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.
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.  
Over 57,000 people are locked up in various facilities in Tennessee.

Carver High School Partnership

Project MI is excited to announce that our Youth Advocacy Committee will be working in partnership with Carver Alternative High School this Fall! If you are interested in mentoring, or providing instruction or other resources to our students, please drop your name and information in the comments or email pjmimemphis@gmail.com. Each of our students have had contact with the Shelby County juvenile justice court–some of them with pending cases–our goal is to resource and support our students in ways that help avoid future contact with the criminal justice system.
We will serve 26-30 young men and are most interested in providing instruction, mentorship and discussions in the following areas: leadership, justice system, advocacy/self-advocacy, public speaking, social responsibility, financial and economic literacy, democracy/activism, and self governance. Our subject areas are flexible but will largely be guided by student input and need.
We are also researching possibilities for community projects (no clean-up please) and student workshops–please drop a comment with any suggestions.
Thanks to my Youth Advocacy Committee Co-Chair, Jaques Hamilton, for making the Carver partnership happen! With your support, we CAN assist our young men in becoming leaders of the future!

Smarter on Crime, Not Tougher

Progressives getting in the right spaces and VOTING accordingly is a big part of the criminal justice answer.  Check out this great story about a young Texas attorney locally reforming criminal justice as a District Attorney.   There are folks that want to hear what true Progressives have to say and who believe smarter, not tougher, criminal justice policies are the way to go.


Republicans AND Democrats should both be challenged and checked on the crux of their policies by enthusiastic forward-thinkers.  This is happening in Philly and other cities as well.


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.
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.
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
We really could go on, but this could get depressing and just damn embarrassing.
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.
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!
Please pass along these three instructive handouts on protecting families from ICE raids to anyone that might need them:

“Fed Up” Will Fail

Today’s press conference on Mayor Strickland’s “Fed Up” initiative–this is very problematic and disappointing. There is no data supporting that longer sentences reduce crime, better rehabilitate incarcerated individuals or anything of the sort.  Offenders subject to mandatory minimums typically spend twice as much time in prison as individuals who were not for the same offense. It is truly infuriating that most jurisdictions are winding back the terrible criminal justice policies that contribute to mass incarceration, or at a minimum are attempting to fix them, while Memphis leaders and the state of Tennessee insist on taking us right back to the failed policies of the War on Drugs by promoting crap like mandatory minimums and truth in sentencing provisions.
 Fed Up
This announcements means that the City will spend $600,000 over the next few months, in a poor-resourced city, to tell potential offenders that they will be locked up longer if they commit gun crimes.  As a tribute to this terrible policy, I’m listing a few things we should truly be “fed up” with, please feel free to add to the list…
•False media and political narratives about people of color and crime
•The denial of the importance of considering individualized situations of alleged offenders in sentencing, parole and charging decisions
•Policies that are not driven by data or proven to be effective at anything but locking folks up
•Failure to recognize the connections between education, job opportunity and crime
•Lack of meaningful rehabilitative services in detention centers contributing to high rates of recidivism
•Education as low in priority nationally, statewide and locally
•The justice system’s systemic dehumanization of people of color and the incarcerated LGBTQ community
•Separate justice systems based on race and income
•Criminalizing poverty and mental disability
Like all initiatives that refuse to focus on the socio-economic causes of mass incarceration, this “Fed Up” initiative will fail and only succeed in wasting $300,000 and rallying up “tough on crimers.”

“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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