ACJP//De-Bug Family Member Featured in Mercury News for Innovative New Re-Entry Program!

At a forum ACJP//De-Bug held at the end of last year, as Santa Clara County imagined the best ways to build a realignment strategy that reduces recidivism, Steeda McGruder gave her testimony as an offering of hope to a crowd of community members, elected officials and public safety officials. She shared a vision of peer mentorship built from ideas she developed while she was incarcerated. She called her dream “Sisters That Been There.” She made her dream real, and now Sisters That Been There has become a unique blueprint of redemption, re-invention and tangible impact. Check out the Mercury News profile of her success story!

Ex-convict with ‘street cred’ leads unique San Jose support group for repeat offenders
By Tracey Kaplan

For a Santa Clara County contract employee, Steeda McGruder doesn’t exactly have a pristine résumé:

Age: 29

Occupation: Drug dealer/user, thief

Work history: In and out of custody for past 17 years

Attitude during last jail stint: Angry, suicidal, high-risk (allowed out of maximum-security cell only every 48 hours to shower)

So why has the probation department eagerly put her on its payroll at $400 a week?

Because officials believe her criminal record, powerful rap and magnetic personality make McGruder the ideal person to run a support group for recently released repeat female offenders called “Sisters That Been There.” Continue reading

“Change the World From Here”

This is a photo taken in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in San Francisco.  Adults who are jailed and youth who are detained and catch an ICE hold are sent to this facility so they could be processed for immigration proceedings.  One East Palo Alto youth remembers being shackled upon her release from Hillcrest Juvenile Detention facility in San Mateo County, put in a van where you can’t see what’s outside, and then taken here.  She was then placed in a room for “hours and hours” until she was put on a plane to go to a group home in Southern California, where she spent four months before being reunited with her family to fight her deportation proceedings.  

The flag that flies on a street pole by the detention facility reads “Change the World From Here”.  In a place filled with fear and uncertainty, hope comes in the form of the families who fight tenaciously for their loved ones’ release.  They all walk in the metal doors of the building knowing that they will bring their loved one home.  — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

Mercury News: District Attorney’s Office Charging Gang Enhancements for Graffiti

Gang enhancements are a device prosecutors use to greatly increase (or threaten to increase) sentences for defendants who they feel meet the extremely loose definition of having committed a crime to benefit a “street gang.” By adding this enhancement, ACJP has seen families where a defendant felt forced to take a plea due to the extremely high sentence they would face if they lost a trial due to the enhancements. And as defense attorneys will tell you, walking into a jury trial with a “gang” tag already puts the defendant at a serious disadvantage. But this is the first time we have seen prosecutors expand the net of gang enhancement to include graffiti charges — as they have just done here in Santa Clara County. As you will see in the article written by Tracey Kaplan for the Mercury News, the DA’s office acknowledges these are non-violent acts, but nonetheless are applying gang enhancements. We are concerned with this precedent of treating the enhancement like a rubber band — stretching it to include whomever they want to force a plea out of. And of course, we know that such extraordinarily severe sentencing will not deter the act of graffiti. As such, these youth are being sacrificed (records with strikes and the looming threat of lengthy prison sentences) for a rationale that carries no logic in the real world.  Continue reading