Weekly Wrap-Up

Project MI gets so much AMAZING content by our AWESOME Facebook group members, that we want to share the week in review with our members everywhere!  


1.  Nashville Locks Up the Unrepresented in “Assembly-Line Atmosphere”

A few weeks ago we learned that the state of Tennessee is number 10 in the WORLD for locking folks up.  It should come to no surprise that the state’s capitol, Nashville, is locking folks up on misdemeanors, often while not making people aware of their right to an attorney.  According to this report by the Innocence Project:

“[D]efendants were quickly ushered through court—with never a defense attorney present—and told that they had the option to either take a plea deal or not take a deal and then go to trial. When individuals asked to speak to a judge, they were told that they could not do so unless they rejected the plea deal offered.

. . .

For the most part, judges were absent from the courtroom. When they did appear, they did not ask defendants whether they ‘understood the plea agreement or its consequences; did not inform defendants of their right to counsel and to a trial; and did not ask if defendants were waiving any of their rights…’”

Despite the Supreme Court’s holding over fifty years ago in Gideon v. Wainwright, that the Sixth Amendment requires that states provide counsel in criminal cases to represent indigent defendants that cannot afford to pay their own, the Innocence Project report illustrates how many criminal defendants continue to go unrepresented at crucial phases of criminal proceedings, often resulting in jail or prison time.


2. Trump to Roll Back Police Demilitarization Reforms

The militarization of local law enforcement has been a hot button issue in the past few years.  Nevertheless, as this New York Times Article notes, President Trump has “rolled back several Obama-era policing reforms” to help bolster Trump’s support among law enforcement and solidifying his aggressive campaign “law and order” stance.   This policy shift allowing local law enforcement to stock surplus U.S. military equipment, including personnel carriers and grenade launchers, is undoubtedly also tied to Attorney General Sessions’ renewal of the failed “War on Drugs,”

Military Police
Following the death of Michael Brown in August 2014, and a surge of media images portraying police as highly militarized, a critical debate emerged on whether “serve and protect” remains the focus of work by local police.


3. Mass Incarceration Contributing to the Achievement Gap

Of all the collateral consequences to mass incarceration, one of the most heartbreaking is the impact on families, and especially, the children of imprisoned parents. As noted by this Washington Post article, “the ‘evidence is overwhelming that the unjustified incarceration of African American fathers (and, increasingly, mothers as well) is an important cause of the lowered performance of their children’” and of the racial achievement gap.”  Further, the report concludes that “[t]he number of children affected has grown to the point that we can reasonably infer that our criminal justice system is making an important contribution to the racial achievement gap in both cognitive and noncognitive skills.”  Indeed.


4.  Over-Criminalizing Blacks in the Military

Black criminalization is everywhere, not just toward actual alleged criminals, but even toward those that choose the highest of honorable acts like serving this country.  Another member posted an article from the Huffington Post, “Even In The Military, Black People Are Punished Disproportionately,”  According to the article, “black service members were as much as two and a half times more likely than their white counterparts to face court-martial or nonjudicial punishment in an average year.”   This is a notable disparity considering White service members make up 70% of those serving in the military.


5.  Weekend Point to Ponder

Facebook MI member Suzanne Jackson posed a great question that gives us something to ponder in between our thoughts, prayers, and assistance for the Houston area people impacted by Hurricane Harvey:

“What will WE do to respond to the analysis, perspectives and understanding of the Colonial Middle School students?” 

student art

See all works of the Colonial students which Just City’s Executive Director Josh Spickler describes as, “[p]oignant, complex, and horrifying,” and states the works “should remind us that we are passing down a dangerously broken system to our children.”


6.  Odds & Ends

One Facebook member posted about the Prison Policy Initiative blog, a great resource with loads of graphs and other information frequently cited by MI members.

Another Facebook MI member posted on the Georgia Cop’s Traffic stop where he creepily and casually declared, “we only kill Black people” prompting Project MI’s Professional Liaison Attorney Corbin Carpenter to question, “how can we truly combat and destroy something (racism) that is as normal as breathing?”

