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
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! firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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 →
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.”
The Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project has been successful in overturning life sentences where the third strike was imposed on non-violent felonies. This has resulted in changed lives — from the defendants now freed to the families that have supported them. Now, Stanford law professors are trying to take it on a statewide level. Submission post by Charisse Domingo
San Jose Mercury News: Stanford Law Professors Submit Proposed Initiative to Limit Three Strikes Law
by Tracey Kaplan, San Jose Mercury News
An effort to limit California’s tough Three Strikes Law is gaining momentum, with a proposed ballot initiative that would reserve the toughest penalty — 25 years to life — for the baddest of the bad, including murderers, rapists and child molesters.
The initiative, now under state legal review, was carefully crafted by a group of Stanford University law professors and stops far short of the extensive changes proposed under a previous reform measure that narrowly failed in 2004.