Creators of “participatory defense” – a community organizing model for people facing charges, their families, and communities to impact the outcome of cases and transform the landscape of power in the court system
This is Arthur erasing his name from our weekly ACJP meeting. His dad Kenny would add his name up on that whiteboard for years. Last Sunday, Arthur came home from prison after eight years, having beaten a life sentence due to Prop.36, and erased his name. It is the one ceremony we have at our meetings — erasing the name means a family has won the freedom of their loved one.
We had only known Arthur through his letters from prison, and his stories from his father Kenny — that he was a great son and looked out for his brothers. Every Sunday Kenny would come to De-Bug to help think through Arthur’s case. In 2006, Arthur agreed to a deal after he was told that if he pled guilty, his brother — one of the codefendants in the case — would be released. He thought he would be serving somewhere around 8 years. When the Judge handed down a life sentence during his court hearing, everyone in the courtroom was stunned. That was the first time Arthur or his family had even heard of ‘life’ being on the table. So when Kenny first came to De-Bug in 2008, they were still reeling from the pain of losing their son to prison, even though it had already been 2 years. But with the support of his community, Kenny — on the outside — and Arthur on the inside — worked to undo his case. On Sundays, Kenny and the De-Bug team would lay out 4- inch binders of paperwork to help construct possible ways of appeal. We met with his appellate attorneys, wrote back and forth to Arthur, even met with decision-makers to find openings. Meanwhile, Kenny and Arthur held strong — working through depression and a host of health issues that Arthur faced inside the prison. Then when Prop 36 passed in November 2012, a glimmer of hope came. Arthur was contacted by the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s office who represented him at his resentencing. Kenny collected letters of support that demonstrated Arthur’s network that would give him a solid reentry plan, and last year, a judge agreed to release Arthur back to his community. Check out this Time Saved Party video, where Kenny talks about the day he found out his son had an “out date.” On May 5th, he came home. On May 31, 2015 — 7 years after Kenny first walked into the doors of De-Bug — Arthur walked in with him. Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
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.
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 →
On Tuesday, November 6th, California voters approved Prop 36, a ballot measure that would reform the Three Strikes Law of 1994. An estimated 3,000 convicted felons serving life sentences for a third strike that was a non-violent crime could now apply to the courts for resentencing. ACJP families are elated at the news knowing that some of their family members could qualify. Lily, whose son Darryl has been serving a life sentence, is ecstatic, and said her son had been anxious about these elections. He had received a letter notifying him that he was eligible for the Prop 36 reforms. In many ways, California has been the trendsetter in the nation when it comes to excessive sentencing. We hope the passage of Prop 36 signals another trend — away from these extremely harsh laws and more humane criminal justice policies. — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
California Prop. 36: Families of some three-strikers hope for early release or shorter sentences
SAN JOSE — Cashier Debbie Curry woke up Wednesday to find California voters had given her a priceless gift: hope.
By an overwhelming margin, they’d passed Proposition 36 to revise the state’s tough Three Strikes Law.
The new law prohibits judges from imposing a life sentence on most repeat offenders who commit minor crimes. But it also includes a provision that could result in an early release or shorter sentence for Curry’s husband — and up to 3,000 inmates like him who were sentenced to life in prison for nonviolent, relatively minor crimes like stealing a credit card. Continue reading →
Listen to the radio interview of ACJP members Blanca Bosquez and Mary Rosas as they join Dr. Elsa Chen, as they discuss the merits of Prop.36, and why Three Strikes Law is in dire need for reform on “A Meeting of the Ways”, hosted and produced by Diane Solomon on KKUP 91.5fm. Rosas’s brother is currently doing a life sentence due to Three Strikes.