Pick 6 (5/10/2015)

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Hello friends. Happy Mother’s Day! We’re back with our 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.) How Baltimore and cities like it hold back poor black children as they grow up (Washington Post)

“Every year a poor boy spends growing up in Baltimore, this research found, his earnings as an adult fall by 1.5 percent. Add up an entire childhood, and that means a 26-year-old man in Baltimore earns about 28 percent less than he would if he had grown up somewhere in average America. And that’s a whole lot less than the very same child would earn if he had grown up, 50 miles away, in Fairfax County.

That one result — among data Chetty and Hendren have calculated for every county in America — marks a remarkable convergence this week of slow-going social science and current events. If young men in Baltimore who have been protesting for the last two weeks are lashing out at a long legacy of inherited disadvantage, they are also reacting to a reality today that empirical data now confirms: Baltimore is a terrible place to grow up as a poor black boy.”

2.) Chicago to Pay $5.5 Million in Reparations for Police Torture Victims (Rolling Stone)

“We’re the first municipality in the history of the country to make reparations for racialized police torture and violence, and I hope that other jurisdictions and other municipalities follow suit,” Mariame Kaba, founding director of Project NIA, an organization that helped push through the reparations, tells Rolling Stone. “It’s one thing to sue civilly for money and damages. It’s another thing to insist that people receive care for the trauma they’ve experienced. It’s another thing to insist that people get education and their kids benefit and grandkids benefit. It’s another thing to really focus on the importance of memorializing the harm done, the atrocities visited upon real people.”

3.) The Painful Price of Aging in Prison (Washington Post)

Also see: Older Prisoners, Higher Costs (The Marshall Project)

“Harsh sentencing policies, including mandatory minimums, continue to have lasting consequences for inmates and the nation’s prison system. Today, prisoners 50 and older represent the fastest-growing population in crowded federal correctional facilities, their ranks having swelled by 25 percent to nearly 31,000 from 2009 to 2013.”

4.) Are We Witnessing an Emergence of a Black Spring? (Ebony)

Equal Justice Society board vice chair Priscilla Ocen co-authored this must-read piece on the emergence of a ‪#‎BlackSpring‬

“The description of the Arab Spring could just as easily apply to the mobilizations in the United States, in Ferguson, in New York and now in Baltimore. The similarities between these movements have not escaped the notice of many activists in the United States, as they see the connections between the conditions they confront in poor Black neighborhoods, the eruption of protests in American cities, and the resistance efforts of peoples in the Arab World. For these activists, the protest movements in places like Baltimore signal the rise of a “Black Spring,” a kindred movement spurred by many of the same structural symptoms and subhuman conditions that ignited the popular protests in the Arab World.

5.) Inquiry to Examine Racial Bias in the San Francisco Police (New York Times)

Time to investigate…
“Blacks make up about 5% of the city’s population, but account for half of its inmates and more than 60% of the children in juvenile detention.”

6.) Clinton on incarceration: ‘We cast too wide a net’ (KRGV)

‘Clinton signed into law an omnibus crime bill in 1994 that included the federal “three strikes” provision, mandating life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes. On Wednesday, Clinton acknowledged that policy’s role in over-incarceration in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.”

For Mother’s Day

+1) What It’s Like to Visit Your Mom in Prison on Mother’s Day (Mother Jones)

+1) The New Mothers in Bedford Hills (The Marshall Project)

+1) Ella Baker Center Mama’s Day 2015

Audio of the week) #BlackLivesMatter: Alicia Garza on the Origins of a Movement (RadioProject.org)

“Black Lives Matter. This simple phrase has become the motto of a growing movement calling for true justice and equalty for black people. Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, first typed out those three words back in 2013. In March of 2015, Alicia Garza visited the University of Southern Maine to tell the story of how Black Lives Matter came to be, and express her hopes for where it’s headed. We hear her speech.”

Report of the week) TURNING ON THE TAP: How Returning Access to Tuition Assistance for Incarcerated People Improves the Health of New Yorkers (forthcoming May 12th)

Quote of the week) “Mass incarceration is ahistorical, criminogenic, inefficient, and racist,” Paul Butler, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center from The Milwaukee Experiment (The New Yorker)

Image of the week)

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#BlackLivesMatter #BlackSpring

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.

