Grandmother Freed from Life Sentence

The first woman up for a potential re-sentencing in Santa Clara County due to Proposition 36 won her release this week. A 55-year-old grandmother, Lisa Carter had done 18 years of a life sentence due to the recently reformed 3 Strikes Law. Lisa’ third offense was $150 shoplifting charge. When moved up from prison to the county jail in anticipation of court, Sister’s That Been There founder Steeda McGruder was asked by Lisa’s attorney to give counsel on the possible re-entry process. Lisa, her daughter, and her 12-year-old granddaughter offered testimony at the hearing — all calling for her release. At one point the prosecutor noted that Lisa was “on her own personal journey” but thought that journey should continue in prison. That will not be the case, as Judge Deborah Ryan issued the release. Here is an image of family, friends, even former bunkies of hers who knew Lisa years ago — at the steps of the court right before the hearing. They lit candles and prayed before court. Read the Mercury News article here.



“De-Bug the System” — The Shirt and the People Who Inspired the Message

When we made the De-Bug the System shirt, it was to honor those who stand up for what they believe in, who hold strong to the truth of their convictions. 
There are many who De-Bug the System everyday in their own humble way with an often unrecognized courage. And the “systems” can be whatever force or institution someone must challenge in order to free themselves or loved ones from a current condition. We want to hold up this spirit, because we find strength and inspiration through witnessing each other’s determined fight. Below are three De-Bug members who exemplify “De-Bug the System” in their own way. 
We hope you may get a shirt for yourself, or for someone you know who may be De-Bugging the System, or to only voice support for those whose struggles let us know that change is possible. 

Steeda McGruder

Steeda McGruder has spent a total of 17 years behind bars. While incarcerated in 2010, she created a vision to break the cycle of incarceration for herself and other women. She called it “Sisters That Been There.” Once released, she worked to make her dream real. The Santa Clara County Probation Department was so impressed by her work that they agreed to support her program of working with women just coming out of prison and jail. Steeda has graduated dozens of women from her program, one many say was the life-changing moment in their lives. In this photo, Steeda stands in front of the Re-Entry Resource Center, where she has an office and supports the successful re-entry of men and women coming back to the community.

Ramon Vasquez

Ramon Vasquez, a truck driver and father of two, was once wrongly charged with murder. Ramon, who had no criminal history, was totally innocent of the charge. Nonetheless, Ramon was arrested and incarcerated, all the while proclaiming his innocence. He and his family worked tirelessly to find the inaccuracies in the investigation and prove the system had the wrong man. After six months, the prosecutor dropped the charges and released him. A few months later, Ramon won a Factual Finding of Innocence, a rare legal device that only occurs in Santa Clara County a few times in a generation that allows the court to formally admit their mistake. In this photo, Ramon looks at the street in front of the main jail, the same street he watched while being housed during his incarceration.
Noreen Salinas 
Six years ago, Noreen Salinas’s father Steve Salinas was tased to death by San Jose police officers, even though he was unarmed. Despite her heartbreak, she vowed to fight for justice for her father and lead marches, rallies, and press events to bring awareness to issues of excessive force and the lethality of Tasers. This past summer, a federal jury found that excessive force and the Taser was responsible for Steve Salinas’s death and awarded the family $1 million. It was the first verdict of its kind in the history of San Jose. In this photo, Noreen stands in front of the federal court where she won justice for her father.

1 Week at De-Bug’s ACJP: Family Brings Son Home from Immigration Detention, Other Family Stops a Life Sentence

Photos of a powerful week in De-Bug’s Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project (ACJP), where families fight to bring their loved homes home from jail, prison, and immigration detention. At Sunday’s meeting, one family brought a son home from immigration detention after two years, on Tuesday’s meeting, one family brings a son home who was facing a life sentence. To stay updated on the work, follow

Sunday at ACJP Meeting:
Home after 11 years in prison, two years in immigration detention. Got his conviction overturned, but then still faced deportation. The ICE agent told him he didn’t have a chance. ICE was wrong and he’s home now. Top left: We ask people to erase their name from our board when they get free, it inspires the other families there who are starting their journey. He asked his mom to do the honors since she was fighting for him all those years. Middle left: Mom hugging Charisse, last time it was for consolation when it looked impossible, today it was to celebrate. Bottom left: His sister shows the families a slideshow of his first day home, which was last week. Rightside: For those who ask, this is what we mean when we say #Debugthesystem. Gotta love Sunday afternoons at De-Bug.

Tuesday at ACJP meeting:
Remarkable. His mom started coming to our Tuesday De-Bug/ACJP meetings at East Valley Pentecostal Church a few months ago. He was facing life because they were charging him with a strike, and the lawyer and courts said he had 2 strike priors. But mom said he only has one strike prior. Lawyer said mom was wrong. Turns out he did only had 1 strike, the system just thought he had 2 strikes, and no one bothered to check the paperwork, until mom. This week, they also dropped the charge to a misdemeanor, and he’s home now, erasing his name from our board (meaning he resolved his case.) Gotta love Tuesdays at ACJP meetings, and gotta respect a mom’s commitment to bring her son home.