an from Iowa, second left, and Representative Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, right, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
The criminal-justice reform bill that was passed by the Senate with the support of the Republican leadership, and being claimed as a pivotal moment in criminal and prison justice reform, is a continuation of the same old piecemeal approach that’s noninclusive of most inmates and their families.
This legislation is supposedly to benefit and affect the more than 200,000 federal inmates confined in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) correctional facilities. This shift in attitudes from punishment and lock-up-and-throw-away-the-key approaches has contributed to the devastation of families of color that have bore the financial burden of supporting their incarcerated loved ones.
Sure, about 2,000 federal inmates like those convicted of crack and powder cocaine will benefit from the discrepancy of the harsh and punitive laws that Congress said “led to major racial disparities in sentencing.” These racial disparities existed long before the crack and powder cocaine epidemic and it still exists today. This legislation does not address the totality of our concerns as it relates to the multi-layer affect of the criminal punishment system, from arrest to prosecution, sentencing, corrections reentry, etc. Sure, quite a few federal inmates will hopefully see a lowering of their excessive and impossible sentences, through some of the issues addressed in the bill.
If one has multiple injuries, the doctor will treat all of your injuries based on the seriousness of one injury. I did not see included in the bill any mention of the billions of dollars that is generated off the backs of inmates and their families. The talk about increasing inmate access to telephone time and video visiting and increased statutory good time and attempts to lower the recidivism rate — we don’t need a more comforting prison community.
Why was there no mention of the fact that several prisons and major corporations and banks have made billions off the backs and pain of prisoners and their families? Some of whom have received no-bid contracts and operated as a monopoly while generating revenues of billions of dollars from construction of private prison facilities. inmate telephone calls, health services, money transfers, prison commissary stores, co-pay for medical treatment, fees for emails, etc. Why are prisoners the only ones in America who have to pay to send and receive emails? Released prisoners are given what little funds that are in their institutional account on a debit card, issued by JPay, with outrageous fees for every time you use or don’t use the card, resulting in millions of dollars to the company. This financial rape is spread across the spectrum of correctional services. I support any positive change that would reduce these impossible sentences and bring our families and friends back home. If one has all four tires flat, you have to repair all four tires — you don’t put air in one and say, “Look what we’ve done.”
Men and women are released every day with little or no money after years of making nothing to pennies a day, yet have to pay for a lot of products and services they require while incarcerated, and none of the billions of dollars are shared with the inmates or their families. The practice is to give the institution a kickback for permission to provide their services to the inmate and their families, and none of the profits or commissions are shared or returned to aid or assist those being released. Our pain is someone else’s gain. Shouldn’t inmates and their families share in the billions that are generated from their money? Not only should monies be given for release and reentry purposes, but for micro loans, investments, family unification, etc. It is ironic that none of the companies that operate these sole-source, no-bid contracts are a minority company and yet Blacks and people of color are the majority of the prison population. Why did Congress not address the financial burden that is breaking the backs of families that are already poor and indigent? There are laws and regulations that would address some of the immediate relief that’s required to release prisoners if implemented with a compassionate and humane focus. The criminal punishment system and big business equals profits.
There are a few issues that should have been addressed, like the fastest growing prison population is Black women. Over 30,000 inmates are over 55 years old and have aged out of crime. Reintroduce parole, increase the wages that inmates earn, eliminate the high cost of telephone calls, make emails free, use liberal application of the furlough program, utilize family impact statements and its effect on families with young children at time of sentencing, end the school-to-prison pipeline for our children, and expedite implementation of the compassionate-release program for the elderly and infirmed.
Returning control to D.C. of our correctional and paroling authority are a few issues that should have been included. Any progress in granting relief to those incarcerated in any and all forms is appreciated, but it reminds me of having your house of fire, and the fireman gives you a cup of water to put the fire out. Until we address the social and economic causes of poverty and social disenfranchisement, this First Step Act implies that there will be a Second Step, and the First Step has taken years of politicking. Hopefully the second step will happen while we still have feet to step.
