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AB 512: Credit Incentives for Incarcerated People

Using the Legislative Process as a Tool to Fight for the Human Rights of Incarcerated People: AB 512 Credit Incentives for Incarcerated People

“[Prison] relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.”
– Angela Davis

A national tragedy, the systematic targeting of black, brown, and poor bodies by the American criminal justice system has resulted in these populations being disproportionately represented in overcrowded, unhealthy, and unsafe jails and prisons. Far from being rehabilitative, these spaces strip individuals of their dignity and fundamentally violate their constitutional and human rights. Moreover, the constant policing, targeting, and incarcerating of vulnerable people has a massive traumatic impact, not only on the incarcerated individual, but on the families and communities surrounding them.

Dignity and Power Now is cosponsoring a bill that will permanently reduce Californian prison populations by bringing people home sooner. AB 512, which is currently making its way through the California legislature, is a bill that will encourage incarcerated individuals who are imprisoned in California state prisons to participate in educational, skill-building, and other programs that will reduce the amount of time that they will spend inside prisons.

We understand that the existence of structural racism, poverty, and other human rights violations, play a large role in the rates at which people enter and return to jails and prisons. We recognize that in our society the odds are stacked against those returning home from prison, especially if they are black, brown, and poor and that this bill will help to give them tools to re-adjust to their communities, making it less likely that they will return to prison.

While our ultimate goal is the abolition of the prison industrial complex using more creative, sustainable, beneficial, and human rights-compliant alternatives, we also want to do everything that we can now to bring our loved ones home.

Women, men, and gender nonconforming people currently serving sentences in California’s prisons have come out in strong support of AB 512. “Everyone needs some encouragement,” one impacted person said, “I believe this is one way. I believe it will help me go home [to] my loved ones” because “it helps to reunite parents with their loved ones faster by allowing the inmates to earn more credits toward their release.”

As one woman said, “my first grandchild was born Feb 17, 2015 and has had open heart surgery so him and his mother (my daughter) both need me [home]” and another proclaimed that “[AB 512] is the light at the end of the tunnel.”

 

Here are 6 things that you need to know about AB 512:

1.   California’s prisons continue to be overcrowded, which compromises the safety of incarcerated people and reduces the effectiveness of rehabilitation efforts.

2.   The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) and is co-sponsored by Dignity and Power Now, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Friends Committee on Legislation in California, and the American Friends Service Committee.

3.   The bill envisions that people who are serving time can earn credits when they participate in certain programs including education, trade, and substance abuse programs.

4.   Earning these credits can take time off of their overall sentence, allowing them to come home to their families sooner.

5.   Right now, incarcerated individuals can earn only up to 6 weeks worth of credit to be applied to their sentence per year, but our bill would increase that to 18-weeks per year.

6.   These Credit Earning programs have a proven track record of helping people released from prison avoid being sent back.

 

How to support AB 512:

1.   Currently, the bill is in the Assembly Appropriations Suspense File and has a hearing date of Thursday, May 28. Suspense File is where many bills die, so we need support now to get it through.

2.   RIGHT NOW: Tweet the author Assemblymember Mark Stone and the appropriations chair Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez and say, “I support AB 512!” Click to tweet! Make sure to hashtag #YEStoAB512!

3.   AFTER MAY 28TH, if we’re successful, AB 512 will go to the Assembly floor where it will be voted on by all Assemblymembers (before June 5). This will be the time to contact YOUR Assemblymember to ask them to vote for the AB 512.

Photo: Balthazar Beckett

Welcome New DPN Staff!

Carrie Leilam Love
Cultural Arts Coordinator

carrie_staff_photoCarrie Leilam Love is an artist and freedom fighter from Oakland, CA. She writes short stories and poems about love and struggle. Sometimes she does narrative based performance art. She’s been a teaching artist and arts administrator in the Bay Area for 10 years. She is the daughter and sister of formerly incarcerated black men and goes hard to smash the prison industrial complex in their names and in solidarity with incarcerated people world wide.

 

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Chantal Coudoux
Associate Development Director

chantal_profileChantal graduated from Scripps College with a BA in politics with a focus on race theory and social justice. She has volunteered with Dignity and Power Now for the last two years. She focuses on development and programmatic work with Success Stories. Prior to her time at Dignity and Power Now, Chantal worked with a Los Angeles based civil rights organization doing policy advocacy and community organizing. She is a big fan of cats, fútbol, bachata, and The Backstreet Boys.