Dignity v. Inhumanity in the Criminal Justice System — an evening conversation hosted by Root & Rebound and Project Rebound

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Dear Friends,
You are warmly invited to attend a panel discussion hosted by Root & Rebound: Reentry Advocates & Project Rebound at SFSU, entitled Dignity v. Inhumanity in the Criminal Justice System, featuring Jason Bell, Director of Project Rebound, San Francisco State University, Airto Morales, Data Specialist at Project Rebound, San Francisco State University, and Professor Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law and Director, Center for the Study of Law and Society at University of Berkeley, School of Law. This event is part of our groups’ efforts not just to serve individuals and communities in reentry, but to raise awareness of the major issues within our criminal justice system and to encourage idea-sharing and dialogue to build solutions.

The event will be on February 26th at the David Brower Center in the Tamalpais Room, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. We will provide light snacks, drinks, and desserts. There will also be a raffle to give away five copies of Professor Simon’s latest book, Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the Future of Prisons in America. There is a suggested (but not mandatory) donation of $10 at the door that will go towards the cost of the event. Any proceeds will go towards Root & Rebound and Project Rebound.

The David Brower Center is at 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704, conveniently located one block from the Downtown Berkeley BART station. There are also several parking structures nearby, though please note that parking may be scarce so please consider taking BART if possible!

As seating is limited, please RSVP as soon as you can. To RSVP, please follow this link to subscribe to the events list: http://eepurl.com/bbjOg9.***

***PLEASE NOTE: Once you submit this online form, a subscription confirmation email will be sent to your account, and you will need to click on the “Yes, subscribe me to this list” button in order to finalize your RSVP to the event. You will then receive a summary email detailing your information.

Please email info@rootandrebound.org with any questions or comments.

Hope to see you there!

The Root & Rebound & Project Rebound Teams

Event flyer — Dignity v. Inhumanity in the Criminal Justice System

Resource for Bay Area Nonprofits Serving the Poor: The SF Bar Association

SF Bar Association

In a few days, Root & Rebound will celebrate 4 months since we opened! As a startup nonprofit, R&R could not be where it is today without the extraordinary help of pro bono lawyers from all around the Bay Area. How did we find lawyers willing to help out Root & Rebound for FREE???

First, we reached out to our contacts from undergrad and law school. Through a friend-connection at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, two of their fabulous lawyers volunteered their time to help Root & Rebound prepare its IRS application for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience working with volunteer business law attorneys: they explained each and every component of the 501(c)(3) application and meticulously reviewed R&R’s answers. Around the same time, a friend from Berkeley Law School who helped kickstart the not-for-profit Family Violence Appellate Project told us to check in with the Bar Association of San Francisco for pro bono legal help… Look no further!

The SF Bar—through its own nonprofit, the Justice & Diversity Center (JDC)—provides pro bono (free!) legal and related social services to low-income and homeless San Francisco residents and to nonprofit organizations that serve these communities through the Community Organization Representation Project (CORP). CORP‘s mission is to provide free business law services to nonprofit organizations (like Root & Rebound!) that directly serve low-income and underserved communities in Northern California. The eligibility requirements are simple and straightforward: CORP assists 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations (and nonprofit organizations applying for 501(c)(3) status) that are based in Northern California, that directly serve low-income individuals and communities in Northern California, and have a budget of under $5 million.

CORP took on Root & Rebound as a client in December, and we have already received so much invaluable legal assistance from their panel of pro-bono attorneys– experienced business law attorney volunteers who provide pro bono transactional legal services in employment, corporate, contract, real estate, tax, and intellectual property law to qualifying nonprofit organizations.

What kind of pro bono assistance have we received?

Well, it crosses the gamut, as CORP and its attorneys have met so many of our legal needs. An attorney at Cooper, White & Cooper LLP reviewed Root & Rebound’s fiscal sponsorship agreement (an agreement that allows us to accept tax-deductible donations while we await our 501(c)(3) status determination) and helped us negotiate its terms; a volunteer attorney from Latham & Watkins LLP reviewed our incorporation documents and amended them, developed Board resolution templates, will be recording minutes for our first-ever Board meeting this week,  and is providing other legal support to the R&R Board; and most recently a volunteer attorney Haight, Brown & Bonesteel LLP who is providing counsel on R&R’s risk management and professional insurance needs. These attorneys have already dedicated many hours of pro bono services to Root & Rebound, treated us with the utmost respect and professionalism, and provided us with thousands of dollars worth of quality free legal services and counsel pertaining to R&R’s business and transactional law needs.

