends. We’re back with the second edition of our new weekly feature–Pick 6. Our Pick 6 consists of 6 informative, insightful reentry & criminal justice-related news articles and commentaries that we’ve been following throughout the week. We welcome your thoughts and feedback, so don’t be shy!

1.) History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 Names (New York Times)

In this article, Campell Robertson discusses some findings from a newly published report by the Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative entitled: Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. EJI’s report documents lynching in twelve Southern states from the time of Reconstruction to the end of World War II. The report makes the case that the lynching of African Americans was terrorism and a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation.

2.) Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System (Hands Up United)

Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute has said, “The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used.” In this commentary, Michelle Alexander, famed author of, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, argues that one way to end mass incarceration is by “crashing the system.” Alexander writes, “If everyone charged with crimes suddenly exercised his constitutional rights, there would not be enough judges, lawyers or prison cells to deal with the ensuing tsunami of litigation….Such chaos would force mass incarceration to the top of the agenda for politicians and policy makers, leaving them only two viable options: sharply scale back the number of criminal cases filed…or amend the Constitution…Either action would create a crisis and the system would crash.”

3.) High School Police Ask Judge to Let Them Pepper-Spray and Arrest Unruly Students (Mother Jones)

Since 2006, there have been at least 110 instances where school police officers (called School Resource Officers or SROs) have pepper-sprayed school students in Birmingham, Alabama. A lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center has brought up the issue of whether such practices are constitutional. Of the policy allowing officers to pepper-spray students, Ebony Howard of the SPLC says, “We want it to be declared unconstitutional because it allows officers to spray people, specifically students, without considering a wide variety of factors—such as whether they are in a school environment, the fact that they are in a closed environment, and the fact that these things that they are accusing kids of doing and acting on are actually just student misconduct issues.” Allie Gross of Mother Jones describes the pepper-spraying of Birmingham students as well as the rise of police presence in schools since the mid-1990s.

Related: be sure to check out R&R’s previous blog entry, “Why the Teacher’s Protection Act is Deadly to Students,” for another example of how, since the 1990s, public school systems have become increasingly militant.

4.) Alameda County: $8.3 million jail death settlement mandates jail health care reforms (Contra Costa Times)

Malaika Fraley of the Contra Costa Times reports that a record-breaking settlement has been reached in the case of an Oakland, California man, Martin Harrison, who died after being beaten to death and tased by Santa Rita Jail deputies. Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors and its jail medical services provider, Corizon Health, have agreed to pay $8.3 to the family of Mr. Harrison. Mr. Harrison died in August of 2010 while incarcerated at Santa Rita, just two days after he was beaten and tased by 10 deputies.

5.) Missouri cities, including Ferguson, sued over ‘grotesque’ jail conditions (Los Angeles Times)

Matt Pierce of the LA Times writes about two recently-filed lawsuits against the cities of Ferguson and Jennings, Missouri. Pierce writes that the lawsuits accuse the cities of “maintaining ‘grotesque’ jail conditions for motorists locked up because they couldn’t pay fines for minor legal infractions . . . crowded cells are smeared with mucus, blood and fecal matter and inmates are denied basic hygiene supplies and medical care.” Ferguson is the city where unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, was fatally shot in August 2014.

6.) Gov. Pat McCrory says brothers’ pardon still being reviewed (News and Observer)

Our sixth pick this week is actually an update of a story we told you about last week. Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were recently exonerated or murder after serving three decades in a North Carolina prison following a wrongful conviction. The two brothers were exonerated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. But following their exoneration, McCollum and Brown are left without any ability to collect compensation for the time they spend incarcerated absent a pardon from the state’s governor. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s office is currently “conducting a formal an thorough process that will lead to a recommendation” of whether or not McCollum and Brown should receive a pardon. If the men receive a pardon, they will be eligible to receive $50,000 for every year they spent incarcerated (up to a max of $750,000). McCollum and Brown spent their entire adult lives in prison and have IQ scores in the 50s and 60s. The two men struggle with reading and writing. We will keep you updated on this story.

