Free CLE on Money Bail System

FREE Continuing Legal Education Course!

“Money Bail in Shelby County: The Breakdown”

The Breakdown CLE will be open to the public on September 14, 2017 from 3-5pm at the University of Memphis School of Law Wade Auditorium (1 N. Front Street).  The event is hosted by the National Bar Association’s Ben F. Jones Chapter, Black Lives Matter Memphis, Just City, Law for Black Lives, and Project MI.End Money Bail in Shelby County (1)

Attendees will learn about the money bail system in Shelby County and money bail reform efforts nationally.  Attorneys in attendance will receive 2 hours of general CLE credit.

Be active.  Be educated.  Be vigilant.

MEM*Power Part VI

The next installment in the MEM*Power series is this Saturday, 8/26, 9am at New Hope Baptist Church of Memphis. MEM*Power is an interfaith effort, toward unity, for the collective progress of Memphians. The conference will feature Attorney Ricky Wilkins, the Honorable Minister Anthony Muhammad, and Project MI’s Professor Demetria Frank will cover Part 2 of the historical context of mass incarceration, including the War on Drugs and the role of the Clinton administration in the mass incarceration of poor communities.

Mt. Pisgah CME ✔️

NOI Mosque 55✔️

Word of Faith Christ Center✔️

Christ Fellowship Church ✔️

#MemPower

MI Upcoming Events

Upcoming events related to mass incarceration this week:

Tonight, Monday 8/21 at 6pm at the Benjamin Hooks Public Library, don’t miss our MI Justice League Meeting where we will discuss confronting racism and bias in the criminal justice system.

On Tuesday, 8/22 the University of Mississippi will host Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Christ Fellowship Church will host Part V of the MEM*Power series on Wednesday, 8/23 at 6pm.

On Friday, 8/24 Just City will host Trolley Night featuring an art exhibit on Institutional Racism presenting works created by students at Colonial Middle School.

Please feel free to drop other events in the comments!   

 

Vigilance in the Face of Hate

White Supremacy is real, it is certainly out of the shadows, and the backlash of Obama’s presidency is much more problematic than anyone anticipated.  According to this report by the Southern Poverty Law Center,, there are 917 hate groups currently operating across the U.S..  However, even facing an unprecedented amount of hate crime across the country, Progressives must remain vigilant in our cause, and remember what Fredrick Douglas told us long ago, “power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Accordingly, we must continue to DEMAND that our lawmakers disavow White Supremacy–in all of its forms–not just in addressing the #Charlottesville events and removing confederate monuments.  Removal of these disgusting figures is a necessary starting point.  But we must also DEMAND, with vigilance, reform of laws and policies derivative of a once White Supremacist ruled justice regime.

Thanks Devin for posting this article to our Project MI Facebook Group!

Hate groups
Note that these 917 active hate groups are NOT exclusive to the South.

 

Racism, White Supremacy & Mass Incarceration

The horrible events in Charlottesville this past weekend should serve as a reminder that addressing racism and White Supremacy is essential to unpacking the incredibly complicated and powerful systemic structure of mass incarceration.   The two are deeply intertwined and inseparable, especially considering one in three Black men will go to prison in their lifetime as compared to one in seventeen White men.  With the United States as a supposed World leader, to accept that the plight of one-third of all Black men is prison, is also acceptance of the premise that Black lives matter less in the United States.

Not only does the way we massly incarcerate Black men have historical roots in slavery and Jim Crow, but many current justice policies serve as perpetual reminders of our horrid past of White Supremacy.

Especially in the South, past lawmakers and law enforcement were almost all White Supremacists at one time, and the DNA of those resulting laws and policies are manifestations of that White Supremacy with contemporary disparate consequences.   The way we police communities, the way law enforcement interacts with communities of color and legally may use race as a means of profiling for criminal activity, and the way that we literally cage people even before they have been convicted of doing anything wrong, are all remnants of slavery and Jim Crow just to name a few.   These practices are all okay today because Americans largely accept the parts of American culture heavily derived from White Supremacy.   45’s failure to immediately and swiftly disavow the Charlottesville events and murder are merely a very prominent example.   The push-back of political leaders on dismantling monuments honoring members of the confederacy are another (in 2013 Tennessee passed the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act and it was amended to make removal even harder in 2016).

Not only is White Supremacy a truth in federal and state laws and law enforcement, but it is also a truth in current thinking, even for many that do not believe they are racist.   Implicit bias research has illuminated that the racialized way that Americans have been conditioned to see crime is very much rooted in White supremacist ideology, and has serious implications for both law enforcement and American penal philosophy generally.    It’s why we have to “analyze” whether victims of police shootings have criminal histories or whether an officer was rationally “fearful” in unnecessarily taking the life of an unarmed civilian.

While I would love this group to simply move forward with bright-eyed proposals for criminal justice reform solely focused on pushing those critical changes forward, ignoring the issue of race is impractical and impossible in this work.  How do you push such policies forward when American thinking is deeply entrenched in a racist, sexist and violent past that has only lightly recognized its transgressions against People of Color?

That White life is supreme, that it is privileged, is an unfortunate truth for non-White Americans. It can also be infectious and terroristic when that privileged is boldly embraced and hurled into mainstream culture as demonstrated in recent months and this past weekend.

Accordingly, we should proceed with an abundance of caution with ANY criminal justice reform that does not address racism, bias, and racial disparity.   The mass incarceration reform movement has only gotten some (weak) wind now that an economic case can be made to incentivize reform and the U.S. is spending Billions of dollars a year on corrections federally and locally.  Although this economic reality has been one of the greatest sources of bi-partisan support, ignoring the highly racialized aspects of mass incarceration, or failing to address these issues at the forefront is a mistake.

