Newsflash:
Elizabeth Warren End Mass Criminalization Michael Paul Williams: Waging a war against mass incarceration
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 00:00

Michael Paul Williams: Waging a war against mass incarceration

Written by  Michael Paul Williams | The Richmod Times Dispatch
Michael Paul Williams: Waging a war against mass incarceration Facebook.com/OccupyDemocrats

You might call it a nascent civil rights movement in response to the new Jim Crow.

About 150 people gathered Saturday morning at St. Peter Baptist Church in Glen Allen to discuss mass incarceration, the war on drugs and their effect on the black community. The Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration has scheduled forums Wednesday in Richmond’s East End.

“The endgame is just public awareness through the community and churches,” with the hoped-for result of influencing legislation in the General Assembly, said Jesse Frierson, executive director of the alliance.

The gospel of this movement is Michelle Alexander’s best-seller, “The New Jim Crow,” which details the rising mass incarceration of minorities. The author argues against policies that swelled the U.S. prison population from 300,000 to more than 2 million in less than three decades — the world’s highest incarceration rate.

Alexander’s lectures in Norfolk and Richmond in 2011 served as a catalyst for the alliance.

The toll of drug offense-fueled incarcerations on the black community has even conservative churchgoers exploring all options.

During a discussion last year at a local church, an impromptu show of hands had one-half of the audience in favor of the decriminalization, control, regulation and taxation of currently illegal drugs, Frierson said. One-quarter of the audience was opposed, and the remainder wanted more information.

“That, frankly, was surprising to everybody,” he said.

Of keen interest to the alliance is the restoration of voting rights for 450,000 disenfranchised felons in Virginia. Despite the support of Gov. Bob McDonnell, a measure to automatically restore the vote to nonviolent felons who have finished their sentence was killed in the state legislature. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, has appointed an advisory panel to explore options under the state constitution on the restoration of voting rights.

Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, were invited to Saturday’s event but did not attend. But McAuliffe, in a letter to the attendees, said “unfair and unequal enforcement of our drug laws is not an argument or a talking point; it is a fact.

“Study after study shows that while drug use is similar among different ethnic groups, young African-American men and young Latino men are arrested and incarcerated at dramatically higher rates than young men from other groups. This is devastating communities and hurting our society.”

But as McDonnell’s case shows, a sympathetic governor hardly guarantees results in the legislature. Or as Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, said Saturday: “Nobody ever lost an election by being tough on crime.”

St. Peter, on Mountain Road in northern Henrico County, is the church of Kemba Smith Pradia, a leading advocate in the fight for voting rights of former offenders. Her franchise was restored last year by McDonnell, more than a decade after she served six years of a federal prison sentence for drug-related offenses. She was granted clemency in 2000 by President Bill Clinton.

The audience viewed selected scenes from the documentary “The House I Live In,” a critique of the U.S. criminal justice system whose producers include Danny Glover, John Legend, Brad Pitt and Russell Simmons.

Part of the film showed the toll methamphetamine has exacted on white, jobless rural residents in America’s heartland, as drug use and illegal activities fill the economic void. The impact of crystal meth in those communities was likened to the effect of crack cocaine on black urban communities in the 1980s.

During the wide-ranging panel discussion that followed, state Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico — who sat on a panel with Morrissey, Pradia and Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor — said the counterproductive war on drugs coincided with the “world of no.”

First came “Just Say No,” the Reagan administration’s response to drug use. Later came “no parole,” Gov. George Allen’s politically popular policy. That was followed by “No Car Tax,” a bumper sticker that helped land Jim Gilmore in the Executive Mansion after Allen.

Parole abolition helped fuel prison construction. And the car tax reduction blew a hole in the state budget that McEachin says has hurt K-12 education funding.

Virginia, in an attempt to fill empty prison beds, began importing inmates from as far away as Hawaii. A new $105 million correctional center in Grayson County has sat empty for 2½ years because of a lack of money and the state’s declining prison population. Other correctional facilities have been closed.

Meanwhile, prisons in economically bereft communities have become as valued for job creation as for incarceration. Which begs the question: What’s driving criminal justice policy?

Conversations on that and other issues “are taking place in Baptist churches across Virginia,” Frierson said. “This is where it starts. It starts with us.”

Link to original article from The Richmond Times Dispatch

Read 6178 times Last modified on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 21:11

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Warren Campaign

  • Will new senators push Democrats to the left?
    Will new senators push Democrats to the left?

    When Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and the rest of the 2013 class of liberal senators start work this month, they'll have to do more than figure out the byzantine ways of getting things done in Washington.

    They'll also have to decide how seriously to engage a progressive movement that sees their assent a historic opportunity to shift the Democratic Party to the left.

    Written on Saturday, 05 January 2013 19:11 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Wins Senate Banking Committee Seat: Sources
    Elizabeth Warren Wins Senate Banking Committee Seat: Sources

    WASHINGTON -- Nearly two years after Wall Street waged a successful campaign to keep consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the incoming senator will be tapped to serve on the Banking Committee, according to four sources familiar with the situation. 

    Written on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 19:22 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Redefines "Balanced Approach"
    Elizabeth Warren Redefines "Balanced Approach"

    Politico recently declared, "The Senate is about to become a liberal lion’s den." 