— The R&R Team

Weekly Pick 6

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Hello friends. Starting today, we will be posting a “Weekly Pick 6” every Friday. Our “Weekly Pick 6” will consist of 6 informative and insightful reentry & criminal justice-related news articles and commentaries that we’ve been following throughout the week. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback!

1.) How Public Defenders Struggle With Ethical Blindness (The Sixth Amendment Center)

In an interview with New England Law Professor, Tigran Eldred, David Carroll of The Sixth Amendment Center explores whether psychological factors force public defenders to rationalize sub-par performance in the face of excessive caseloads.

2.) How the Government Put Tens of Thousands of People at Risk of a Deadly Disease (Mother Jones)

In this long-read, David Ferry describes how the California Department of Corrections has regularly placed prisoners at risk of catching a deadly disease known as Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis). 

3.) The Capital Punishment Cover-up (Slate)

Dahlia Lithwick describes proposed legislation in Virginia that will hide “all information relating to the execution process.” 

4.) Police Reform is Impossible in America (Gawker Justice)

Donovan X. Ramsey argues that America can tackle issues of police reform only once Americans first confront the racism and oppression that have led to a widely held “myth of black criminality.” 

5.) This is How Black Girls End Up in the School-To-Prison Pipeline (The Nation)

Dani McClain uses recent events at a Baltimore, MD middle school as an example of how “harsh, apparently unwarranted” school discipline influenced by implicit biases have led to a staggeringly disproportional rate of African American girls being suspended from school and thrown into the criminal justice system. 

6.) For Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, freedom has a cost (News & Observer)

Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were wrongfully convicted or rape and murder. After three decades in prison, the two men were exonerated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. But as this article explains, their struggle is not over. Absent a pardon from the Governor, these men are left without any ability to collect compensation for the decades they spent incarcerated. 

Root & Rebound: Join us at two Reentry Events this Fall!

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Michelle Alexander, civil rights attorney, advocate, and legal scholar. Keynote Speaker at the 2014 ‘Shaking the Foundations’ Conference at Stanford Law School.

Dear Readers,

Happy Friday! Today, we wanted to share information about two reentry events that Root & Rebound is co-hosting this Fall. We encourage you to join us there!

  • Saturday, September 27 2014: Root & Rebound is co-hosting a Reentry Event and Resource Fair for San Francisco and San Mateo Counties in collaboration with the Archdiocese of San Francisco, PICO and Californians for Safety and Justice. This FREE event is for returning individuals, their families, their advocates, community partners. Really, it is meant for anyone interested in learning more about reentry services in SF and SM counties, hearing speakers at 6 panels talk about issues in reentry, and understanding more about the Safe Neighborhoods Act, which will be highlighted at the event (and on the SF Ballot in November). Reentry organizations ins SF and SM counties are encouraged to sign up to table at the resource fair – to showcase their services. Please see the ReEntry Conference & Resource Fair flyer for more information. Join Us!
  • Friday & Saturday, October 17-18 2014: Root & Rebound is designing and presenting a panel on reentry law, made up of influential lawyers from across the country, at Stanford Law School’s annual ‘Shaking the Foundations’ conference. Michelle Alexander, an inspirational figure who speaks powerfully about the movement for achieving racial justice and ending mass incarceration, will be the keynote speaker. She is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand the criminal justice system in America (we wrote about her incredible work and vision in a previous blog post). This event and our panel are designed to inspire a new generation of young attorneys to get involved in these issues. Join Us!

Root & Rebound is proud to be partnering with such inspiring and dedicated reentry organizations in California. We hope you will join us in these events either as a participant or an audience member. Please share the news widely with your friends, neighbors, colleagues – Can’t wait to see you there!

The R&R Team

Website Feature: Reentry Resources Center

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Hi Readers!

Thanks to everyone who has written to us about our new website. We have received an overwhelmingly positive response– which has been really encouraging! Today, we are highlighting a special section on the website: the Reentry Resource Center, with free current information that targets many of the common questions and concerns of people in reentry and their advocates. This is a feature we are really excited about!

