Topic

mass incarceration

17 petitions

Started 7 days ago

Petition to Board of Parole Commissioners

Letter of support for the parole hearing of Theresa Holland

Dear First U Friends, I am relatively new to Unitarian Universalism, but over the past year, I've been attending services, meetings, and functions at First U and the congregation and its values have come to be a great source of strength and inspiration in my daily life. The seven principles of Unitarianism have empowered me to push myself into new areas of activism and outreach that I would have been too afraid to explore in the past. A naturally introverted person, being a justice advocate does not come easily to me. However, I have long been inspired by my grandmother's volunteer work with people who were incarcerated. After reading "The New Jim Crow", a book that I know is very significant to many at First U, I started seeking out ways to push for political and policy reforms and also to support people affected by mass incarceration. This search quickly lead me to be introduced to Theresa Holland, a woman from the Bronx who has been incarcerated for over 30 years.  It is uncomfortable for me ask others to get involved on my behalf, but at this moment, Theresa needs many people on her side as she is about to go before the NY State Parole Board for the third time. A letter of support from an established religious community, will, we hope, influence the Board that there are people are invested in Theresa's reintegration into the community and her success as she starts her life as a free person at the age of 53. Over the past 10 months, Theresa has been working diligently with a wonderful organization called Parole Preparation Project of the National Lawyers Guild. Below is a synopsis of Theresa's story that we have put together to help others understand why now is the time that Theresa should be granted her freedom: "Theresa's story is in many ways an archetypal story of mass incarceration: she grew up in a very violent home, and as a result, was placed in foster care by the time she was 7 yrs old. She eventually dropped out of school following many instances of corporal punishment. Soon after, Theresa and her two friends were manipulated by a group of much older men to help them carry out a kidnapping (for ransom). She was 21 yrs old at the time. It is important to note that Theresa was tricked into participating in this crime, brought in initially on the false pretense that these men wanted to hire her as a model. By the time she figured out what was actually going on, she felt like it was too dangerous to back out. The older men used the young women to lure the man into a scenario where he would be kidnapped. After the kidnapping, the men who masterminded this lost control of the situation and the man who had been kidnapped eventually died. All 8 people involved in the crime, including the 3 young women who played no role in masterminding the crime, were charged with kidnapping and murder and sentenced to 25 yrs - life. Theresa is the only person who remains in prison; all the men died in prison and all the women who participated were released 7 years ago. Theresa has a slight intellectual disability which has made it difficult for her to deliver a strong narrative to the parole board. We believe the nervousness and fluster she exhibited in the last two appearances as a result of her difficulty comprehending the questions in a timely manner has contributed significantly to her parole denials. The volunteers from Parole Prep have done a lot of work with her this year to help her develop the type of narrative we think the Board is looking for and have made tons of progress and are feeling optimistic. We have grown very attached to Theresa and see her as an extraordinarily loving, funny, and devoted woman who has served her time and deserves her freedom." My personal relationship with Theresa started last year when I asked a formerly incarcerated activist for a way to connect with women who were currently incarcerated and may be seeking friendship. Over the past year, we have exchanged numerous cards and letters. Theresa and I also speak on the phone occasionally.  I also send her small packages of allowed items like instant tea, slippers, and her favorite, Peanut M & Ms candy.  In return, she likes to send me and my children sweet little bookmarks with Bible quotes that she purchases in the commissary. She has very limited funds because she has almost no family--one biological sister and two foster sisters--and the pay for her housekeeping job in the prison is only about $2/week. It shows how loving she is and how much she values having a friend that she's willing to spend her money to send me gifts. I also made the trip to Albion Correctional Facility to visit Theresa over the summer. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. The wait was several hours. I was with my mom--who was 65 at the time-- and, in addition to pat downs, they made us both remove our bras to pass through the metal detectors. During our time with Theresa in the visitors' room, there was an inmate count and Theresa and the other women had to stand up while the guards counted the inmates. I found out after the fact, that they rejected the clothing items we had brought for Theresa because they contained low percentages of spandex, which is a banned fabric. Our actual conversation during our visit, however, was lovely.  Theresa was warm, pleasant, and upbeat. She was happy to meet me and my mother and have her picture taken with us. She was eager to talk about things she would like to do when she returns to New York City. She was fully accepting of her current environment, not bitter or hardened by her years there, which is one of the things I find most extraordinary about her. She is so "normal" in her interests and her hopes and dreams for her future. She would like to have a job in a store or office. She would like to go shopping for her own clothes, get her hair done, go to church. She would like to hold a puppy.  The truth is, I don't ask Theresa a great deal about her involvement in the event that resulted in her incarceration. I've read about it and discussed it at length with the volunteers at Parole Prep and I truly believe that Theresa has more than served her time. She is not the same person who was manipulated and used in that crime. She is not a danger to society. She exhibits no criminal behavior and no animosity toward anyone. I do not see Theresa as a criminal in any way. I do, however, see Theresa as a vulnerable person.  She's vulnerable in a system that focuses so much on punishment and so little on rehabilitation. She's vulnerable when in front of a parole board that is looking for a "gotcha" moment where any word out of place or moment of frustration can be used as an excuse to say denied. And, she will be vulnerable if and when she comes out of prison and has to adjust to living in a world that's vastly different than the one she left over three decades ago. She will need a great deal of support and encouragement from her sisters, her few remaining friends, and her new friends like me and, I hope, all of you. We have lined up housing in with a wonderful reentry program for women called Our Children and we have some job prospects, but what we need most of all is support for her parole hearing and a loving, fortifying community built on a belief in justice, equity and compassion to welcome her and encourage her in her personal growth and rebirth. Please consider supporting Theresa Holland at this critical juncture in her life by signing this letter today. 