For the men and women incarcerated who heard that Congress will pass legislation on prison reform, gave everyone hope for some type of relief from the discriminatory and racial practices, but not every inmate will see any type of benefit from this legislation. Everyone needs hope and not every federal inmate will receive any, depending on nature of violent crime, availability of institutional programs that are supposed to make one eligible for earlier release to the halfway house. The BOP has closed 16 halfway houses nationally, causing some inmates to be incarcerated longer.
Mothers of children younger than 10 should be given furloughs to maintain parental unification during incarceration, 75 percent of whom are primary caregivers. The biggest losers are our children. They, too, are serving sentences. No released inmate should be made to pay income taxes after serving five years or more.
Do we thank you for the First Step Act? Any relief is needed, but how do you rectify the racial and discriminatory practices that have gotten us to this point? The powers that be are praising this bipartisan participation. African Americans have been stepped on for over 400 years. Let’s get to the Last Step and release those imprisoned now.
Unjustly treated because of the color of their skin, discriminatory and racial application of unjust laws, only attitudes and compassionate humaneness will change this. Piecemeal legislation will result in piecemeal results. Our car has been totally wrecked and the First Step Act will fix only one tire.
Roach Brown to Discuss the Unger Decision and Racism in Black and White
Roach Brown, a longtime D.C. fixture and voice for the voiceless who routinely and unabashedly takes on injustice within America’s criminal justice system, with emphasis on the formerly incarcerated, returns Tuesday, Dec. 4 for his monthly talk show, CROSS ROADS, 10 a.m. – noon. Aired by local radio station, WPFW-FM 89.3, the show can also be heard via the Internet @ www.WPFWFM.org on Pacifica Radio (worldwide).
December’s topics for discussion: The Unger Decision, with guest Stanley Mitchell, a Baltimore resident who counts as one of 130 former inmates serving life sentences for violent crimes released on probation following the landmark ruling by Maryland’s highest court; and, during the second segment, “Racism in Black and White” when one white WPFW listener, Mark Burnett, will challenge notions of racism that he asserts have recently “unfairly” resurfaced against his own community. Other guests from the District will be in the studio and have the opportunity to share their own views.
And with Roach, well-known for his own amazing journey from the outhouse to the jailhouse to the crazy house to the White House, leading the way, the monthly discussion will, as he often does, pique your interest, slightly raise your blood pressure, invoke momentary laughter and, upon the show’s conclusion, most certainly spark more than a few listeners to become more active participants within their own communities.
The action takes place, as always, at Ben’s Chili Bowl (1213 U Street NW), where you can also enjoy breakfast. Brown will be joined by co-host Ofchi Taifa, Esq., Open Society Justice Roundtable
Kennedy Center Cast 10.23.2018
THE CLARION TV
Trailer & Guests from The Documentary
(Click on the arrow in the picture below to view the TV Show)
President Obama's Sentencing Guidelines mandated reform of the criminal justice system and reduction of the Federal prison population. It called for: ending use of solitary confinement for juveniles, banning the box for Federal employers, reinvigorating the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, ensuring police and community work together to ensure streets are safe, and that the law is applied equally. These new guidelines opened the door to 6,000 inmates to be released from Federal prisons, at one time.
Charles Thornton served more than 10 years in prison. He now serves as Special Assistant to the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Office of Human Rights, and advises by speaking for the returning citizen. He also serves as Board Chair for the Corrections Information Council, inspecting facilities and programs at institutions that house D.C. residents. Charles was instrumental in assisting many of the 6,000 inmates who were released. His goal is to demonstrate that there ARE successful re-entrants.
Roach Brown also served more than 10 years in prison. He encourages returning citizens that there's no limit to the role you can accomplish, or the goal you can achieve. He has hosted The Roach Brown Radio Show for more than 8 years in outreach for justice. Roach also works with Offender Anonymous, to assist returning citizens in re-acclimating to society.
"When someone comes back and they're living in a shelter and have no income, what do you expect"?
"You can't lock people up forever. ..You have to provide some place to live, and work".
Host Janice Liggins, discusses the "Returning Citizens" Documentary, as well as discuss the current and past work of Charles Thornton, and Roach Brown in serving imprisoned citizens who are returning to the community.
