News & Views – Published prison-related information

"The Changing Demographics of Mass Incarceration" is the topic of an email message from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"After decades of constructing a system of mass incarceration, it appears that our nation is beginning to turn the tide." So begins the fascinating article which you can read in its entirety, with all of its links, at our SPLC Article Page.

"Transforming Violence: Restorative Justice, Violent Crime and an end to Mass Incarceration", with Danielle Sered, is a webinar presented by the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice.

You can watch it as a YouTube video. The beginning is housekeeping; real content begins at about the four-minute mark. The Zehr Institute's website is Zehr-Institute.Org.

On Thursday, December 6, 2018, the Connecticut Sentencing Commission held a public hearing on several potential legislative proposals.

Please see the press release about the Sentencing Commission for complete details and schedule. Your involvement is important.

The Episcopal Public Policy Network issued an Action Alert.

Please see our Episcopal Public Policy Network News Page for complete details and links for you to take needed action.

Sad news article about CT DOC Commissioner Scott Semple.

The Connecticut Mirror published the news about Connecticut's Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple leaving the DOC. The news has been confirmed by other sources. All of us at Faith Behind Bars and Beyond are grateful for his work and sorry to lose him. You can read the entire news article about Commissioner Scott Semple by clicking on the link.

"When states charge for public defenders, poor defendants are doomed", an opinion piece by Chandra Bozelko in The Guardian.

Many people probably don't realize that some states charge defendants for using Public Defenders, whether they provide an adequate defense or not. The story contains several links which you may find worthwhile, too. You can find the whole Guardian article here.

Solitary Confinement in Connecticut Facts supported by cited sources

Faith Behind Bars and Beyond strongly supports banning long-term solitary confinement. As part of our 2017 Prison Forum, we began publicizing some facts about solitary confinement, complete with links to cited sources in footnotes. We encourage you to weigh in by contacting your state senators and representatives; there is a link to help you.

The Starter Kit for Teaching and Learning About Mass Incarceration from The National Council of Churches is available as a PDF document. When you click on the link, the Starter Kit will open in a new window. (The PDF file is large [74 pages]; we strongly recommend downloading it and viewing it offline.)
The Starter Kit is really a collection of resources, separated into sections, suitable for individual reading and inspiration, group study and discussion, or use in worship services. The Starter Kit has links to and listings for other resources.
Listen to Fr. Greg Boyle's interview with Krista Tippett of On Being: Insightful and humorous, the interview emphasizes finding kinship. The interview was re-released in November 2017.
Fr. Boyle is a Jesuit priest and founder / executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. He is famous for his gang intervention programs in Los Angeles, having negotiated ceasefires between rival gangs.
Press Release: Shortsighted actions put public safety at risk. The elimination of more than $10,000,000 of community-based services will pose a major threat to public safety.

On May 5, 2016 the Bridgeport Reentry Collaborative issued a press release titled "Shortsighted Actions put Public Safety at Great Risk" (Microsoft Word 2007 format). The press release is also available in PDF format. Please read the press release to see the facts and figures supporting the conclusion that budget cuts are not in the public interest.

Please contact your Connecticut state legislators, and share the press release with other people interested in criminal justice, mental health services, and substance abuse treatment.

Family ReEntry and the Connecticut Legal Rights Project presented their annual fund-raiser on June 10, 2016.

You can visit FamilyReEntry.Org and for more information about their respective programs.

"This is prison?" 60 Minutes goes to German prisons

Scott Semple, Commissioner of Connecticut Department of Correction, and Governor Dannel Malloy were two of the people who went on the trip to visit German prisons.

You can see the 60 Minutes video on the CBS 60 Minutes website. What do you think after you viewed the video? Would the approach work in Connecticut prisons?

#PhoneJustice — New rates go into effect

The Center for Media Justice reports that phone call costs have gotten more reasonable for the families of incarcerated people, thanks to the Federal Communication Commission's Prison Policy Initiative. Thank you, FCC!

New London Public Library hosted a free program entitled "Journey to Life After Prison" in February 2106 at the Library.

At Journey to Life After Prison the speakers shared stories of their journey to freedom. The speakers, formerly incarcerated at York Correctional Institute in Niantic, are not only physically free in society, but have experienced emotional and spiritual freedom through their self-work in designated programs while at York. Artwork and writings from the women of York were displayed; these humble beginnings at self-work offer insight into hope and healing experienced along the way to freedom.

The program was offered by A Sacred Place, a nonprofit organization dedicated to "fostering a deeper spirituality among incarcerated women in Connecticut in order to help them lead responsible, spiritually enriched lives that are drug free and crime free." Faith Behind Bars and Beyond is honored to have partnered with A Sacred Place for Journey to Life After Prison.

