Prison Dehumanizes Incarcerated: Prison Project Brings Them Back

In the last 35 years, California has built approximately 22 new prisons, and the state has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. The US's prison industrial complex has been called America's human rights crisis. So is it possible for prisoners have hope for their future? How do you retain your humanity in an inhumane system? Ten years ago, actor Sabra Williams had an experimental idea: she wanted to bring The Actor's Gang Theatre Company into prisons to work with non-actors, and … [Read more...]

Ending the Jail-to-Street-to-Jail Cycle

George Washington (not the famous one) first ended up in a New York homeless shelter in the mid-1980s, after he came home from prison for robbery and crack cocaine hit the streets. Since then, he’s passed between girlfriends’ houses, hotels, shelters all over the city, rooming houses, family members’ couches, rehab facilities, and a cell on Rikers Island. Washington, 54, is considered a “frequent flier”: someone who has cycled in and out of jail on mostly low-level charges. These repeat … [Read more...]

Finding New Jobs—and New Hope—After Prop 47

Drill in hand, Tim Wilson kneels to open up a broken air conditioner in Redding, Calif. Repair work like this is steady, but Wilson dreams of more. He wants to be a nurse, and for the first time in a long time, it’s not just a fantasy. Wilson, 42, a former meth addict, had three felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47, which allowed some felons to retroactively change their records. With these convictions reduced, Wilson’s chances of being licensed as a nurse are much … [Read more...]

Grassroots Prisoner Reentry Programs Show Progress

Weekly through the winter in Santa Ana, a group of about 20 young men and women would meet in a circle to share their experiences about leadership. The lessons they learned, however, weren’t from traditional sources but from the mean streets of Orange County or the corridors of California prisons. The group was a mix -- some who had spent a short time incarcerated, but turned their lives around, and others who spent decades behind bars. In June, they graduated from the community … [Read more...]

A Home After Prison

For nearly 10 years, Marcus lived in a tiny cell in Sing Sing prison. His wife and children were eager for him to return to their home in public housing in Harlem. After he completed his sentence for attempted armed robbery and possession of stolen property, his parole board said he was ready to rejoin society. But the city’s public housing authority disagreed: Because Marcus — a pseudonym — had a criminal record, he was ineligible to live with his family. Nationwide, more than 600,000 people … [Read more...]

Advocates Challenge Law Enforcement on How Prop. 47 Savings Should Be Spent

California’s Proposition 47 stands to save the state millions of dollars due to reductions in jail and prison populations. The bulk of the savings are to be directed to mental health and substance abuse treatment, but some advocates don’t want law enforcement to be able to access funds for programs run in jails. Prop. 47 passed in 2014, and reclassifies a small set of non-violent felonies as misdemeanors (crimes like simple drug possession, petty theft, and writing bad checks). It also … [Read more...]

Is Proposition 47 to Blame for California’s 2015 Increase in Urban Crime?

New report shows that no conclusions can be drawn about Prop. 47’s effect on crime at this time. A new research report examines the effects of Proposition 47 on crime in California. By comparing recently released FBI crime data for California’s 68 largest cities to prison discharges/releases as a result of Prop. 47 and overall county jail population decreases, the report finds it is too early to conclusively determine whether or not Prop. 47 has had an impact on crime. Prop. 47, passed … [Read more...]

Where’s My Missing Prop 47 Savings?

On Nov. 4, 2014, California voters, by a 60-40 majority, approved Proposition 47, which changed six low-level drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. It also required that the resulting prison cost savings be reallocated to local mental health and drug treatment programs as well as truancy and dropout prevention and victim services. I strongly supported Prop. 47 – investing $1.3 million into its passage. Here’s why: California over the past 30 years has enacted extreme … [Read more...]

Proposition 47: Are Health and Equity Included in News Coverage?

Proposition 47 was an initiative passed by California voters in 2014 that recategorized a number of petty crimes as misdemeanors rather than felonies. The savings from the reduced prison sentences that resulted from this measure are earmarked for mental health and substance abuse treatment, education retention programs, and victim services. This seminal piece of legislation has profound implications for health and equity in the state — but is that reflected in the news? How Proposition 47 is … [Read more...]

Can Hiring Former Prisoners Be Rewarding?

Whether they realize it or not, the vast majority of American businesses have one or more employees with a criminal record. “Around 70 million Americans have some type of record, but most are either old records or fairly minor ones,” says Michelle Natividad Rodriguez, senior staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project in Oakland, California. “Having a record doesn't necessarily translate into being a bad worker or being untrustworthy. It shows you made a mistake at some point in … [Read more...]