The event will take place onWednesday, February 28th, from 6-8 PM at the African American Civil War Museum.
Guest Presenters Include:
PASS THE WORD AROUND AND COME OUT!
KAREN AND COURTLAND
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Come Out To See the Play...Holidays...Hollow Days
Lorton Reformatory actually reformed men. Men were able to attend school and receive degrees. The Inner Voices Drama Group was formed during this time. Learn more about this exciting concept that changed the lives of many men with life sentences.
Join Us To View This Timely DVD Video.........
The Concerns Addressed Then Are Still
The Same Concerns Addressed Today
An Evening Dedicated To All Former Lortonites......
"We Don't Need To Get Together Only at Funerals"
Like Roach Brown Always Says:
"Keep Missing The Count!"
There are over 4,500 DC inmates who are scattered in prisons across America.
Let's help bring them closer to home.
Roach Brown Video
Roach Keynote Speaker at Project Empowerment Graduation
Good Morning Mr. Brown,
The Division of State Initiatives (DSI) would like to first thank you for accepting the offer to speak at this Friday’s graduation. So that we can give you the proper introduction, please send a copy of your bio. The details for the graduation are below:
The graduation is scheduled to start at 12:00 PM at the Department of Empowerment Services – Headquarters. The address is 4058 Minnesota Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20019. If you could be here no later than 11:30 AM, I will escort you to the location where we will have the graduation. Parking - The Department of Employment Services building is metro accessible, Minnesota Avenue Metro Station (orange line) is next to the building and parking is available adjacent to DOES, you can use your smart trip card or credit card for exit, the cost is $8.95. If you are riding in a Zipcar, there is a Zipcar parking lot at the park and ride lot at the Metro station.
National Black Theatre Festival Fest - July 31 - Aug.5, 2017
Celebration of Service on April 19, 2017
2017 Celebration of Service Honorees
JACK OLENDER Celebration of Service Award
As president of Jack H. Olender & Associates and co-founder the Olender Foundation, Mr. Olender has been recognized numerous times for his legal prowess, stalwart advocacy on behalf of the injured, and service to the community. His foundation, in its aim to counter poverty and violence and promote education and equal justice, supports an array of organizations that serve the public, especially the citizens of the District of Columbia. Each year Mr. Olender hosts a gala that recognizes law students from UDC and Howard University along with other public and local heroes.
THE HON. CARMEN ESPINOSA Distinguished Alumnus Award
Justice Carmen Espinosa (‘76, GWU, Civil) is the first Hispanic to sit on all three levels of the Connecticut judiciary, advancing from the District and Appellate Courts to her current position as State Supreme Court Justice. The first in her family to attend college, she is a shining example to Hispanic children and other minorities that “anything is possible if you stay in school and use education as a bridge to success.” Justice Espinosa has been involved with judicial education and regularly addresses students and community groups through the Judicial Branch’s Speakers Bureau. Listen to LSIC podcast.
ROACH BROWN Community Partner Award
While serving a life sentence in Lorton Reformatory, Roach was injured in a guards’ riot and thrown into solitary confinement for eight months. There, he wrote a poem in the dust under his bed entitled “Christmas in Time,” which evolved into a play. While serving time at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane, Roach formed The Inner Voices, a prison theatrical group that toured extensively across the country. When President Ford learned of Roach’s work, he commuted his life sentence to immediate parole on Christmas Day 1975.
Since then Roach has dedicated his life to finding solutions to our criminal justice system and advocating for the incarcerated and returnees. A consultant and motivational speaker, he continues his work with The Inner Voices, helping to feed thousands of needy residents on Christmas Day, while hosting CROSS ROADS, a weekly radio show broadcast nationally and internationally on WPFW Pacifica. Listen to LSIC podcast.
BUCKLEY SANDLER LLP
Legal Firm Award
Buckley Sandler LLP is among the leading financial services law firms in the country. Its pro bono practice provides legal services to economically disadvantaged individuals and numerous nonprofit organizations in the DC community. With generous donations from the Kolar Foundation of Buckley Sandler, the firm supports charitable initiatives of importance to the members and employees of the firm, as a way of giving back.
