Read and listen to the story of Ramon Vasquez, a 33 year old father of 2, who was released from Santa Clara County Jail back in 2008 for a crime he didn’t commit. His family came weekly to De-Bug meetings to get assistance for his case, and because of their persistence and community support, Ramon is home.
This is part of the “Time Saved” series. In court systems across the country, the term used to show that someone has done their time of incarceration is called “Time Served.” At De-Bug, we transform that term, and that time, to “time saved” through family and community organizing to change the outcome of cases. — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
In court systems across the country, the term used to show that someone has done their time of incarceration is called “Time Served.” At De-Bug, we transform that term, and that time, to “time saved” through family and community organizing to change the outcome of cases. We quantify the amount of “Time Saved” by looking at the maximum exposure of incarceration based on the charges against an individual when they first approach us and subtract the total amount of incarceration time received by that individual after the family has intervened in the case through our organizing model. Sometimes charges get beat completely, some times charges get reduced, sometimes sentences get lowered as a result of the work. Continue reading
Michelle Alexander describing what we see at ACJP fairly regularly, and explaining the context as to why it happens.
Why Police Lie Under Oath
Published: February 2, 2013
By: Michelle Alexander, the author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.”
But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so. Continue reading
Mary (left) and her mother review paperwork to bring her brother home.
(Post by Raj Jayadev)
Mary came to the first Sunday ACJP meeting after the election with a new look in her eye, and sat with a calm yet ready presence of revitalized hope. Mary’s brother has been in the state prison system for nearly 20 years for a non-violent crime due to the Three Strikes Law. Prior to the passage of Proposition 36, Mary had been attending De-Bug’s ACJP meetings, regularly working with other families to try to find a pathway to bring him home. They explored the appellate process, poured over all of his paperwork, and called attorneys from numerous counties to find some avenue of relief. The odds seemed stacked against them, but Mary and her family maintained a hope in something that transcended the limits of probability, and turned a deaf ear on those who said to just give up.
A few months ago, one of ACJP’s lead facilitators, Blanca, started to talk to Mary about a proposition that was going to be on the ballot that could be the vehicle she had been praying for. That proposition, Proposition 36, would allow California voters to amend the Three Strikes Law so that the third offense would have to be a serious violent crime for it to result in a life sentence. And the change would work retroactively, meaning those who had been serving a life sentence due to Three Strikes would be able to get re-sentenced without the limited imposition of a life sentence. In short, some families, like Mary’s, who had been told they would only be able to see their loved ones in prison visits, would be able to bring them home. Continue reading
In 1968, George Whitmore, Jr. was beaten by New York police and coerced to signing a 61 page confession that he murdered two women. He contended that he was somewhere else that day — watching Martin Luther King Jr’s historic civil rights speech and had witnesses who could attest to him. Nevertheless, he was convicted for these murders. Steadfast to his innocence — and supported by lawyers, advocates, and civil rights activists — his conviction was overturned 9 years later. And his case was pivotal to the Supreme Court’s Miranda ruling to protect alleged suspects and to the partial repeal of capital punishment in New York City.
While he is 3,000 miles away from Santa Clara County, the impact of his resolve to maintain his innocence reverbrates here. At ACJP, we’ve seen youth as young as 15 forced to make confessions to crimes they didn’t commit. But because of cases like Mr. Whitmore Jr, people can still be protected. This particular editorial talks about the emotional toll the system can take on you and the personal fall-out of the struggle for justice. It is this silent and sad struggle that is rarely documented. To the question the writer posed on “Who Will Mourn George Whitmore Jr”, we resoundingly answer — we will, and we will honor his sacrifice as we hold our systems accountable. Submitted by Charisse Domingo
Who Will Mourn George Whitmore?
By T. J. ENGLISH
Photo by Tom Cunningham/NY Daily News, via Getty Images
New York Times
Published: October 12, 2012
I received news this week of the death of George Whitmore Jr., an occurrence noted, apparently, by no one in the public arena. That Whitmore could die without a single mention in the media is a commentary on a city and nation that would rather bury and forget the difficult aspects of our shared history.