Examples of other types of pro bono services offered through CORP are: 

Nonprofit Incorporation

  • Obtain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status
  • Individual placements, capacity building workshops, and innovative programs

Employment Law

  • Draft or update personnel manuals and policies
  • Obtain counsel when implementing economically driven layoff plans or furloughs
  • Ensure your employment classifications comply with labor laws

Intellectual Property

  • Protect trademarks
  • Copyright materials, such as training manuals or education textbooks
  • Protect websites and other Internet materials

Real Estate

  • Review rental leases
  • Buy or sell real estate
  • Resolve zoning questions

Corporate Governance and Structuring

  • Revise or update bylaws and other corporate documents
  • Prepare corporate policies, including conflicts of interest, records retention or whistleblower policies
  • Create and structure affiliate relationships
  • Draft fiscal sponsorship documents

Business Contracts

  • Draft contracts with vendors
  • Draft other types of agreements

Tax Law

  • Reinstate revoked 501(c)(3) status
  • Other tax-related matters

Other Preventative Measures

  • i.e., workshops on best practices relating to political activity, employees’ use of social media, etc.

CORP is unable to assist with litigation matters.

If you are in the Bay Area and believe your nonprofit may qualify, visit CORP’s website here and apply. If you are a nonprofit leader outside of Northern California, we encourage you to check with you local bar association to see what services, if any, they provide to nonprofits like yours. You might be surprised at the resources right under your nose!

—The R&R Team

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

Transitional Housing in the Bay Area: Phatt Chance Community Services, Inc.

Before our work trip to New York City, Root & Rebound enjoyed dinner with a great housing advocate, George Turner, Executive Director at Phatt Chance Community Services, Inc.

George R. Turner, Executive Director of Phatt Chance Community Services, Inc.

George R. Turner, Executive Director of Phatt Chance Community Services, Inc.

Phatt Chance is a nonprofit organization that provides transitional short- and long-term housing and other basic support services to men over the age of 18 reintegrating to society after incarceration.

George’s philosophy for providing transitional housing is unique. He is all about prioritizing the needs of the individual residents. While many transitional homes limit an individual’s time of stay to 6 months or until completion of a predetermined treatment program—meaning you are asked to leave or transition out after a short period of time—George believes that the transition from incarceration into society cannot be allotted a one-size-fits-all timeline. This is why his homes are open for both short- and long-term stays, entirely dependent on an individual client’s needs.

This philosophy distinguishes Phatt Chance from many other housing organizations in the Bay Area and across the country. Many post-release housing options require a new resident to have an addiction in order to be eligible for housing. Many transitional homes require that people be of a specific age group or from a specific county. This leaves many people ostracized and alienated from these services. (For more information on transitional housing issues, read: http://www.urban.org/projects/reentry-portfolio/housing.cfm). Phatt Chance fills a gap in transitional housing because it takes new clients as they are. There are no automatic exclusions expect that all residents must be male and over the age 18. Men escaping homelessness, men with or without addiction challenges, men from a broad age range, and men with different health needs live together and may apply to Phatt Chance’s housing.

Phatt Chance’s housing model is particularly well suited to people who will thrive with greater independence in their living situation because there is minimum structure, but the program asks for the maximum level of personal accountability from the clients. While some people leaving prison and jail need greater structure and treatment support, many people succeed in a less structured living environment where they can have more autonomy and control over their daily lives. Residents at Phatt Chance can pursue employment, continued education, counseling services, and other off-site responsibilities when appropriate and congruent with parole conditions. In return, Phatt Chance clients are expected to uphold the integrity of the homes and to treat each other with respect and dignity.

George likes to say, “When you know better, you do better.” Phatt Chance promotes a culture in which residents teach and learn from one another and uphold the greatest level of respect for self-improvement and community-building work.

Short- and long-term housing solutions are vitally important to successful reintegration after incarceration. How can someone build roots in a community and thrive as a returning citizen without safe and appropriate shelter? We urge you to learn more about Phatt Chance and the many challenges and opportunities one faces in establishing good housing after incarceration.

George Turner has dreams of expanding his housing model to a greater number of clients in need. Phatt Chance would like someday to offer transitional housing and reintegration services for women and improve the transitional housing system overall. We hope to support him in these efforts.

—The R & R Team