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Racial Disparity News
March 7, 2014 (The Nation)
Rand Paul and Eric Holder Might Actually Get Something Important Done in Washington by Working Together
Attorney General Eric Holder and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) don’t share a lot in common, but they agree on at least one thing: reducing mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders.
The unlikely allies recently broke bread over the issue in Holder’s office. From The New York Times’s Matt Apuzzo:
Their partnership unites the nation’s first African-American attorney general, who sees his legacy in a renewed focus on civil rights, and some of Congress’s most prominent libertarians, who have accused the Obama administration of trampling on personal freedom with drones, wiretaps, tracking devices and too much government.
Paul is one of several Republicans to support the Obama-backed Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013. The bill, currently moving through the Senate, would reduce mandatory minimums for certain drug crimes and give federal judges more leeway when sentencing offenders.
March 7, 2014 (St. Louis American)
My Sister’s Keeper
In all the hoopla surrounding President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, overlooked is that fact that our young girls also need to be targeted for special attention. Sure, they outpace Black males in college attendance and, in many instances, in the workplace. Still, that does not mean they do not also need special attention and encouragement.
Nothing illustrates this better than events of the past week. Sandwiched between President Obama’s White House announcement of his special effort to help Black males and jubilation over Lupita Nyong’o winning an Oscar for best supporting actress in “12 years a Slave” was news out of Florida that Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a “warning shot” in the direction of her estranged and abusive husband, will be retried and could face 60 years in prison instead of the original 20.
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, the same prosecutor whose office failed to win murder convictions against George Zimmerman in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin and, more recently, against Michael Dunn for the death of Jordan Davis, announced that instead of the 20 years originally given to Alexander, she will seek to triple that by requesting that her three 20-year terms be served consecutively rather than concurrently.
March 7, 2014 (Finger Lakes Times)
Geneva NAACP initiative focuses on voting rights of ex-offenders
A new initiative of the Geneva chapter of the NAACP will focus on the voting rights of ex-offenders.
At the March 11 League of Women Voters of Geneva lunch, local NAACP President Lucile Mallard will speak about the chapter’s new voter registration and civic engagement education program.
League officials said most people who have been involved with the criminal justice system receive little or no information about their voting rights.
According to a study conducted by The Sentencing Project, more than 40 percent of prisoners believe that incarceration causes them to permanently lose his or her right to vote and almost 60 percent believe that being on probation makes them ineligible to vote.
March 4, 2014 (The Trentonian)
An ex-offenders voting bloc?
Under a plan brewing in the state legislature, a new voting bloc would join New Jersey’s 5.27 million registered voters — ex-offenders.
Prospective new voters would be signed up at the exit doors of prisons and jails — or parole and probation offices — under bills awaiting action in the state Assembly and Senate.
The pool of new voters would be potentially huge. There are 23,000 in state prisons, 70,000 on probation and 16,000 on parole.
Thousands of them annually become legally eligible to vote upon “maxing out” their sentences or fulfilling their probationary or parole terms.
The legislation to sign them up as voters is part of an “enfranchisement movement” that’s percolating throughout the nation. The movement recently received an influential boost from the country’s top law enforcement official, U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder.
March 4, 2014 (Philadelphia City Paper)
Artist reflects on nearly 40 years of painting women serving life sentences
Walk around Northern Liberties long enough and you’ll encounter a weathered tile mural embedded in the side of Kaplan’s Bakery, at 3rd and Poplar. The woman that stares back with aching eyes is not a local hero or someone who died tragically. She’s an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Cambridge Springs serving life without parole.
The carefully painted text accompanying the portrait tells her story:
“Cyd Charisse Berger has been in prison in Pennsylvania since 1980. She is sentenced to life without parole although she did not commit a murder. Previously, she tried to escape from him, but he stalked and beat her until she returned. Just before he killed the victim, he practiced on Cyd Berger. She helped her abuser flee and reported him to the police. Cyd Berger is asking the governor to pardon her sentence and needs support. Her abuser was the murderer.”
In West Philadelphia, at 44th and Locust, a mural of Rose Dinkins, another woman serving life without parole, offers a more concise statement: “I believe that my life is worth saving because of the person I am today."
These two tile murals are the work of Mary DeWitt, a local artist who has been visiting seven women serving life without parole in Pennsylvania since the late ‘80s, all while painting their portraits and recording their thoughts.
“I see what people don’t have access to, and I have to bring visibility to it or I’m a real asshole,” says DeWitt.