Please join Project MI for Part 3 of our 2018 Youth Advocates Digital Campaign!  In Part 3 of our campaign running from 2/20/18 to 2/22/18, 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 3 of our campaign will address the following bills:

HB 0825 / SB 0919

Project MI is in support of HB 0825.  According to Free Hearts Tennessee, an organization that advocates on behalf of kids with incarcerated moms, “this legislation would most significantly impact Tennessee families, especially young children and their mothers who would benefit from community-based alternatives to incarceration.”

As introduced, this bill would require courts to sentence a person who was convicted of a nonviolent offense and is the primary caretaker of a dependent child to an individually assessed sentence based on community rehabilitation with a focus on parent-child unity and support.

The reasons you should support this bill:

  • First, 1 in 10 children in Tennessee currently have or have had an incarcerated parent.  Tennessee ranks above most states for the highest prevalence of children with incarcerated parents.
  • Second, parental incarceration is recognized as an “adverse childhood experience” (ACE).  The separation of incarceration causes families immeasurable pain and lasting trauma that negatively impacts the well-being and life outcomes of children of incarcerated parents.
  • The majority of women in jails and prisons are mothers with children under the age of 18.  Most of these are single mothers who are the primary caretakers  young children.
  • Black women are incarcerated at a rate three times that of white women and Black children are seven times more likely than their white peers to have an incarcerated parent.
  • Alternatives to incarceration are better for families and communities and more cost effective for Tennessee.

Contact your representatives  about HB 0825 in support of this bill.  HB 0825 is currently with the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Senate Judiciary Committee   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.”  Tennessee has the opportunity to pass major youth justice legislation, and we should support!

Although the Juvenile Justice Reform Act 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 3 of our campaign (2/20 through 2/22) by your preferred method of contact (phone call, email, in-person visit).   HB 2271 is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Criminal Justice Sub-Committee,  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” field.

Join us for our upcoming Digital Campaign dates!

  Tues., 2/27/18 to Thurs., 3/1/18

Thanks to all that participated in our First and Second Digital Advocacy Campaigns.

Your calls, emails, voice, and  support absolutely matter 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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