Finally, make every effort to attend our Project MI September Meet-Upon Tuesday, 9/5 at 6pm at U of M Law School (1 North Front Street, Downtown). This is our monthly business meeting and the perfect opportunity to get straight to work in the fight to end mass incarceration!

Be active.  Be educated.  Be vigilant.

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.

September Meet-Up

Please join us one week from today on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 at 6pm when Project MI will hold its September Meet-Up at University of Memphis School of Law (1 North Front Street, Downtown Memphis) in Wade Auditorium.

This is our monthly business meeting where we discuss upcoming Project MI initiatives and fellowship in activism.   If you are new to MI, this is the perfect opportunity to join a committee and get straight to work!

The agenda items for the first half of our September Meet-Up are:

For the second half of the meeting, the following committees will meet:

  • Youth Advocacy Program Committee
  • Youth Summit Planning Committee
  • Legislation & Research Committee
  • Free MI Kids Narrative Committee

Please email any agenda items to pjmimemphis@gmail.com no later than Friday, 9/1.

MI Upcoming

This week’s Project MI meetings, events and other organization programs related to mass incarceration:

This evening Monday, 8/28 6pm, the MI Youth Narrative Committee will hold a committee meeting at 6pm at U of M Law School (1 NorthFront Street) in Room 233.  If you are a member of the Narrative Committee, please check your email for further details.  If you are not on this committee but interested, contact Amelia Cortez.

Also this evening Monday, 8/28 5pm,  the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis will host its August meeting at the First Baptist Church of Memphis.  Dr. Timothy Huebner from Rhodes College will be speaking about Nathan Bedford Forrest’s career as a slave trader in Memphis during the 1850s.

For those in Project MI leadership, including our Administrative, Professional and Outreach teams, we will have our first executive leadership meeting on Tuesday, 8/29 at 6pm at the Law School in Room 230.  Please check email for further details and agenda.

For those on the Youth Summit Planning Committee, there is a call on Wednesday, 8/30 at 2:30pm.  Contact Brittany Williams for further details.

Next week, all please plan to attend our September MI Meet-Up on Tuesday September 5th at 6pm at U of M Law School Wade Auditorium.  We have exciting updates, and upcoming programs, that require community input and action!

Please feel free to drop other events in the comments or email pjmimemphis@gmail.com to submit your future event related to mass incarceration for inclusion in our weekly email!

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 ✔️


Weekly Wrap-Up

Project MI gets so much AMAZING content by our AWESOME Facebook group members, that we want to share the week in review with our members everywhere!   

First, the prison for profit issue faced by our group in our efforts for reform is real.   This article posted by Project MI’s Legal Professional Liaison, Attorney Corbin Carpenter, discusses the enormous rates that incarcerated persons must pay phone companies to speak to loved ones and even their attorneys.   As Attorney Carpenter notes, “[t]he unnecessary, exceedingly high rates to [] hear a loved ones voice and talk to them is despicable to say the least.”    As noted in the article, “[a]nything which limits one’s opportunity to be better connected with family is cause for concern. I have had numerous cases where clients, especially indigent ones, were unable to talk to loved ones because they had no money on their accounts.”

Also, this week brought a healthy dose of local activism in Memphis over the demand for removal of confederate monuments.  Pastor Earle Fisher’s article in the Tri-State Defender, Symbol’s Matter makes the point that activists can focus both on the symbolic issues involving racism, such as the monuments, AND the policies impacting fairness in the justice system.   Pastor Fisher, along with activist Tami Sawyer, have been instrumental in the resistance of Memphis monuments glorifying the confederacy.

In the meantime, other social advocates fall on both sides with regards to whether pursuit of the confederate monuments is a good idea.   However, as noted in the Facebook post in which the article featured, we must learn to support and respect the resistance and activism of others, even if it is not the exact way we would go about resolving the social issue ourselves.  That is, we can do this work in our own ways, and yes, “we can walk and chew gum” as Pastor Fisher’s article notes.  Additionally, MI supporter Ms. Sharolyn Payton made an excellent point on her live Facebook feed earlier this week, that we can all do this work in a way consistent with our own unique gifts. We need our protesters, our planners, our policy makers and everything in between. All of these efforts matter, and are necessary, because we let all of these things NOT matter for way too long!

