Please join Project MI for Part 2 of our 2018 Youth Advocates Digital Campaign!  In Part 1 of our campaign running from 2/13/18 to 2/15/18, we are asking Project MI members, partners, and supporters to contact legislators, in a coordinated effort, to support/oppose legislation impacting Tennessee youth and criminal justice.

For tips and training on how to contact your legislators, please see this video link which will connect you to our 2018 Youth Legislation Informational and Training (the separate Powerpoint for the session can be found here).   The training also includes highlights about various pending legislation.

Additionally, this worksheet and telephone call script are excellent tools to help you get started on what to say when you speak to legislators.  Remember to be brief, professional, and polite in your contact–also relate your support to a personal story if you have one.  Project MI recommends focusing on the bills you feel most passionately about in your contact.

Digital Activism

Part 2 of our campaign will address the following bills:

HB 2651 / SB 2218

Project MI is in support of HB 2651 concerning establishing a Tennessee commission  on the school-to-prison pipeline and restorative justice practices.   Although teachers deal with way to much in the classroom, over the years, schools have adopted policies like “zero tolerance” that are bad for our youth and produce negative outcomes.   Too often, the separation of youth from schools results in youth entering the juvenile justice system, and eventually, adult prison.

As introduced, this bill would mandate a commission to research the school-to-prison pipeline in Tennessee, that would research the solutions necessary to keep youth out the justice system and in schools.

The reasons you should support this bill:

  • First, Memphis has the highest rates of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions in the state of Tennessee.  Youth that are suspended or expelled have a much higher rate of incarceration than youth that aren’t.
  • Second, according to the American Bar Association, as a result of some of our practices in schools. students of color are disproportionately:
    • lower achievers and unable to read at basic or above
    • damaged by lower expectations and lack of engagement
    • retained in grade or excluded because of high stakes testing
    • subject to more frequent and harsher punishment
    • placed in alternative disciplinary schools or settings
    • referred to law enforcement or subject to school-related arrest
    • dropping out of school and fail ing to graduate from high school
    • feel threatened at school and suffer consequences as victims
  • Additionally,  education programs at alternative schools and in detention, are less robust and and sometimes completely unavailable.
  • Six out of ten schools in Tennessee with with the highest percentages of students suspended overall are in Shelby County.
  • Shelby County also ranks in the top five districts in the state for:
    • Districts with the highest percentage of students suspended overall (ranked #2)
    • Districts with the highest percentages of black students suspended (ranked #1)
    • Districts with the highest percentages of students expelled overall (ranked #1)
    • Districts with the highest percentages black students expelled (ranked #4)

Contact your representatives  about HB 2651 in support of this bill.  HB 2651 is currently with the Education and Planning Subcommittee and the Senate Government Operations Committee on its calendar for consideration TODAY (2/6/18).     Although contacting each committee in its entirety can’t hurt, please make sure to specifically contact members of these committees that are also your own representatives.   You can can find your representatives here by entering your address in the “Find MY Legislator” screen.

HB 2271 / SB 2261

While contacting your representatives, please also express your support of HB 2271.  The state of Tennessee is in desperate need of juvenile justice reform that will lead to less youth in detention and better results for our youth. HB 2271 as introduced enacts the “Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018.”

Although the Juvenile Justice Reform Act bill is quite lengthy and substantial, here are some of the highlights and why you should support it:

  • The Act prohibits use of solitary confinement of youth as punishment while in detention.
    • See this article on how solitary confinement hurts youth by causing “profound neurological and psychological damage, causing depression, hallucinations, panic attacks, cognitive deficits, obsessive thinking, paranoia, anxiety, and anger.”
    • As an example of the severe damage of solitary confinement in youth, recall the case of Kalief Browder who committed suicide in 2015 following three years at Rikers Island jail after being accused of stealing a backpack.  Browder’s supporters say his death was the result of mental and physical abuse sustained in detention, including spending a total of nearly 800 estimated days in solitary confinement.
  • It limits offenses for which a youth can be detained more than 24 hours to those that caused or likely to cause death or seriously bodily injury; requires hearing within 30 days of detention.  Currently, there are no such limitations in the state of Tennessee so a youth can be held in detention for minor offenses such as truancy.
  • Removes failure to appear for hearing and probation violations from offenses for which youth can be held in detention.  Currently, there are no such limitations in the state of Tennessee so a youth can face detention time for simply missing a hearing date or violating a minor probation provision.
  • Eliminates automatic detention mandates based on offense and instead encourages “individualized examination of a child’s case…”  This provision recognizes that each child is different and so are the reasons that they offend–a one-size approach is not effective for many youth.
  • Seeks “evidence based” remedies for youth and promotes “validated risk assessment” tools as a basis of determining whether a youth should be confined.  Youth should not be required to complete measures, including detention, that will not help them avoid re-offense.
  • Shifts court financial responsibilities away from youth; prohibits bond/bail settings in juvenile court.  Youth should not spend time incarcerated due to inability to pay court and attorney fees and fines.

Contact your representatives in support of this bill during Part 1 of our campaign (2/6 through 2/8) by your preferred method of contact (phone call, email, in-person visit).   You can can find your representatives here by entering your address in the “Find My Legislator” fields. HB 2271 is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee.  So please also take time to contact members of the Criminal Justice Sub-Committee, whom can be found here, especially those members that are also your own representatives.

 

Join us for our additional upcoming Digital Campaign dates!

Tues., 2/20/18 to Thurs., 2/22/18

  Tues., 2/27/18 to Thurs., 3/1/18

Thanks to all that participated in our First Digital Advocacy Campaign last week!

Your calls, emails, your voice, and your support absolutely matters for our youth!

Written by demefrank

mother, womanist, law prof, prison abolitionist. Demetria does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from the viewpoints expressed in this article or post.

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