Mrs. Virginia Ali, Mrs. Parker and Mertine Moore Brown
Citywide Reentry Assembly
Citywide Reentry Assembly
Citywide Reentry Assembly
Civil War Memorial Event
2016 Donation Letter
National Black Theater Festival film laurel
We are so excited that “ROACH” the film, has been selected to screen during the 2017 National Black Theater Festival Film Fest.
Letter of Appreciation; Gennine Hagar, Chief US Probrobation
Citywide Reentry Assembly
Invitation to Gennine Hagar Retirement Celebration
Invitation to the Retirement Ceremony for Chief Probation Officer Gennine A. Hagar
Mertine Moore Brown Election Day
ELECTION DAY COMMENTARY
Today is the day that will determine who will lead our country for the next four years. This has been one of the most degrading and disrespectful campaigns I can remember. What horrible campaign bantering we have implanted in our childrens' minds. Slaves built this country and we continue to build through mass incarceration. Big businesses are using prisoners to further strengthen their assets; men and women daily working for slave wages, away from their families for decades on end and killings of African Americans by law enforcement with zero consequences. We're not strange fruit hanging from the trees but the actions and attitudes are the same.
We all know our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were beaten, tricked, lied to, water hosed down and even killed to exercise our right to vote. Even today voter oppression is in full gear across this country.
In spite of the fact that the Republican candidate is not a politician, he has emerged as the front runner. There are many reasons why this candidate is bad for America and the most important reason of all, this man has no character. He calls people names, he disrespects women (even in front of their husbands) and calls people liars because he can't handle the truth.
To have someone with his lack of integrity be the leader of the free world, leaves us all in a very precarious situation. And his wife is an immigrant. An immigrant as the First Lady who didn't even grow up here? This should not be.
I am Mertine Moore Brown and I approve this message.
VOTE. VOTE. VOTE.
YOU ARE MORE POWERFUL
THAN YOU KNOW.
Roundtable Talk w/President
Invitation to Roach Brown from Ms. Laura Markell Downton
Dear Mr. Brown,
Merry Christmas! I am writing to extend a warm invitation for you to join us as a panelist following the Friday, June 24 2016 Washington, D.C. performance of Mariposa & the Saint: From Solitary Confinement, A Play Through Letters based entirely on letters written between Sara (Mariposa) Fonseca and co-playwright Julia Steele Allen while Mariposa was held in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of a California women’s prison.
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture has been pleased to be a partner in the nationwide tour of performances of Mariposa & the Saint over the past year and we are excited for this powerful, eye-opening play to come to Washington, D.C. At each performance from coast to coast, the 45-minute play has been followed by a 45-minute dialogue highlighting the work of local or statewide organizations, and has included time for audience members to learn about and take concrete action steps together to further the human rights campaign to end the torture of prolonged isolation. Your participation and perspective during the 45-minute dialogue following the June 24th performance would be a tremendous gift.
The Washington, D.C. performance will take place during Torture Awareness Month on Friday, June 24, 2016 at 7pm at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, located at 1313 New York Avenue, NW 20005.
Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. We are ever grateful for and inspired by your work for justice in this world!
“Mariposa's story is one I now carry with me in a visceral and alive place. This is a must-see, and a must-share. And it will stir a must-respond from all who encounter it."
- Rev. Laura Markle Downton, Director of U.S. Prisons Policy & Program
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Washington, DC (March 1, 2016) – Julia Steele Allen, an award-winning playwright and activist, is in the midst of touring her radical epistolary play that brings to life the true story of a woman locked in solitary confinement for nearly three years, in her own words. Mariposa & the Saint: From Solitary Confinement, A Play Through Letters is based entirely on letters written between Sara (Mariposa) Fonseca and co-playwright Allen while Mariposa was held in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of a California women’s prison. The play is directed by Noelle Ghoussaini and performed by Julia Steele Allen and Ray Huth. The Washington, DC, presentation is hosted by Arcturus Theater Company.
