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
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.
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 →
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.
At ACJP, we often see families coming in who have loved ones doing life sentences for non-serious offenses due to the Three Strikes law. Until the law is changed, there are few legal advocates who are taking on these cases. But the Three Strikes Project, run by students at Stanford Law School, was founded in 2006 and has since reduced 15 sentences for prisoners who have committed a nonviolent crime as their third offense. The Stanford Daily’s Marwa Farag wrote the following article delving into the work of this student-run group. – Post submission by Betsy Wolf-Graves
Susannah Karlsson and Mike Romano of Stanford's Three Strikes Project.
Students at Stanford Law School are fighting to change what is known as the Three Strikes Law in the California criminal justice system.
The Stanford Three Strikes Project, founded in 2006, takes on clients who are facing life sentences under the Three Strikes Law, which mandates a 25-year to life sentence for third-time offenders. The third offense need not be “serious” or “violent” for the law to be applied. Continue reading →
Last week, a debate was held between the four candidates vying for the recently vacated position of San Francisco District Attorney. George Gason, David Onek, Vu Trinh and Sharmin Bock spoke on a number of issues including: the war on drugs, conviction rates, and the three strikes law. Here are a couple clip, produced by Ann Bassette, a video producer for New America Media.
David Onek discusses how race-neutral decisions affect communities of color.
George Gason speaks on the war on drugs in San Francisco.
To see more clips, go to New America Media’s coverage of the debate sponsored by: Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, ACLU-Northern Calif, African American Art and Culture Complex, Asian Law Caucus, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Equal Justice Society.
LA Times poll showing Californians in favor of reforming 3 Strikes Law
According to a LA Times poll, Californians are calling for the reduction of prison inmates and also reduced sentences for three-strikers. The article points to two reasons for this: (1) The large hole left in the wallets of hard-working Californians, whose tax dollars have been spent in giant sums ($38,000 per inmate per year) to support the prison system… And to make matters worse, the global stock market just had its worst plunge since 2008, this week. This means the economy is only getting worse. (2) The June 2011 Supreme Court ruling (Brown v. Plata) which declared that California’s prison are overcrowded. The Supreme Court has ordered the State of California to begin releasing 31,000 inmates.
Preparations for the release of prisoners is already underway. Reducing the population of the prisons will help California save a lot of money. However, there is a responsibility that falls upon all members of the public. This responsibility is to make sure that the inmates who are being released have received the rehabilitation and reentry support they need to reenter society. A lot of prisoners experience a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Since they are being released back into our communities, we need to make sure we give them the support they need. This means that all Californians, regardless of political party, need to hold our county and public officials accountable in helping to make sure that these inmates are made ready to reenter our communities. Also read: California’s Goal to Reduce Prison Populations Hinges on County Plans. — post submission by Ernest ChavezContinue reading →
California is currently going through a Supreme Court mandated process to reduce its prison population, but experts ask whether they are looking at the most burdensome sentencing schemes, and the most bloated inmate populations, like two strikers…
July 31, 2011| By Marisa Lagos, Chronicle Staff Writer
Jeff Adachi, San Francisco Public Defender
California’s “three strikes” law is best known for locking up career criminals for life, but the vast majority of offenders serving prison time under the sentencing mandate were actually charged under the less-noticed second-strike provision.
These 32,390 inmates are serving sentences that were doubled as a strike-two penalty, and they account for nearly 20 percent of the state’s prison population. Yet most efforts to reform the law have focused exclusively on the third-strike provision, which carries with it a mandatory 25 years-to-life sentence.
As prison costs in California continue to grow, and the state faces a Supreme Court order to reduce its inmate population by more than 30,000 over the next two years, the tens of thousands of second-strikers appear to pose a bigger challenge to state officials attempting to rein in prison costs than the 8,700 people serving time for a third strike. Continue reading →
From almost the day California’s Three Strikes sentencing law was approved by voters in 1994, opponents have tried and failed to repeal or amend the politically popular measure.
Now, huge budget deficits and overcrowded prisons have given opponents of the Three Strikes Law a more attractive argument for why it should be changed: California is broke and can’t afford such an expensive approach to criminal justice anymore.
By focusing on the costs of housing long-term prisoners and on the state’s need to reduce its inmate population, opponents said they believe a ballot measure amending the law, promised for 2012, has its best chance of success since Three Strikes was enacted. Continue Reading…