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

5 Criminal Justice and Reentry Documentaries You MUST See

This week, Root & Rebound’s Spring Law Clerk Chandra Peterson reviews five must-watch criminal justice/reentry related documentaries. Be Informed and Take Action! What’s better than snuggling up on your couch with some popcorn and a great criminal justice documentary? Probably … Continue reading

Honoring Our Veterans

Today we are taking the day off from work for Veteran’s Day, but it doesn’t seem right to let the day go by without posting, to honor and thank all who have served our country, especially the many veterans who live behind bars in our country or with criminal records. This is not a topic often discussed on a day like today, but if we really want to honor all who have served our country, and all who have experienced the horrors and trauma of war, then we must honor those who, struggling with physical and mental health conditions related to their service, all too often find themselves struggling with the criminal justice system as well.

There is a significant correlation between incarceration and the mental health conditions faced by veterans: 40% of veterans with PTSD symptoms commit a crime after discharge from wartime service.[1] As a result, veterans are severely overrepresented in the criminal justice system: nationwide, 10%—1 in 10—of prison and jail inmates once served in the military, the majority in wartime.[2]

As many of you know, mental illness often worsens in prison. There is a lack of adequate treatment in many prisons and jails. Even those veterans without mental illness face significant obstacles reentering society. As we have discussed here on the blog, having a criminal record can make it very difficult to find either housing or employment, and lacking either makes it difficult to find the other, creating a vicious circle. Lack of housing and employment for those recently released from incarceration dramatically increases their chances of recidivism and return to incarceration.[3]

For those veterans whose mental illness needs are never addressed, homelessness may well be the result. One quarter (25%) of the people who are homeless in the United States are veterans. One-third (33%) of homeless men are veterans. Almost all of them (89%) received an honorable discharge, and over two-thirds (76%) experience problems with mental health or addiction.[4]

So today, on Veterans Day, we ask that you take a moment to think about all Veterans—in all corners of our communities, and honor them by thinking about the ways we can better support our incredibly brave men and women when they come home.

To learn more about these issues and to find resources, please visit:

Happy Veterans Day. Thank you to all who have served, and let us hope to be of better service to you when you return home.

—The R & R Team

Weekend Reading: Lessons From European Prisons

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Comparison of German, Dutch, and American incarceration rates. Image from Vera Report, page. 7.

Hello again from chilly NYC!

We can’t wait to fill you in on some of the wonderful work we have learned about during our weeklong trip to this incredible city, where reentry work is thriving.

In the meantime, we thought we would leave you with some reentry-relevant weekend reading: A new report put out by the Vera Institute of Justice and the California Based Prison Law Office, Sentencing and Prison Practices in Germany and the Netherlands: Implications for the United States. The report describes the penal systems of the Netherlands and Germany, countries that incarcerate people at one-tenth the rate of the United States, for far less time, and under conditions geared toward social reintegration rather than punishment alone.

The New York Times publishes an Op-Ed yesterday about the report, in which they note that the “American and European systems differ in almost every imaginable way, beginning with their underlying rationale for incarceration. Under German law, the primary goal of prison is ‘to enable prisoners to lead a life of social responsibility free of crime upon release.’ Public safety is ensured not simply by separating offenders from society, but by successfully reintegrating them.”

The Times op-ed also observes a number of critical differences between the United States and these European nations; In the Netherlands and Germany, “inmates are given a remarkable level of control over their lives and their personal privacy” while in prison; “some wear their own clothes and prepare their own meals. They interact with staff trained not only in prison security, but in educational theory and conflict management.” Thus, they are far better prepared for life post-release and for reentry. Furthermore, the courts in these countries “rely heavily on alternatives to prison — including fines, probation and other community-service programs — and they impose much shorter sentences when there is no alternative to incarceration.While the average state prison term in the United States is about three years, more than 90 percent of Dutch sentences and 75 percent of German sentences are 12 months or less.” Notably for our work, “upon release, European inmates do not face the punitive consequences that American ex-prisoners do — from voting bans to restrictions on employment, housing and public assistance, all of which increase the likelihood of re-offending.”

The Times wisely notes that, as many states in the U.S. are reforming their draconian laws and systems of imprisonment, (for example Georgia, Colorado, Maine and Mississippi are all currently reforming solitary-confinement practices), these states should “rethink outdated assumptions” and “would be wise to pay close attention to European counterparts.”

We hope you also take a look at the NY Times article and the original report, and that it inspires you to learn even more about the American system of criminal justice as it compares to others less punitive but more effective, around the world.

Happy reading!

–The R & R Team