PERFORMANCE DATE: Friday, June 24, 2016
TIME: 7 pm
PLACE: New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Avenue, NW 20005
COST: $30 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds. Formerly incarcerated/ CAIC members come free.
Julia Steele Allen said: “The movement against solitary confinement is growing across the country, but for many, the issue remains abstract. Through her letters, Mariposa tells a story that reveals both the devastating effects of long-term isolated confinement, and, as she says: ‘the magic that comes with the struggle to keep your spirit alive.’ The power of her words, smuggled through so many walls, reaches the audience and impacts them, profoundly.”
The travelling road show was favorably reviewed in the October 19, 2015, issue of The New Yorker:
Are we ready for 6,000 prisoners to return home by Nov. 2?
October 8, 2015
DEBORAH SIMMONS: Are we ready for 6,000 prisoners to return home by Nov. 2?
By Deborah Simmons
That is how former inmates and advocates responded to my simple question at a Thursday morning new conference: Are we prepared to receive 6,000 inmates in a historic, four-day federal prisoner release program scheduled to begin Oct. 30?
"No" slid off their tongues frequently and quite easily.
Most of those 6,000 men and women who are in federal prisons will be sent to halfway houses and other such institutions. But not all of them are "returning citizens." A heads-up to folks who live in a sanctuary city: About one-third of them are noncitizens facing deportation, something else that has made some people nervous Nellies.
But the mere number means we need to rethink how we police ourselves. Instead of thinking community policing, we perhaps should be thinking community crime control.
"The communities, the cities need to able to meet and to sustain the needs of those returning," explained longtime community activist and no-sayer Tyrone Parker. "They haven't met or sustained the needs of those already back here. There are no jobs, no housing. We talk to the baggy pants, and we talk to dreadlocks. We even talk to the short skirts. We need to speak to the person inside the person."
Rhozier Brown, a convicted killer pardoned by President Gerald Ford in 1976, painted a picture of a returning citizen that is rarely understood or represented in the media: A man imprisoned for 42 years comes home and finds his grandma's home is torn down, a club he frequented is torn down. He looks for a public phone booth and finds they are gone too, and then, penniless, tries to bum a bus transfer only to discover they no longer are in use.
Prisons do not prepare inmates for their transitions home, wherever home may be, and our communities and budgets aren't preparing them either.
Here are a few facts about what we've been dealing with in recent years:
• With more than 2.3 million inmates being given three hots and a cot, each week more than 10,000 of them are released from prison. The annual total is an estimated 650,000.
• The cry to the U.S. Sentencing Commission led to an April 2014 vote to reduce sentencing guidelines for many lower-level drug offenders. Then, in July 2014, the commission added to that list prisoners who were serving "unjustly long" sentences for drug offenses.
• Over the course of the next five years, an estimated 40,000 inmates will be eligible for early release.
Now you get the picture, and Mr. Brown, Mr. Parker and a few dozen other men and women say the time to begin the transition is now.
They say change is hard for a lot of people, and transition is more difficult if you broke the law, paid a price (sometimes twice if it concludes financial restitution) and can't seem to find your way. But for "returning citizens," those already "out" and those who will begin making their way to a neighborhood near you, the laws of this great country work against them.
At the press conference called by the National Alliance of Returning Citizens, ex-offenders and advocates laid out an agenda that includes pressing local, state and federal governments to reform public school discipline policies, reinstate voting rights, continue the push to ban the criminal arrest box on job applications and "provide immediate employment and training for returning citizens."
They also want our governments to do something else: "Utilize current prisoners, and the influence they have in communities, to reduce gang violence and assist in gang intervention."
That issue might be realized if only for the fact that, as we were learning about the early prison releases, the U.S. Justice Department announced October 1 that $53 million in grants was being ginned up to reduce recidivism among youths and adults.
In short, many of those in attendance at the press conference came from a hard place, but they did not make excuses. What they did, which is old-school and very impressive, is discuss community crime control - and it doesn't mean they are patrolling the streets as gun-toting Bible-thumpers.