    In 2012, groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn.org, CREDO Action, and Democracy for America worked hard to build progressive power in Congress. This week's iconic photo of Senators-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) walking together down the corridors of power is symbolic of the rising progressive tide. 

    Written on Sunday, 18 November 2012 14:20 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Wins the "Which Side Are You On?" Debate
    Elizabeth Warren Wins the "Which Side Are You On?" Debate

    An overbearing and at times ridiculously aggressive Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown came across as a desperate man Thursday night, as he attempted to gain the upper hand in the first debateof this year's most closely-watched U.S. Senate race and, by extension, in a reelection contest that seems to be slipping away from him.

    Written on Sunday, 23 September 2012 16:27 Read more...
  • Mayor Menino to endorse Elizabeth Warren in Senate race at Roslindale Square rally on Friday
    Mayor Menino to endorse Elizabeth Warren in Senate race at Roslindale Square rally on Friday

    Mayor Thomas M. Menino is expected to endorse Democrat Elizabeth Warren on Friday in her bid to unseat Republican US Senator Scott Brown, according to two people with knowledge of the plan.

    Written on Thursday, 20 September 2012 19:47 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren's DNC Speech: "Corporations Are Not People"
    Elizabeth Warren's DNC Speech: "Corporations Are Not People"

    Bill Clinton may have stolen the show at the DNC last night with his 45-minute, half-ad-libbed barn-burner of a speech, but there were a few other noteworthy speakers as well. After dragging for an hour or two, the night's program picked up when Massachusetts Senate candidate, CFPB creator, and economic realtalker extraordinaire Elizabeth Warren took the stage.

    Written on Thursday, 06 September 2012 18:54 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren: Yes She Can?
    Elizabeth Warren: Yes She Can?

    It was a grim, sleety day in Chicopee, a gritty postindustrial town in western Massachusetts, where paint flakes off worn-out bridges and boarded-up factories. At a community relations luncheon, kind security guards were opening back doors and holding out umbrellas for the few willing to brave the freezing slush.

    Written on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 04:54 Read more...
  • Jonathan Klate: A candidate's connection
    Jonathan Klate: A candidate's connection

    Retired Amherst gentleman John Kick is not known as a political activist. In the Springfield union hall where he ventured last October to hear Democratic senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren, he might have seemed a world-weary citizen with vague curiosity about the professor turned politician.

    But John's sorrowful demeanor and disconsolate eyes betrayed a woefully wounded heart. His son, Gabe, took his own life just a month earlier, at the age of 28. John keeps moving, somehow, in the dreadful private agony understood only by parents who persist in such an aftermath.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 17:09 Read more...
  • The Ascendance of Elizabeth Warren
    The Ascendance of Elizabeth Warren

    If you’re reading this, you probably already know how you feel about Elizabeth Warren. Warren is currently running for Senate in Massachusetts, in the hopes of knocking out Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Very few first-time candidates are so well-known, or so passionately beloved.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • NOW PAC Endorses Elizabeth Warren
    NOW PAC Endorses Elizabeth Warren

    NOW/PAC is thrilled to announce its endorsement of Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the U. S. Senate from the state of Massachusetts. Warren is the most prominent of the three Democrats vying to run against incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the general election. Recent polls show Warren neck and neck with Brown.

    Written on Monday, 05 March 2012 19:48 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Says Washington Must Act Now To Help Stem The Tide Of Foreclosure
    Elizabeth Warren Says Washington Must Act Now To Help Stem The Tide Of Foreclosure

    Backs MA Congressmen, Attorney General Coakley Calling on Federal Housing Finance Agency to Take Action To Prevent Unnecessary Foreclosures

    BOSTON – It is past time for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to step up and help prevent unnecessary foreclosures in Massachusetts, said Consumer Advocate Elizabeth Warren, reinforcing calls from members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and Attorney General Martha Coakley.

    Written on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 07:54 Read more...
  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern this week endorsed Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the United States Senate.

    U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern this week endorsed Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the United States Senate.

    Written on Friday, 27 January 2012 20:35 Read more...
  • The Woman Who Knew Too Much
    The Woman Who Knew Too Much

    Millions of Americans hoped President Obama would nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer financial watchdog agency she had created. Instead, she was pushed aside. As Warren kicks off her run for Scott Brown’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, Suzanna Andrews charts the Harvard professor’s emergence as a champion of the beleaguered middle class, and her fight against a powerful alliance of bankers, lobbyists, and politicians.

    Written on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren's Appeal
    Elizabeth Warren's Appeal

    For a few years now, politicians straining against all of the antigovernment demagogy have been searching for a way to energize public interest and remind voters of the essential government services and protections they rely on and all too often take for granted.

    Written on Sunday, 16 October 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • Berkshire Democrats Want Elizabeth to Run, Run, Run
    Berkshire Democrats Want Elizabeth to Run, Run, Run

    PITTSFIELD, Mass. —  More than a few local Democrats would be ecstatic if Elizabeth Warren decides to run against Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate. Warren is kicking around the idea of running and stopped in Pittsfield on Friday to meet with party members to gauge their support as part of a listening tour across the state.

    Written on Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00 Read more...

Sign the ERA Petition

ERADemandButton

On Friday, September 12th more than 150 activists will go to DC and Demand that their Senators and Representatives support removing the ratification deadline from the ERA (SJ Res 15 and HJ Res 113)

Button-SignERAPetition

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Like Elizabeth Warren

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of