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.

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...]

Why We Must Reason Together Through This State of Emergency

In conversations this past week with long-time friends and comrades from near and far, three shared reactions to the news of election night always rise to the surface: grief, rage, and dislocation. I want to suggest that we should value the sense of dislocation, as we are indeed in a new territory with new and unprecedented dangers in front of us. It's not a bad thing to feel dislocated and to realize that the strategies and tactics, and even the renewing rituals, that we have always relied … [Read more...]

Urge Gov. Brown: End Asset Forfeiture Abuse

A long hard effort by over 300 organizations, including Justice Not Jails, has now succeeded in passing SB 443--Sen. Holly Mitchell's bill that would curb abuses of civil asset forfeiture by police agencies--through both chambers of the legislature. Just as a reminder why SB 443 is necessary: the police currently have the power to take anyone's assets (cash, car, boat, home) merely on suspicion and with no due process or conviction of wrongdoing. Most victims of this abuse are low-income … [Read more...]