From a press release from the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted Peoples Movement:
National Movement to End Human and Civil Rights Abuses Against Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Their Families Kicks Off Nov. 2 in Los Angeles, CA
Formerly incarcerated people from around the country will convene in Los Angeles on November 2 to ratify the National Platform of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples Movement (FICPM) and discuss an agenda for action. Participants will discuss plans to register and mobilize one million formerly incarcerated people to vote in the 2012 elections and strategies to expand the “Ban the Box” employment rights campaign that has yielded legislation in six states easing discrimination against job seekers with a conviction history.
Key organizers of the gathering include Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners With Children and the organizing project All of Us or None, based in San Francisco, CA, Susan Burton, Executive Director, A New Way of Life Reentry Project in South Central Los Angeles and Pastor Kenny Glasgow, Director of The Ordinary People’s Society (aka TOPS) in Dothan, Alabama.
The new movement emerges at a time when the US has the largest incarceration rate in the world and approximately two million children under the age of 18 with at least one parent behind bars. An estimated 600,000 will be released from prison per year over the next five years. According to the latest US Bureau of Justice statistics, over four million people were on parole and over 800,000 were on probation.
“The abuse of my rights as a formerly incarcerated person is not just an individual issue. Sure, my right to vote, my right to work is important to me, but discrimination against our voting and employment rights has a huge impact on civic engagement and the economic well-being of Black and brown communities in general,” said convening co-organizer, Dorsey Nunn.
“The War on Drugs is the biggest cause of disenfranchisement” said co-organizer Pastor Kenny Glasgow. In 2008 Glasgow won a groundbreaking lawsuit restoring the voting rights of the currently incarcerated and those convicted of drug crimes in Alabama. “As formerly incarcerated people we are hindered from becoming the productive people in society we actually want to be. With this work we are serving our country after serving our time. We want to create harm reduction and public safety for all.”
“There are 60 million people who are struggling with the quality of their lives as the result of mass incarceration in this country. This meeting will allow us to come together as formerly incarcerated people in a way that’s never been done before. It will connect us and strengthen us so that we can push forward with a common agenda and a common goal. Our goal is to end the discrimination against us,” said co-organizer and Los Angeles host, Susan Burton, Executive Director of the New Way of Life Reentry Project.
According to Dorsey Nunn, the convening is open to the public but only participants who identify themselves as formerly incarcerated or convicted people will be allowed to vote to ratify the National Platform. “Where else has anyone asked us what we wanted? Everyone else has always prescribed what we needed. We’re more than somebody else’s client-base, more than somebody else’s patient. The process to develop a national platform represents the first time we’ve asked ourselves, what do we want?”
The gathering will include workshops for youth and family members and trainings on how to overcome growing barriers to voter registration and “Get Out The Vote” and how to “Ban the Box” that appears on employment forms asking for felony conviction history.
The FICPM gathering is scheduled to coincide with the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Los Angeles, November 2-5. The conference hosts, Drug Policy Alliance, will honor Dorsey Nunn, key organizer for the FICPM gathering, with the Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action at an awards reception on Saturday Nov. 5 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel.
Participants are attending from around the country. The Steering Committee includes:
Malik Aziz, Men United for a Better Philadelphia: Founder and Chairman of the National Exodus Council, with a presence in 24 cities across the nation. He began organizing while incarcerated in Graterford Prison, and eventually found a role in the Philadelphia mayor’s office developing alternatives to incarceration and recidivism.
Susan Burton, A New Way of Life, Los Angeles: After cycling in an out of the criminal justice system for nearly fifteen years, Susan gained freedom and sobriety and founded A New Way of Life Reentry Project in 1998. Dedicating her life to helping other women break the cycle of incarceration, homelessness, addiction and despair, Susan becoming a recognized leader in the criminal justice reform and reentry rights movements, and was recently nominated as a CNN hero in the category of “community crusader.” She has been a Soros Justice Fellow, a Women’s Policy Institute Fellow, and a former Community Fellow under the Violence Prevention Initiative of The California Wellness Foundation.
Pastor Kenny Glasgow, The Ordinary People Society, Dothan, AL: Since his release from prison, Pastor Glasgow has remained committed to ensuring that redemption is in the lives of those who have served their debts to society. He is Executive Director/Founder of TOPS, an organization providing numerous rehabilitation and prevention programs for youth and adults involved, or at risk of involvement, in the criminal justice system. A longtime leader of state and region-wide voter registration and restoration efforts, Pastor Glasgow led the successful campaign resulting in restoration of voting rights for people currently incarcerated in Alabama state prisons-- a first. In 2008, he was awarded the Lyndon B. Johnson Political Freedom Award.
Arthur League, All of Us or None/Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, San Francisco: Arthur has a 40-year history as a community activist involved in social and criminal justice work. In the 70’s & 80’s, during a time of political unrest, Arthur was an active member of the Black Panther Party, and served a seven- year prison term for his political beliefs and actions. Arthur is a former Director of the Concord Re-Ed Project, a non-profit organization working with adolescents in a group home setting, and serves on the board of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. A Journeyman Plumber, he assists many young people coming out of prison to join the building trades unions and apprenticeships.
Aaliyah Muhammad, All of Us or None/LSPC, San Francisco: Aaliyah is a former prisoner and organizer who has worked with diverse groups of people inside prison and in the community. Her organizing abilities have increased the presence of formerly incarcerated people in the State Capitol, allowing her to supervise contingents of students and advocates in legislative arenas. Her efforts have resulted in creating avenues for former prisoners to take part in policy work in a variety of ways, from organizing community summits in Sacramento regarding legal expungement remedies to grassroots fundraising efforts to support the children of incarcerated people. She speaks widely on the conditions and struggles for women inside of prison.
Dorsey Nunn, All of Us or None/ LSPC, San Francisco: Dorsey is a co-founder of All of Us or None, a civil and human rights organization comprised of formerly incarcerated people, prisoners and their allies. He is also formerly incarcerated, and Executive Director for LSPC, a 30 year old San Francisco based organization dedicated to advocating for the human and civil rights of incarcerated parents, children, family members and people at risk for incarceration. Awarded nationally for his work, he was a 1996-1998 California Wellness Fellow and was recently awarded the prestigious Fannie Lou Hamer award from the African American Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley.
Bruce Reilly, Direct Action for Rights & Equality, Providence, RI: After a decade as a Jailhouse Lawyer, Bruce hit the ground running in 2005. He served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the RI Right to Vote Campaign and drafted the final language of a state constitutional amendment that re-enfranchised felons on probation and parole. He wrote a probation reform bill that became law after four years of organizing. He is a former board member and organizer with DARE, and entered Tulane Law School in Fall of 2011. A successful writer, Bruce has produced a play of prisoners’ writings and his blog on criminal justice has over 200,000 hits in 2010.
Tina Reynolds, Women On the Rise Telling HerStory, New York City: Tina is Co-Founder and Chair of Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH), an association of formerly and currently incarcerated women. Tina Reynolds has received a Master in Social Work from Hunter College and is currently an adjunct professor at York, CUNY in the Psychology Department teaching the “Impact of Incarceration on Families, Communities and Children”. She has published pieces on the abolition of prisons, the impact of incarceration on women and children, formerly incarcerated women and policy change and is an editor of an anthology “Interrupted Life: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States.”