Rachel Netski
60 supporters
Update posted 2 weeks ago

Petition to Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, Tom Wolf

Somebody Save Meek Mill

Justice for Meek Mill is Justice for All In regards to the harsh, undeserving sentencing of Robert Rihmeek Williams (Meek Mill), I felt the need to create a petition asking that the Board of Pardons closely review Meek’s application for Pardon and have his unjust prison sentence remedied. We also call on Governor Tom Wolf, who has spoken out in support of rehabilitation and criminal justice reform, to immediately look into this matter. More than just a celebrity or rapper, Meek Mill has been a powerful voice in the community for young people all across the country - and the world. Meek has made positive contributions to many communities and programs, dedicating his time and money to the cultivation of our youth and our neighborhoods; even while overcoming his own adversities. Meek has continued to be dedicated to being a positive force in the world and shown an immaculate work ethic, even while the overly restrictive conditions of his probation made it nearly impossible to tour, which is how he makes a living. The criminal justice system is adamant that individuals  work in order to be productive citizens, but at times made it difficult for Meek to be able to earn his livelihood. Every time Meek needed to travel, he was forced to seek permission, which was often denied unnecessarily. However, he still remained dedicated to making a difference not just in his city of Philadelphia, but worldwide. Meek didn’t just inspire his fans -  but through his music, interviews, community service and energy he showed that individuals can move forward, beyond their past and their circumstances, to have a positive impact on society. Meek has adhered to several rules and regulations as a part of his parole such as: reporting to and passing mandatory drug tests, community service, meeting with his parole officer, and reporting his whereabouts and obtaining permission prior to leaving the city. Moreover, the charges that led to his current violation, were subsequently dropped and the stiff sentence was handed down despite the recommendations of both  his probation officer and the District Attorney. Meek’s efforts to change his image while still remaining true to his artistry and who he is as a man went unnoticed as well. This petition is designed to show the amount of people who believe that Meek’s punishment was harsh and unjust. It is a waste of not only taxpayer resources to incarcerate Meek for 2-4 years but it is also a disservice to the youth and community at large. We humbly ask for the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to grant relief in his sentence and call on Governor Tom Wolf to closely look into this matter and address why Meek, and thousands of other young, black men throughout the state are unnecessarily incarcerated for minor parole and probation violations. Celebrities Reaction To Meek Mill Sentencing Meek Mill’s Lawyer Speaks Out Meek Mill - Young Black America (feat. The-Dream)

Do4Self/Fine Print & #cut50
386,426 supporters
Update posted 1 month ago

Petition to Xavier Becerra

Free Kelly! Domestic violence survivor serving her 19th year in prison for a crime committed by her abusive husband.