 

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Salimah Hankins, Esq.
Director of Legislative Advocacy

salimah_profileSalimah Hankins is a human rights activist, community organizer, attorney, creative-writer, dancer, cyclist, street-art-enthusiast, and a traveler. Before starting as the Director of Legislative Advocacy at Dignity and Power Now, she served as the CERD Consultant for the United Nations’ “Race Treaty” (CERD) review for the US Human Rights Network. Salimah has advocated for the rights of low-income clients of color as a civil rights attorney at the ACLU of Maryland and the Fair Housing Justice Center. She has also served as a legislative aide to a Massachusetts state senator, director of human rights for a Brooklyn-based human rights organization, prisoners rights law clerk at a Boston-based civil rights law firm, and a pro bono attorney for a variety of civil rights groups. She has also given lectures, presented her research at conferences, and published in a variety of journals. Salimah is originally from New Orleans and has called Boston, Baltimore, and Brooklyn home. She currently resides in the Bay Area with her husband who teaches literature (with a focus on race and gender) at the college level. Salimah enjoys reading about and fighting for the liberation of oppressed peoples, and snuggling with her cat, Malcolm.

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Reinvesting in the Dignity of Our Communities

I have spent more than half my life as a community organizer advocating for change in the prison system in Los Angeles. My first brush with the system was as a child experiencing my father cycling in and out of the system until he passed away in 2009. Despite witnessing my father’s struggles, I didn’t really become aware of the depth of injustice in the system until I was 16.

My brother, who is four years older, was arrested after taking our mother’s car joy-riding. He was incarcerated in an LA County jail, where he was almost killed by the sheriffs. They beat him. They tortured him. They brutalized him. The abuse of my brother became my awakening. I was compelled to take action. I sought out mentors, established a network, and over a period of 11 years I learned the craft of community organizing.

In 2011 I came across an 86-page report prepared by the ACLU for their lawsuit against the LA Sheriff’s Department. Using this report I created STAINED: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence, a piece of performance art designed to bring community attention to state violence. During a year of touring I connected with many others who were also driven to take action. We built the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence.

At our onset we were the only group in the community advocating for civilian oversight. We gave testimony, rallied the people and secured two county supervisors votes. It quickly became clear that the Coalition was not enough. The issues extended beyond the conditions in the jails. We needed more resources to confront the increasing problem of violence against the Black community as a whole.

Expanding the organizational, psychological, and motivational capacity to end state violence meant developing five other projects that used art, research, resilience practices, and leadership development as center pieces in the work. Dignity and Power Now was created to be the primary organization for a multifaceted, trauma informed, healing, motivated movement to end state violence and mass incarceration.

Where are we now? We have achieved quite a bit, but more is needed. We continue to work to affect change. Dignity and Power Now demands a civilian oversight commission with power, mental health diversion, and a halt to the $3.5 billion jail plan. Black, Brown, and poor communities need a Los Angeles that will fight for our health and well-being instead of our incarceration.

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I am proud of the work I have been able to lead in Los Angeles. I am even prouder of the team that has grown out of fighting for greater accountability for the sheriff’s department. Dignity and Power Now currently has a core leadership team made up of staff and volunteer members who have worked diligently to tell their stories and fight for the people they love. This team has been resilient against all odds. I have been honored to work with this team for the last 3 years and I am confident that they are the leaders Los Angeles County needs. As for me, I am transitioning from Executive Director of Dignity and Power Now and will be developing and revamping our Board.

As American democracy is continuously compromised by law enforcement with very few checks and balances, I feel compelled to support a national movement that is focused on pushing for local government to reinvest in the dignity of communities of color, black communities in particular. No movement is ahistorical. No movement is without strategy. When folks in Ferguson made the choice to demand accountability, and when local law enforcement’s response was to tear gas and rubber bullet a community that was grieving, I understood that there needed to be an intervention in the discussion around state violence.

Mostly, state violence and mass incarceration are seen as two separate issues. I argue that they are two sides of the same coin. The police arrest people who end up in jail or prison. The amount of funding that has been poured into law enforcement, jails, and prisons far exceeds the lack of investment made into black and poor communities. We can’t compartmentalize one apparatus from the other. They interact with one another. They support one another. We can’t have jails without police and police without jails. In the last nine months one thing has become clear. We need a national network that will help support victims and survivors of state violence. This network will build the capacity and support the leadership of victims and survivors. This will change the culture of America’s relationship to law enforcement and jails/prisons.

My new venture: Truth and Reinvestment Director at Ella Baker Center for Human Rights! In my position I will work to build the capacity of communities who are affected by state and law enforcement violence. We will support them in responding quickly and in a coordinated way through the creation of an online and on the ground support network. We will provide toolkits and a registry of local and national resources through the ACLU of Southern California’s mobile app. We will develop a web based platform for communities to better utilize tech tools for our agency and to change policy. I am excited about this powerful work and ready to push for greater accountability and transparency for law enforcement across the country. Follow my journey on twitter @osope and on Instagram @love_cullors.

#GivingTuesday

We have a day for giving thanks, two days for getting deals, and now a national day for giving back. Celebrate your #GivingTuesday by donating to the movement to end institutionalized violence and help give dignity and power to all incarcerated people, their families, and communities.

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We are so proud of all of the work we have accomplished and are excited about continuing to build our small but mighty organization. Your donation will support both our diligent staff and our dynamic programs. Please consider supporting your community and the movement to end institutionalized violence by making a donation today.

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