It means they arm families, returning citizens and communities with the tools to live with such mediating forces as churches and other faith-based entities, as well as community-based organizations, not merely "community organization." The focal point: family.
Here again, I turn to Mr. Parker. I first met him in 1991, when he, James Alsobrooks and several other men were forming the Alliance of Concerned Men. At the time, D.C. was in the throes of several crises - chiefly violence, teen pregnancy, terrible public schools and substance abuse epidemics that left young children and teenagers to fend on their own. Things were so murderous, one neighborhood was nicknamed "Simple City."
The newly formed alliance asked for books, computers, donations, volunteers and mentors to help turn the tide, and my family gave generously. The constants, including prayer and incremental payoffs, included working with other nonfinancial profiteers, such as Robert Woodson of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise to reach out to struggling families to bring about gang truces and peaceful solutions.
The truce and community spirit sustained those efforts until bloodletting and other suffering returned, as residents informed the mayor and other officials at a recent come-to-Jesus meeting in not-so-Simple City.
"The devil is on the loose, and we need to lock it back up," was the warning of one worried mom at that meeting.
When I asked Mr. Parker where the leaders of our faith community stood, he simply said, "They're straddling the fence."
So allow my interpretation: They talk the talk in the buildings, but aren't necessarily opening the doors to the community where they should be walking the walk.
Myrna Lee, founder of the A Family That Prays organization and one of a dozen women in attendance, spoke of the need for spiritual healing as one of the most important ways to meet and sustain the needs of the large influx of prisoners who soon will return home.
"We have to offer the hands-up," she said. "We just can't wait for the government."
For those of you who think I've gone soft, that is not the case. I'm still a law-and-order kinda gal.
I'm not really into the slogans "Black Lives Matter," "Blue Lives Matter," etc. I'm into action.
And I'm saying this, too: If we don't prepare ourselves for the tens of thousands of prisoners who are coming home, community crime control will get kicked to the curb.
I'm just saying.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RADIOTHON FLYER 2016
Bridging the GAP Coalition, LLC Charles Eave, Jr. CEO
January 2, 2015
Rhozier “Roach” Brown
Host of Cross Roads
Happy New Year!
I’d like to thank you for your wonderful participation and the wealth of knowledge you brought to the Ward 7 community. I was honored to have you and you stood tall and delivered vital information to us all. Bridging the Gap enjoys it’s collaboration with you now and always for a better quality of life.
Charles Eaves, Jr.
Bridging the GAP Coalition
Bridging the GAP Coalition, LLC, 776 Kenilworth Terrace, NE, Apt 8, Washington, DC 20019
The Inner Voices, Inc.
Washington, DC 20010
Spread the word about the half-day National Clemency and Criminal Justice Reform Radiothon, Friday, June 17th from noon-6 (ET). Tune into WPFW Pacifica radio 89.3 FM, or livestream @ WPFWFM.org.
This Radiothon occurs 45 years after former President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse as "public enemy number 1." Shortly after his proclamation, the media popularized the term, "war on drugs." We now know that this "war on drugs" was a stratagem for criminalizing Black people and critics of the VietNam War, and has today resulted in the mass incarceration of over 2 million people.
The Justice Radiothon will feature formerly incarcerated people and family members, civil rights leaders, criminal justice experts, conservative allies, governmental representatives and others.
We are thrilled that celebrities Johnny Gill, Keith Sweat and Adam Rodriguez will be amongst those calling in.
Washington, DC's own Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and community activist Rev Willie Wilson, Pastor, Union Temple Baptist Church, offer insight you don't want to miss.
Recently released Weldon Angelos, Clinton-era commutation recipient Kemba Smith, and Obama commutation recipient Norman Brown will kick off the Radiothon at noon, along with clemency expert Mark Osler and Koch Industries Counsel Mark Holden. WPFW radio personality Roach Brown (whose sentence was commuted in 1975 by President Ford) and founder of The Inner Voices and Justice Roundtable Coalition convener Attorney Nkechi Taifa will co-host the Justice Radiothon, along with Co-Anchors Gloria Minnot and Askia Muhammad of WPFW.