Other articles involving local matters were posted this week, including this article discussing Memphis Mayor Strickland’s view on the role of racial politics on the question of confederate monuments.  Also, a Shelby County jailer was relieved of duty after posting a meme containing the N-word on social media.

Several upcoming events were also posted, including Just City’s Trolley Night (tonight, 8/25 at 6pm), and an ACLU People Power event next Tuesday, August 29th at 6pm.   And apparently, rap artists J. Cole and Common are to host a concert in Sacramento, CA to benefit criminal justice–what a great way to use star power!

Also, thanks to all that came out to our MI Justice League meeting on Monday 8/21. Although we did not get much coverage of our discussion on bias in the justice system, we learned a great deal from the brothers of the Nation of Islam who showed strong support on behalf of Minister Anthony Muhammad of the Muhammad Mosque 55. Thank you for your great showing of support of our mission!   Additional thanks to MI supporter Suzanne Jackson for posting information about the NOI’s conflict resolution program, mentioned in the meeting.

Be educated, be active, be vigilant!

Be MI Voice! Call for Bloggers.

Contact Project MI by email if you have interest in serving as a blog contributor to the Project MI group website.  Weekly MI Voice blogs will be posted to the projectmimemphis.com website, as well as shared on Project MI social media platforms, including Facebook.   The MI Voice will also feature artwork on relevant topics.

Blog potential topics may address any area broadly touching mass incarceration, including, but not limited to: education, poverty, health/mental health, justice reform, recidivism, economic justice, leadership development, community engagement/involvement, voting rights, youth, prison profit, and prisoner rights.

We would also love to see perspectives from those with experience in the justice system, and those with loved ones in the justice system. Blogs should be at least 500 words in length.

Our perspectives are important and they matter.  We can learn from all perspectives, but no hate and no politics!

Project MI is also in need of volunteer blog editors with writing experience.

Be educated, be active, be vigilant!

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!   


MEM*Power Part V

The next installment in our MEM*Power series is this Wednesday, 8/23 at Christ Fellowship Church (170 N Oak Grove Rd). Not only will Attorney Ricky Wilkins hit us with the truth, and nothing but the truth, but the Honorable Anthony Muhammad will surely deliver a message that will ignite, inspire and unite us no matter our faith!

I will be discussing the historical context of mass incarceration, including the War on Drugs, and the collateral damage to poor communities.

It is such a privilege to stand in UNITY in the name of PROGRESS through this INTERFAITH effort with the Honorable Anthony Muhammad and Attorney Ricky E Wilkins.

Mt. Pisgah CME ✔️

NOI Mosque 55✔️

Word of Faith Christ Center✔️


MI Weekly Wrap-Up

Project MI gets so much AMAZING content by our AWESOME Facebook group members, We want to begin sharing the week in review with our members everywhere!

One FB user posted a great CBS News article titled, Unequal Justice Under the Law,” which ponders the question of Does our criminal justice system truly guarantee JUSTICE FOR ALL? 

The State of Arkansas announced that it will be privatizing several Youth Centers.  More on this later…

This LA Times article revealed the sticker price on housing inmates in California costs more than a Harvard education (?!?!)–and prompted this blogpost.

The Bureau of Prisons is moving in the right direction, finally requiring that federal facilities provide free tampons to female inmates (thank you Senator Kamala Harris)!  As noted in the article, “[t]he policy reform will only apply to the 12,600 women in federal prisons, however, and not to inmates in state prisons or jails.”

This week, it was all about Charlottesville, of course.  Several members posted videos of vigils and other events protesting and/or memorializing the Charlottesville events.  One member posted an interesting visual plotting overt and covert White Supremacy, and I hope you caught our Blog Posts on Racism, White Supremacy & Mass Incarceration and Vigilance in the Face of Hate.

Also, don’t miss this heart touching NPR snippet As A Boy In An Adult Prison, His Mother’s Letters ‘Were Everything’.

Finally, don’t forget about our upcoming Monday, August 21st MI Institute-Justice League Meeting at the Benjamin J. Hooks Public Library.

Have a great weekend MI, be vigilant!