Kelly is a domestic violence survivor serving her 22nd year in prison for a crime she did not commit. In 1995, Kelly's abusive husband killed her son Justin after she put her children to sleep and left the house to run errands in preparation to leave him with her children the next day. Her ex-husband has since confessed his responsibility for Justin’s death, telling Kelly in a letter he wrote from prison last year that “I should of let you all get away from me.” Kelly’s trial and conviction rested on the prosecution exploiting myths and misconceptions of survivors of abuse. Even Kelly’s own defense attorney told the jury that she was negligent for not leaving her abusive husband, a damaging and inaccurate argument that hurt her case. Kelly’s history of abuse began when she was less than four years old. She sustained a lifetime of rapes, beatings and other abuse by a succession of family members, acquaintances and two husbands, including the husband who killed Justin. Kelly was not present for her son’s killing, but the DA blamed her for not escaping and saving her children sooner, ignoring the very real and documented dangers associated with attempting to leave an abusive partner. The DA also exploited Kelly's history of abuse to suggest that she didn't run because she enjoyed the beatings, and sacrificed her son to "please" her abusive husband. Kelly was convicted of first-degree murder for “aiding and abetting” her abusive husband, and sentenced to Life Without Possibility of Parole. California’s Intimate Partner Battering legislation allows Kelly to petition for a review of her conviction by introducing expert testimony about her abuse that was not allowed in her trial. Kelly’s defense was severely harmed by the absence of expert testimony to explain how prolonged intimate partner battering was relevant to her case. Kelly’s lawyer and trial judge fought her request for an expert in domestic violence who could have testified on her behalf. In prison, Kelly keeps her heart and spirit strong by focusing on helping other prisoners. She leads support groups on domestic violence and cycles of abuse. Kelly also works hard to raise money within the prison. She helps raise more than $9000 a year to send to a low-income school in Madera, paying for basic school supplies and computers for local kids. Kelly is also one of few approved caregivers in a Comfort Care program, where she gives needed support to dying and incapacitated prisoners. Through the California Habeas Project and Free Battered Women, now the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), Kelly secured legal help from pro-bono attorneys at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Kelly’s petition is currently held up in the appeals court process and past Attorney Generals have opposed her chance at a fair hearing. Join us in asking Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, to not oppose Kelly’s habeas petition and tell the court to grant her a fair hearing. Domestic violence survivors need care and support, not prison! For more info: colby@womenprisoners.org Facebook: please join the group "FreeKelly!"  Twitter: @womenprisoners (#FreeKelly)  

California Coalition for Women Prisoners
10,326 supporters
Update posted 2 months ago

Petition to Governor Mary Fallin, The Honorable Mike Hunt, Speaker Charles McCall

#FreeGlynnSimmons

Glynn Simmons has been languishing in an Oklahoma prison for 42 years, since being convicted of a robbery/murder in 1974. There is no evidence linking Glynn to the crime. The prosecutor in his case has expressed regrets over how he tried the case, and the victim’s own sister has written multiple letters to Glynn’s parole board begging for his release on the grounds that he is an innocent man.  Several witnesses came forward at Glynn’s trial to testify that Glynn was not on the scene, or even in the state, at the time of the shooting. He was in Louisiana, where he’s from, and didn’t fly into Oklahoma until after the crime had been committed. But Glynn was still convicted, based on the testimony of one witness, a woman who was also shot and injured during the store robbery in question. She had already picked a handful of different suspects in as many as nine prior police line-ups, and the state had admitted that she was most likely confused and a “dead-end” witness. Glynn’s public defender failed him miserably, and made no move to disprove her testimony against him (this lawyer was later disbarred for his incompetence). Another eyewitness to the crime refused to point the finger at Glynn, and Glynn’s attorney did not bother to call her to the stand. Glynn was sentenced to death. Oklahoma's death penalty mechanism was later declared unconstitutional, and all death sentences were converted to Life. Had it not been for this decision, Glynn would be dead today. As it is, he has not been allowed to truly live. He was just 22 years old when he was convicted. He’s now over 60, and is still forced to beg parole board members and attorneys to reexamine the evidence. Despite this, he says he believes in the system and has hope that he will receive mercy before it’s too late. Society's awareness concerning wrongful convictions is evolving. Citizens are starting to realize that police and prosecutors, like all humans, make errors.  What is absolutely stunning is that our state government seems to feel it has no duty to correct its errors --- even errors that cost citizens their freedom and their lives. Fighting for Glynn's freedom can be a first step we take toward true justice for all. Please take a moment to watch the video, which gives you a good sense of the staggering amount of evidence supporting his innocence. Then, please sign this petition calling on the Oklahoma County District Court and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater to grant Glynn Simmons’ application for post-conviction relief. For information on how you can get involved with this campaign, email Gwendolyn Fields at demandjustice@outlook.com. View video statements from former prosecutors and victim's sister expressing concern that Glynn was wrongfully convicted: KFOR News Video

The Advocacy Council
18,242 supporters