Forty-eight years ago, as a New York City teenager, Whitmore was initiated into an ordeal at the hands of a racist criminal justice system. For a time, his story rattled the news cycle. He was chewed up and spit out: an ill-prepared kid vilified as a murderer, then championed as an emblem of injustice and, finally, cast aside. That he survived his tribulations and lived to the age of 68 was a miracle.
This smiling young father was facing a shakespearean tragedy just 8 months ago. The same day his daughter was born, he was told he was facing a life sentence. The extreme sentencing came from California’s Three Strikes Law — the sentencing scheme that is on the ballot for reform this November. ACJP organizer Gail Noble worked with the family to create a “mitigation packet” which was comprised of a biography of the young man’s social history, support letters, photos of his life, and a description of his intention if allowed to return to his family. The packet, through the attorney, was given to the court for review when determining sentencing. The life sentence went down to an 8 month county sentence — the amount of time the charge would normally hold without 3 Strikes. The defense attorney told ACJP, “That packet is the reason he is coming home.”
Working with people within the criminal justice system, I have seen more and more made up sentences like the one depicted below. Sometimes for the better sometimes for the worst. But thats just my opinion. Please leave comments to let me know what you think. – Post submission by Cesar Flores
A man charged in an undercover sting operation in Northern California that ended in gunfire has been ordered released on bond on the condition that he read and write book reports.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers allowed 23-year-old Otis Mobley to be freed Monday, although she delayed an order to allow prosecutors to appeal her decision.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that under the bond order, Mobley would be required to spend an hour reading and a half hour writing each day as he awaits trial on robbery and assault charges.
Mobley and two others are accused of arranging to sell a grenade launcher for $1,000 to an undercover federal agent in Richmond, Calif. Hutcherson was shot and wounded by agents during the alleged meeting.
Here is a piece posted on “Ella’s Voice” from our friends at the Ella Baker Center. They are co-sponsoring a bill SB 1506 (Leno) that would treat drug possession for personal use as a misdemeanor rather then a felony. The bill would save the state tremendous amounts of needed resources, and take a step towards a more rationale response to drug use. As we know from the hundreds of families we have seen torn apart from overly punitive sentencing from drug charges, this bill could literally change the fate of families across the state. Check out the testimonial below.
By “Emily J” — It took me years to understand, but my history of drug addiction was a way to avoid dealing with issues I had. While I was in prison for a drug-related crime, my mother died. Then, my son was killed. I was devastated. No mother should ever have to go through what I went through. At that point, I decided I would do whatever it takes to overcome my addiction. I made a clean start. I moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone and focused on staying sober and finding work. Continue reading
For many of our loved ones who are jailed or incarcerated, being able to make a phone call is a precious way to be able to keep connected, to fight loneliness, and to be reassured that you are not alone as you fight your charges. Private companies that oversee the prison phone calls, however, capitalize on this and charge ridiculously high amounts for this connection, with rates for a 15 minute phone call as expensive as $10.95. 42 states in the nation actually receive a commission out of these calls as well. This week, the Center for Media Justice, along with Prison Legal News and Working Narratives, launched an effort to get prison phone rates onto the FCC’s legislative to-do list. Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
The Criminal Cost of Talking to a Loved One Behind Bars
Story By Leticia Miranda
Art by Hatty Lee
May 14, 2012
When Martha Wright’s grandson was moved to a prison outside of her hometown of Washington, DC., she didn’t expect that a short 5-minute conversation with him could cost up to $18.
“You just have to get everything out in one line,” she laughs.
Controversy on whether we should keep or be done with the death penalty within California. Where Do you side? -Post submission by Cesar Flores
A law-and-order group on Monday asked a state appeals court to bump a measure off the November ballot that would repeal California’s death penalty, arguing that it violates a state rule against proposing multiple reforms.
The ballot language is “deceptive” and conflicts with the state’s limit of voter initiatives to a single subject, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation argues in a petition filed with the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal.
The foundation brought the lawsuit on behalf of Phyllis Loya, the mother of a Pittsburg police officer fatally shot in 2005 whose killer was sent to death row by a Contra Costa County jury.
The SAFE California Act would abolish the death penalty, clear the state’s death row and replace capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole. But the measure also provides for shifting as much as $100 million used for death penalty costs to a fund that would pay for solving murder and rape cases. Continue reading