Further, it is hard to imagine how reforms can be addressed in a bi-partisan way when many on the Right refuse to acknowledge the critical role that White Supremacy plays in the current criminal justice climate.  The inability of this country to face the lie of White Supremacy seriously constrains the thought possibilities of meaningful justice reform.   It is a mistake that Conservatives make often–the willingness to ignore how race has permeated the very fiber of every important system in this country–and it has recently caused the pirating of the GOP by 45.

Addressing by speaking truth to power is not enough.  We must have people power to make the difference.  It takes coalition work by those people who are brave enough to address it in the face of difficult times–often thankless and unfulfilling coalition work. Coalition work requires thinking about the interdependencies of oppression.  Such theories about how to challenge White Supremacy through coalition work can be used in transformative ways in our quest for justice.   As noted by Professor Mari Matsuda, work in coalitions is essential to challenging systemic oppression because oppressive structures are so interdependent that unless they are eradicated, others will grow back in new places.   Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow, as well as other scholars, have detailed how we are currently reaping the atrocities of the previously sowed systemic structures of slavery and Jim Crow.

We are a diverse group, so addressing race is not easy, but we simply cannot do one without the other.    Doing what is comfortable, and ignoring racism and White Supremacy, will not protect the beneficiaries of our mission from oppression.  Our “colorblind” ideology of the past fifty years illustrates that it never has.

 

Please  join us for our 8/21 MI Institute-Justice League meeting, where we will discuss how the consequences of Americans’ strong association of crime with Blacks and Latinos extend far beyond policing.  For more info, click here.

 

MI Institute-Justice League Meeting on Mon., 8/21

MI Institute Graphic

On Monday, August 21 at 6pm we will hold our August Justice League meeting discussing bias in the criminal justice system and how to confront it in our work.   Hope to see you there!

All are welcome to attend!

For more info on coverage click here.  For the Facebook invite click here.

Tennessee is 10th Worse in the WORLD in Mass Incarceration & Blacks are Grossly Overrepresented

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, Blacks are grossly overrepresented in Tennessee prisons, while Whites are underrepresented.
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Also, check out this super interesting graph plotting how all the states match up on mass incarceration when compared to one another and other countries.   Spoiler alert: Tennessee is the 10th worse in the WORLD per capita every 100,000 residents, District of Columbia is #1 with Louisiana right behind.  
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Over 57,000 people are locked up in various facilities in Tennessee.
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TN_Blacks_2010

HELP WANTED

ICE Post
Immigration is the new wave of mass incarceration and we have to begin more consistently recognizing this in our work.  Although the current “Free MI Kids” Campaign focus is kids in the justice system, this should fit into our broader vision for justice reform.  Personally, I need to do a better job of this. Although it is apparent to focus on the disparate impact of the justice system on Blacks, especially in Memphis, the current violations of civil and human rights in Latino communities is a violation of human rights to all people whether they are American citizens, or not.
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In many groups I’ve been in, the feeling among some folks when the idea of collectively addressing causes comes up is, “there goes yet another group putting their rights before us when we haven’t been recognized, when we haven’t gotten our due, when our communities hurt and when our blood/sweat/tears have paved the way for everyone else’s rights.” But the reality is, so many of our problems are the same.
Additionally, people of color and other diverse groups are in a battle for very fundamental rights at every level. NATIONALLY, statements of blatant disregard for human rights, health and all that illustrates any semblance of empathy are now hurled at at people as insults. The sobering thought of how far we have NOT come is literally painful.
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Not to mention, so many of our problems REALLY are the same. Blacks AND Latinos are…
…over-policed communities…
…disproportionately targeted by police
…more likely to be arrested
…more likely to be arrested on a non-violent drug crime although all races tend to use and distribute drugs in similar percentages
…more likely to be racially profiled in police stops, searches, arrests, and convictions
….more likely to enter the foster care system, (kids entering the foster care system enter the justice system at higher rates)
…more likely to have incarcerated parents
…more likely to be perceived by Americans as violent, and more deserving of stiff penalties, including death
…less likely to graduate from HS
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We really could go on, but this could get depressing and just damn embarrassing.
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So I post this ad nauseam rant in part from a place of conviction but also to reach out to see if someone would like to serve as a liaison to make immigration a part of our agenda? I think I speak for all in our group when I say we would like to support local  Memphis efforts of our Latino brothers and sisters, but we also have to somehow know what’s going on, where our missions align.  With the issue of immigration at the forefront nationally, we need someone consistently highlighting the importance of immigration policy in our discussions and raising when our causes should align.  I worry that without the representation/view in the room, immigration issues won’t get the through consideration in our programming that they deserve.
If you know someone that might be interested in serving as out Immigration-Latino liaison, please pass this request along or drop a comment.  A local story on the Memphis ICE raids appears here.
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As Project MI’s Prison Outreach Coordinator Bridget Bowman Riley has noted, we must STAND with and for our Latino brothers and sisters in these turbulent times!
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Please pass along these three instructive handouts on protecting families from ICE raids to anyone that might need them:
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“Free MI Kids” Campaign Kickoff!

At this month’s Meet-Up, we launch our “Free MI Kids” Campaign, and celebrate our willingness to come together as citizens to save our youth from the justice system and school-to-prison pipeline. We are excited about the opportunity to network with our supporters, and very pleased to announce our initial partnership with the University of Memphis’ Institute for Health Law and Policy (IHLP)!   Along with IHLP, Project MI looks forward to providing research and learning opportunities to U of M students through collaborative projects that will examine policy impacting over-incarcerated communities and the kids that live in them.

 

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