By Katherine Katcher & Rebecca Berry
As we are all aware, the 2020 presidential race was called last Friday by the Associated Press for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Many of us are breathing a sigh of relief about this much-needed change in federal leadership, but we all know this is just the beginning. There is so much work to be done.
It was heartening to hear both the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect call for reforms to systemic racism, particularly within the criminal justice system, and we hope that call to action represents a true commitment to these issues. If we’re dedicated to achieving equitable, just systems in this country, we need to talk about an intersectional approach to reform. If we only focus on the criminal justice and policing systems, we miss the larger call to action, which recognizes that systemic racism does not only lie within the criminal justice system but is part and parcel of how public policy and investment (or a lack thereof) functions in the United States. …
by Damali Robertson, Deputy Director of Strategic Partnerships
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moved to Alabama in 1954. In his first major civil rights case, he pursued justice for 16-year-old Jeremiah Reeves. Jeremiah, a black man, was arrested for raping Mabel Ann Crowder, a white woman, in her home, although many in the community knew they were having an ongoing consensual affair. Four years later, Dr. King stood on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol to console a crowd of nearly 2,000 people. Jeremiah was executed on March 28, 1958, only 22 years old.
Jeremiah was condemned to death by a Jim Crow South that could not bear the idea of a Black teen in an intimate relationship with a White woman. Jeremiah stoked white fears and inflamed white rage even as White men violated Black women and girls with impunity. After the State killed Jeremiah, Dr. King remarked, “Even if he were guilty, it is the severity and inequality of the penalty that constitutes the injustice.” …
By Dr. Noel Vest, Andrew Winn, Sonja Tonnesen-Casalegno, and Emily Blake
The United States leads the world in incarceration and criminal convictions. Approximately seventy-one million, or roughly one in three adults, have criminal convictions and are subject to discrimination on the basis of that conviction. This is widely documented in the areas of employment, housing, and access to services. Justice system-impacted people face some of the largest hurdles in their quest to rehabilitate and integrate back into society. That needs to change.
The Ban the Box (BTB) movement in workforce, housing, and higher education advocates for removing barriers to reentry and economic success. Seventy percent of colleges in the United States report asking applicants about criminal history on admissions applications. Importantly, two-thirds of applicants that have a conviction history do not go on to finish college applications once they get to the criminal history question. …
The US criminal legal system has proven again that it serves an incomplete form of justice — justice without accountability — because it is a system never designed with Breonna Taylor, or people who look like her, in mind.
This week, a grand jury indicted Officer Brett Hankinson on three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighboring apartment, while not a single officer was charged with the killing of Breonna Taylor. The $12M settlement paid to Breonna Taylor’s family does not represent justice and only scratches the surface of accountability. An innocent woman, asleep in her home, was murdered. …
By Eliana Green, Root & Rebound’s Equal Justice Works Fellow, whose work is sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Morgan Lewis and Bockius.
On Saturday, July 26, 2020, the WNBA tipped off the season with a message all businesses and industries should add to their playbooks, especially the Cannabis Industry, given its relationship to the war on drugs and police violence. The Seattle Storm and New York Liberty left the court prior to the playing of the national anthem, in peaceful protest. The players also observed a moment of silence in memory of Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman and EMT, murdered by police in her home during a no-knock drug raid on March 13, 2020. Breonna’s killers have still not been brought to justice. …
“The more I consider the condition of the white men, the more fixed becomes my opinion that, instead of gaining, they have lost much by subjecting themselves to what they call the laws and regulations of civilized societies.”
Tomachichi, Creek Chief
Dear Human People,
Our story, the story of Tribal Nations in this country, is important to you. Because, if you do not know our story, you can not right yourself or help to right this country that your ancestors have created. Each of you will have to define for yourself, your family, your community — what is justice? What does it look like? …
“If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected — those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most! — and listens to their testimony.”
― James Baldwin
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
― Angela Y. Davis
George Floyd took his final breath on May 25, 2020, as officer Derek Chauvin pressed the weight of his knee and body on the unarmed and fully compliant citizen’s neck. Three other officers participated in the modern-day lynching of George Floyd. …
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
By: Katherine Katcher and Damali Robertson, Root & Rebound
Patrick Jones and Andrea Circle Bear could still be alive today. In a system of justice, one worthy of such a name, they would be. But in the United States, we do not have such a system.
Patrick, a 49-year-old Black man from Temple, Texas, was the first person in federal prison in the United States to die of COVID-19. In 2007, he was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for a nonviolent drug offense: possession of 19 grams of crack and 21 grams of powder cocaine. Patrick died on March 28th — a month after the judge denied his petition for early release. Despite his sentence being one of the harshest under the racially unjust Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, Patrick had also been denied commutation of his sentence by President Obama, a decision that made so little sense that his own attorney believed his application never got read (The Marshall Project, 2020). …
“Now I’m not just that prison number…”
This week, Root and Rebound is introducing a weekly blog series: Questions and Answers with Charlie and Carmen.
Carmen Garcia works at Root and Rebound as the Programs Coordinator, where she leads the distribution of Root and Rebound’s Roadmap to Reentry legal guide to thousands of people across the state. Currently, she is pursuing a Psychology degree at S.F. State.
Charlie Lundquist works at Root and Rebound as a Development and Communications intern, where he writes grants, blog-posts, and develops and carries out social media marketing and communications initiatives. …
Returning to society after 31 years, Al Sasser knew he’d face challenges. But he had determined to better himself while on the inside so that when he got out, he wouldn’t be defined by the person he was but instead by the person he’ll become.
Al was incarcerated as a teenager and over the next three decades he had to reconcile his past with what he wanted to do in the future.
“I had never been to prison and my thoughts were that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life there,” Al said. “I felt that if my survival was based upon doing more time, then so be it. …