Why did we create the Reentry Resource Center?

We created the Reentry Resource Center as a go-to free online resource for people preparing for or in reentry, their advocates, and the wider public. Why? (1) There isn’t enough information out there for people in reentry and (2) the resources that do exist are not centralized in one, easy to access place. People in reentry need information about where they are allowed to live, the kinds of jobs they can apply for, and whether they can see their children again.

Who is it for?

This hub aims to make reentry resources (legal resources, social service resources, and reports/studies on reentry) directly accessible to people preparing for or in reentry. It is also for their advocates: the social worker, the close friend, the reentry lawyer, working to provide support.

What resources are available and how are they organized?

Currently, there are 3 types of resources available online: (1) Legal Resources for People in Reentry and Their Advocates; (2) Social Service Resources- Guides for CA programs and services; and (3) Studies and Reports on Reentry Issues.

(1)  Legal Resources for People in Reentry and Their Advocates

So many people in reentry don’t have access to an attorney and we are limited in our reach for whom we can provide direct services. Putting legal reentry resources online ensures that people who can’t step into our office for consultation or attend our legal trainings will still have a reference where they can access the legal information that is out there. This section is full of resources that pertain to specific areas of law and barriers people face: general resources, probation and parole rules, housing law, public benefits law, employment law, family law, education law, immigration law, expungement, and voting laws.

What is exciting to us about 2014 is that we are developing a California “Know Your Rights Guide” which will cover eight key areas of law and will be a one-stop resource for people in reentry to get the legal information they need to understand what rights, protections, restrictions, and risks exist under law. This will be available online and in print in September of this year, and we hope it will be utilized by thousands of people across the state and country!

Disclaimer: When we put together legal information, we do our best to make sure it is useful and accurate – and we periodically be check it for currentness. Of course, the laws change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations so when using the legal material, please be aware that the laws may have changed, and do check whether if it is still applicable to your situation.

(2) Social Service Resources- Guides to CA Programs and Services

People in reentry often don’t know where to go for programs and services that they need, from mental health services to housing; from vocational training to education; from parenting classes to food pantries and clothing closets. This can be remedied by having a centralized place online that collects and shares existing guides to services across the state.

More guides for programs and services need to be created. There simply are not enough of these guides in existence. We at Root & Rebound are developing our own resource guide for Alameda County (available from August 2014) and working with others in counties across the state to promote the creation of these resource guides for their counties.

(3)  Studies and Reports on Reentry Issues

Here we share scholarship from around the country on all areas of reentry and criminal justice issues for people who want to learn more. This is a place to share in the excitement of the movement across the nation away from mass incarceration and to a focus on bringing people back to the community with the support they need.

We are very shortly publishing a report, Voices From The Field (May 2014), which brings together the voices of practitioners, individuals and advocates that Root & Rebound staff interviewed about the reentry landscape nation wide and the major gaps and unmet needs in reentry. It also shares best practices in starting a reentry program.

 

We are excited to share this feature today and we hope our readers will share the resources with individuals, groups, and the wider community. Spread the word!

Lastly, if you have any suggestions on how we can improve to this resource center, please let us know! We would love to hear from you. Comment here or email info@rootandrebound.org!

Thanks for being a part of our work!

– The R & R Team

Transitional Housing for Women in the Bay Area: 2 New Opportunities

Today we want to share information about two affordable housing projects for Bay Area women. Please share these opportunities with Bay Area women looking for transitional housing.

(1) Berkeley Food and Housing Project, Transitional Housing is accepting applications from women only. It is a year and eighteen month living skills program. Applicants must be homeless or in imminent danger of losing housing, with either psychiatric disabilities or HUD qualified disabilities. Women may apply if they are homeless on the street, in emergency shelter, are staying with friends short term and have no lease, are in a recovery program and have no place to return to after graduating and/or are coming from another transitional housing situation.