Connecticut DOC Commissioner Scott Semple: The New London Day published a very nice article about Connecticut's Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple on April 11, 2015.
To read the New London Day article on DOC Commissioner Scott Semple you'll need to either answer a quick survey or subscribe to the website.
Racial Disparity in Connecticut Prisons on the Decline: There is "significantly" less racial disparity among prisoners in Connecticut than there was just a few years ago, according to this March 26, 2015 article from CT News Junkie.
The graph accompanying the article shows decreasing Black and Hispanic prison populations and an increasing white prison population, while the total prison population was decreasing.
California Proposition 47: Drug possession and some other non-violent crimes changed from felonies to misdemeanors November 5, 2014.
The changed penalties for low-level drug and property crimes will result in lowering over-incarceration, saving the taxpayers significant money.
Lenore Anderson, chair of the Prop 47 ballot committee, said "California will now lead the nation in replacing over-incarceration with crime prevention and community safety solutions. [....] We came together to craft Proposition 47 out of a recognition that we can no longer waste billions on costly and bloated state prisons while our communities suffer."
The San Jose Mercury News and ABC 10 News have additional coverage of Proposition 47.
$5M Jumpstarts New Jobs Effort – New Haven Independent, April, 2012
"A one-time teenaged factory 'trucker washer' who succeeded in business has returned to Winchester Avenue to help other New Haven kids follow in his footsteps – and to help out-of-work adults get jobs...."
Cruel and Unequal – Sojourners Magazine, February, 2011
"Blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate, yet African Americans are 10 times as likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses. The unbalanced effects of the 'war on drugs.' "
Dividing Lines: Where prisoners stand in the divine politics of Jesus. – Sojourners Magazine, February, 2011
"Too many Christians today think about criminal justice in ways that reinforce the human drive to degrade those we punish and to heighten our own sense of superiority."
Worth Taking a Chance: Rochester's Prodigal Sons & Daughters – Commonweal, January, 2011
" 'Americans love locking people up.' says Ann Graham, the founder and onetime director of a program for former prisoners called Prodigal Sons and Daughters. The United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world's population, but it has more than 23 percent of the world's prisoners."
The God of Ambition: From Princeton to Prison to Faith – Commonweal, January, 2011
"They say you can't find atheists in foxholes. You find even fewer in jail. A soldier can try to leave the battlefield; inmates have no such option." [The bulk of the article (written by Chandra Bozelko, an inmate at York Correctional Institution) is available only by paid subscription.]
States Help Ex-Inmates Find Jobs – New York Times, January, 2011
"Faced with yawning budget gaps and high unemployment, California, Michigan, New York, and several other states are attacking both problems with a surprising strategy: Helping ex-convicts find jobs to keep them from ending up back in prison."
Re-entry Council – Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, January, 2011
"Attorney General Eric Holder today [January 5, 2011] convened the inaugural meeting of the Cabinet-level 'Re-entry Council' in Washington to identify and to advance effective public safety and prisoner re-entry strategies."
Arkansas Governor Beebe: Food Tax Cut, Prisons, Medicaid Among Top Priorities – KATV, January, 2011
"Aside from lowering the state grocery tax, [Arkansas] Gov. Mike Beebe said today [January 5, 2011] his top priorities for the upcoming legislative session are tackling the state's burgeoning prison population, skyrocketing Medicaid costs, and a $330 million debt for unemployment insurance."

Connecticut Legislation Alert

Juvenile Sentencing Legislation Failed to Pass

In the spring of 2014 the House of Representatives voted in favor of HB 5221 to change parole eligibility rules for juveniles serving lengthy prison sentences, but the bill failed in the Senate. The bill did not guarantee release, but instead provided for a hearing after a substantial portion of the sentence had been served. Release would have been possible only if, after thorough review, the parole board were to determine that an individual was truly rehabilitated and could be safely released. The bill also eliminated mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles and required that judges consider youth-related factors in sentencing juveniles convicted in adult court.

Although HB 5221 failed, it is likely that a similar bill will be brought to the Legislature in 2015. You can see the text of HB 5221 (which did pass in the House of Representatives in 2014) to get an idea of what is likely to be proposed in 2015. The bill number will be different in 2015.

Connecticut's children deserve a second look.

In Connecticut, children ages 14 to 17 charged with certain crimes are automatically tried in adult court, and subject to mandatory lengthy adult prison terms, including life without the possibility of parole. Approximately 50 people are now serving sentences of 50 years or more for crimes that occurred when they were under the age of 18; most are ineligible for parole. 92% are African American or Hispanic.

Science confirms that children's brains are not fully developed; as a result, children often have diminished culpability and greater capacity for change. HB 5221 recognized that children are different and that youth matters for sentencing.

Additional information

You can read "Youth Matters: A Second Look for Connecticut's Children Serving Long Prison Sentences", a PDF document produced by the Civil Justice Clinic at Quinnipiac University School of Law and the Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School. (There are some blank pages.)

You can watch a Connecticut conversation about juvenile justice, forgiveness and healing, an uplifting video that may surprise you as you see and hear from the mother of a murdered youth.