Rev. Peter Laarman

peter-laarman-15Rev. Peter Laarman serves on the Justice Not Jails steering committee. He formerly directed Progressive Christians Uniting, the LA-based network of activist individuals and congregations that first launched Justice Not Jails in 2012 as a multifaith initiative. He served as the senior minister of New York’s Judson Memorial Church from 1994 to 2004. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Peter spent 15 years as a labor movement strategist and communications specialist prior to training for ministry.
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The Year in Religion: A Ray of Hope Amid the Usual Fecklessness

dc]T[/dc]aking my cue from the revised pater noster commended by His Holiness, I begin by asking that God not let me fall into the powerful temptation to superimpose my own characteristic gloom on the news at hand. It’s always a challenge for me not to play Diogenes, but I must try. At the very least, I will end this piece on a hopeful note. I can’t avoid beginning with a huge problem, however: one that has to do with the widespread religious misreading of the historical moment we face. It … [Read more...]

Something Really Rotten in LA County: Secret List of Problem Deputies Thwarts Constitutional Justice

Fifty-four years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must make defendants aware of all evidence that might be favorable to their cases, including information that could undermine the credibility of the government witnesses who, for the most part, are police officers. That constitutional principle is massively violated in LA County, thanks to the way prosecutors here are barred from accessing the personnel records of the Sheriff Department's 9,400 sworn officers—mostly sheriff's … [Read more...]

LA Activists Count the Costs of a Domestic Terror System

I'm grateful that three colleagues I admire deeply were able to help me create an insight-filled panel presentation at the first-ever Left Coast Forum taking place at LA Trade Tech this past weekend. We called our session "Mass Incarceration: Counting the Costs," and we began by measuring the damage across different measures: the economic toll, the psychological and spiritual toll, the grave horrors inflicted on individuals, families, neighborhoods, and whole communities. Each panelist linked … [Read more...]

Urge Your Assembly Member to Support the RISE Act—Take Action TODAY

We all know that the War on Drugs has been a costly failure--and catastrophic for people of color—but "liberal" California's criminal code still continues the war by doubling or tripling the sentence for a nonviolent drug offense if the person has a prior conviction for a similar offense. These harsh "enhancements" have left almost 2000 Californians languishing in overcrowded county jails with sentences of 5-10 years or more. Thousands more are warehoused in state prisons. The California … [Read more...]

The Bad Religion at the Heart of GOP Healthcare Policy

Even as Mitch McConnell’s last-ditch and putatively face-saving “repeal, then replace” maneuver fails, it’s important to remember that the anti-Obamacare gospel remains firmly in place among True Believers. VP Mike Pence, a “real Christian” in contradistinction to our Sinner in Chief, made the gospel teaching really clear in his speech to the National Retail Federation meeting, given at just about the same time that McConnell’s last gasp was tanking. Why must Obamacare be destroyed? asked … [Read more...]

Support Fair Chance Employment in LA County

Show Up for the Important Vote at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors Meeting For many, the worst consequence of having a conviction record is failing to get work after you have already fully paid your debt to society. Across the country, and here in LA, people are fighting back through "ban the box" campaigns. In California, we won breakthrough statewide "ban the box" legislation in 2014 via AB 218. But the acid test is local implementation, and now two of our progressive LA County … [Read more...]

Protest the Moral Madness of LA County’s Jail Construction Plan

Later today, at a special budget meeting, the LA County supervisors will adopt a budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. That budget includes $92 million in interest payments for the cost of a new $2.2 billion dollar jail. We urge Justice Not Jails supporters to makes themselves heard on the ethical insanity of moving forward with a massive jail construction plan that totally ignores other ongoing efforts to divert people away from the jail system and to release significant numbers … [Read more...]

Who Should See LAPD Bodycam Video?  

Respond to the Survey - Make Your Voice Heard!! Justice Not Jails applauds Police Commission president Matt Johnson for inviting the public to weigh in on the question of releasing police bodycam video. When the city first started equipping officers with the cameras two years ago, we denounced the policy of leaving it entirely up to the police chief whether to release video (apart form court-ordered releases). We said that leaving it to the chief's discretion runs totally counter to the goals … [Read more...]

The Long Road Back: An Interview with Dominick Correy

Dominick Correy is a member of the Justice Not Jails Steering Committee who has been working for ten years as a "chaser" at Pasadena's Learning Works Charter School. A "chaser" is a staff specialist assigned to making sure the kids show up and do the work, also counseling them and sometimes running interference with the law. Learning Works was founded by Dr. Mikala Rahn, another Justice Not Jails friend and advisor. Dominick was recently appointed to serve as field representative for … [Read more...]

The Painful Truth: “I Am Not Your Negro”

"The story of the American Negro is the story of America. And it is not a pretty story." - James Baldwin am old enough to have encountered James Baldwin and his writing when I was still a student. Many of us back then read Baldwin's A Fire Next Time in much the same way that college students today read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. Yet despite the passage of more than five decades, white Americans as a whole have remained as clueless as the white "innocents" whom Baldwin both … [Read more...]