(2) Building Futures with Women and Children is accepting applications for its housing lottery for housing at the Alameda Point Collaborative (transitional housing with 2 bedroom and 1 bedroom units). These units are for women and children only. Applicants must be homeless at time of application and, if living in a shelter or in transitional housing, must bring a homeless verification from an agency or shelter, head of household. Income must be less than 50% of area median income.

  • To apply IN PERSON (recommended): You can go in from 9:30 am – 4pm at the Alameda Point Collaborative: 677 West Ranger Avenue, Alameda, CA, 94501. In-person apps will be accepted NO LATER than Friday, March 14, 2014.
  • To apply BY MAIL: Call 510-749-0301 ext. 222. to have an application sent to you. Mail-in apps will be accepted only if postmarked NO LATER than Friday, March 21, 2014.

What is a “reentry lawyer”?

We hope everyone had a restful Thanksgiving! We took the holiday weekend to recharge and we are now on a week-long trip in Southern California to visit reentry and legal services organizations—meeting with reentry lawyers, practitioners, and formerly incarcerated advocates in Los Angeles & San Diego.

Despite being in our home state of California, the vast geographical landscape means that the work in Northern California and Southern California is quite distinct. While we encounter similar state laws and state actors in our efforts, the local communities and stakeholders are diverse throughout the state. For example, in L.A. yesterday, we had the incredible privilege of meeting with 5 lawyers at 3 different organizations who ALL do reentry legal services work. We say incredible because of the high caliber of work these lawyers perform for formerly incarcerated clients, but also incredible because, generally, it is hard to find 5 people across the COUNTRY who are doing reentry legal services work, let alone in one place in one day. Very inspiring that people are actually doing some of this important work!

Reentry legal services actually means many different things. The civil barriers that people face are so vast that, when it comes down to it, “reentry law” covers the gamut of family law and family reunification, licensing appeals, credit issues, housing, federal and state benefits, expungement, immigration, and employment discrimination. Another reason reentry legal services differ from one organization to another is that reentry is not a single point in time—it is a continuum in a person’s life. The issues someone faces one year before release, the day he or she walks out the gate, one week or one month post-release, and then well into years of reentry are constantly evolving. The legal barriers to successful reentry do not end after 5 years of living in the community nor do they begin right when someone walks out the gate.

It was, therefore, really interesting to meet with reentry attorneys who have been practicing in this area, some for many years. We were able to ask them why they have chosen to focus on certain client populations and certain areas of the law over others. Some of these choices are naturally made by organizations and individual attorneys who are responding to the needs of particular communities and are informed by those needs. Two groups, a New Way of Life and the LAW Project of Los Angeles have a greater focus on expungement work (clearing people’s records) with a mission of getting people back to work. These clients tend to be further along in reentry. Another group, the Pepperdine/ Union Rescue Mission Legal Aid Clinic has more of a focus on family reunification, credit, benefits, housing, and homelessness. These clients tend to be newly released.

We obviously cannot cover all of the areas of reentry law nor reach all of the people exiting prison and jail in the state of California. For our first year of practice, as we incubate this work in the Bay Area, one of the biggest questions we are trying to answer is where we will start our work—that is, where along the reentry continuum we will focus our legal advocacy and what areas of law we will practice to be most responsive to the needs of clients. While we haven’t answered the latter question as fully (what exact services we will provide), we know that we want to focus on newly released clients, beginning our work with them pre-release, providing a bridge of services from prison to community, and into the first few years of reentry. We have chosen to focus on newly-released prisoners because this is where we see a huge gap. There is no organization in the Bay Area solely focused on reentry legal services for men and women at this earliest stage of reentry, and we have heard time and time again from formerly incarcerated people advising us in our work that there are huge legal and social service needs in this early stage of reentry not being met.

This trip to LA and yesterday’s meetings with five committed attorneys at the three organizations helped us to better understand the various areas of reentry law that we can practice and the nuts and bolts of doing this work. While we aren’t ready to announce exactly what we are choosing to focus on (and still need to do more research, focus groups, etc.), we feel that our service model is becoming clearer, and that something really amazing will come of all of our explorations and planning.

—The R&R Team