Launch of : From the Streets to the Courts

People of color killed by police are often known, remembered, and honored through their names connected to a hashtag. There are also those who survive the shooting, tasing, or beating by law enforcement; we just don’t know their names simply because they survived. They face the added insult of then being charged with a false crime such as resisting arrest or assault on a police officer. Henry Sires, pictured below, was almost killed. Henry Sires was almost a hashtag.

We are sitting with Henry’s family during his trial, and through a new site called, are reporting updates from the courthouse. Check out the site and follow our social media posts using the hashtag #almostahashtag and #freeHenrySires. Henry is the first case we are sharing through this new site to bring attention to those who almost became a hashtag. If you have a case that you want profiled, email us. We are trying to bring the movement on the streets that is calling to an end to police violence to also step into the courts, where the violence of the criminal justice system continues.

“Prison Was Your Nightmare, This Home is Your Reality” — Photos of the First Day of Freedom from Prison

The young man spent 3 1/2 years in a California State prison. His mother Veronica started coming to De-Bug’s ACJP about 4 years ago and our community supported her advocacy for her son. Together we attended court, met with the attorney, and created a social biography video that allowed her to show the judge why she was fighting so hard for her son. He was facing much more time.  She has been waiting for his moment coming home since then. She picked him up from prison in the morning, and held a family welcome home party that very night. He told her,  “Mom, I can’t believe I’m home. This is like a dream,” he said as their car pulled up to his aunt’s house where about 30 of his family members waited. She responded, “No, son. Prison, that was your nightmare, and this…” she points to his family and friends, “this is your reality.” (Photos by Charisse Domingo)



Veronica’s son bows his head in prayer as his cousin, a pastor at a local church, leads the family in a special blessing. This is his first day home after 3 1/2 years in prison.


Veronica gathers the entire family at her sister’s home to welcome her son on his first day back. After this, they watch the social biography video that De-Bug created to ask the judge for leniency in sentencing.


Veronica’s son and his grandmother.


He did 3 1/2 years in prison.  This celebration combines all the missed birthdays and Christmases into a moving homecoming.


Veronica and her son share a moment. He couldn’t believe that 3 1/2 years had passed.  As they pulled up to the house, he said, ‘This is like a dream.’ His mom said, ‘No, son. Prison was your nightmare.  You’re home now, and this is your reality.’

How My First Felony Leads Me To My First Time Voting (By Steeda McGruder)


Steeda McGruder shares her testimony at a Yes on Prop 47 event with labor and youth advocates.

My first charge as an adolescent was a petty theft. When I think back 19 years ago my reasons for my actions seem so juvenile — peer pressure, lack of adult influence in my life and simply boredom growing up in a small town population 26,000 and a huge drug scene. A petty theft was simply entertainment to young people back in those days. When I turned 18, I was super excited to have shook the juvenile system. I had many great plans and ideas of what my life would be like now that I was free from the juvenile system. I guess you could say I had hope for my future, but to my surprise shortly after I turned 18 I was incarcerated for another petty theft.

My behaviors had never been addressed, just pushed aside. I had time to serve, but never the support or tools needed to be truly corrected. I’m sure you can imagine at the age of 18, my ideas about life are completely different than at the age of 12, especially being a single mom at the age of 18. Life showed up, and when it did, I behaved in a way that screamed “just survive.” Continue reading

Photo Chronicle of Family Bringing Brother Home After 19 Years

When Mary and her mom came to De-Bug two years ago with arms full of court files, we were struck by the determination that they walked with. Mary’s brother  had been sentenced to life 19 years prior for a non-serious and non-violent crime due to Three Strikes. They came regularly to meetings, poured over the case file with other ACJP organizers, and spoke with legal experts. This week, after a long and winding road, they are bringing their brother home, after he has won his re-sentencing hearing! We would say it’s amazing, they would say they knew it all along. Think we’re both right. Here are some shots chronicling their journey. We will be airing a mini-documentary on their family as part of our Time Saved Film Series, debuting this Winter. (If you have a story you think would make for a Time Saved Film, send us an email!


November 2012 — Mary and her mom reading about Proposition 36, finding the possible path to their brother and son’s release from a life sentence.


December 2013 — Mary going to meet with the attorney after gathering letters of support at De-Bug. To see post, click image.


December 2013 — The family right outside court at weeks before the re-sentencing hearing. This family packed the courtroom, definitely making their presence felt.


January 2014 — The moment Mary and her family have waited and worked for — when the judges orders her brother’s release after 19 years. His attorney says it was the first Prop.36 release in Stanislaus County history.


January 2014 — Mary and Blanca sitting in front of the court, sharing a moment after winning the re-sentencing hearing. These two always knew this day would come.

Getting Ready to Bring Her Brother Home After 18 Years

Armed with letters from the community, Mary heads out to Modesto for a final meeting with the attorney of her brother. He is serving a life sentence, and has been inside for 18 years already. With the passage of Proposition 36, he now has the possibility of being re-sentenced, which would lead to his release. Mary started coming to De-Bug and advocating for her brother well before the 3 Strikes Reform. Some attorneys told her his release was unlikely. But then again, most did not expect her to get this far. Next week, Mary, her family, and De-Bug will be caravaning to the his court date, to hopefully witness the start of a re-unification of this family. (See the photo of Mary from the beginning of the year, when her and her mother first learned that her brother may be on the list of potential re-sentences.)


Re-Entry Profile: When a Son Helps Lead a Father Home From Prison

This video, produced by De-Bug youth videographer Daniel Zapien, was made as part of a larger project ACJP/De-Bug did in collaboration with New America Media and the Open Society Foundation called, “Children of Re-Entry.” This piece chronicles the story of Greg Hughes Senior as he navigates his re-entry from prison, with the support of his son. Let us know your re-entry story! (Click image to view video.)

Picture 3

“I Want To Be Like Him When I Grow Up”

Returning To Life From Life: A Daughter’s Journey To Freeing Her Mother From Prison

Check out this moving video made by De-Bug’s Jean Melesaine on Lisa Carter, the first woman in Santa Clara County who won her release from a life sentence due to Proposition 36.  Judge Deborah Ryan granted Lisa release after serving 18 years in prison for a $150 shoplifting charge (her 3rd strike), with the tremendous support from her family, friends, community, and public defender. This video will be part of the Time Saved series, chronicling stories of families bringing loved ones home from incarceration.

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.

For Those Behind The Walls, Letters Are Our Lifelines

There is currently a proposal to dramatically restrict inmates in the Santa Clara County jail system from receiving letters. Steeda McGruder, founder of Sisters That Been There, writes about the profound power of receiving letters while incarcerated, and shares correspondence from women currently behind the walls who write about the “life-saving” value of letters. Click image to read pieces on Silicon Valley De-Bug

(Steeda shows the many letters she received from women in the system who reach out to get support. They say letters are there “lifelines.”)

Mother’s Day Math: Mother’s Love > The System

We couldn’t fit all the ACJP mothers in one picture, but here are a few of them whose strength fuels us all to keep going, to keep fighting.  They come every Sunday or Tuesday — after their visits with their children in jail, or even way after their children’s court cases are over — to then uplift other family members who have faced the same struggles.  Happy Mothers’ Day to these Moms!  Submission Post by Charisse Domingo