On Thursday, May 7, 2015, at the 7th annual InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference, over seventy individuals and representatives of established organizations signed in agreement, as members of the Advocacy in Action Coalition of the InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference, to pursue criminal justice and prison reform issues known to fuel mass incarceration in the United States. (Subsequently, Coalition membership has continued to grow. Listing of current Coalition membership is below.)
It was agreed that the following five major issues of concern will be researched for remedial action:
- Ensuring the availability of jail and prison face-to-face visitation
- Ensuring family involvement in issues of medical and mental health care for prisoners following HIPPA guidelines
- Ensuring independent oversight of the entire criminal justice system
- Ensuring humane treatment of all prisoners and their families
- Ensuring effective re-entry preparation for all prisoners and their families
A working Advocacy in Action Committee, Chaired by Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson was formed to begin research and draft a Coalition White Paper. The completed White Paper was released on October 21, 2015 calling for significant reforms in the entire U.S. criminal justice system. To view a copy of the White Paper, click here.
The coalition task force is currently raising funds to produce the Faces of Mass Incarceration documentary, which will be strategically disseminated to enhance presentations and discussion on criminal justice reform by eliminating frightening myths and stereotypes about the prisoner and their loved ones.
The task force is also developing a series of webinars to provide advocacy tools and prepare members for active advocacy.
COALITION MEMBERS *
LuQman Abdullah – Human Rights Coalition, Philadelphia – Pennsylvania
Chandra Adams – COPE; Called to Change – Texas
Annette Aguigui – Georgia
Ed Aguigui – Georgia
Maribel Herrera Aitkins – California Families Against Solitary Confinement
Barbara Allan – Prison Families Anonymous – New York
Cindy Anderson – Washington Coalition for Parole
Edgar Barens – The Prison Terminal – Illinois
Joyce Betts – Families in Crisis – Connecticut
Jeanette Bocanegra – Justice for Families – New York
Kate Boccia – The National Incarceration Association – Georgia
Judith Brink – Prison Action Network – New York
Belinda Bruster – Florida
Jenna Bundy – Illinois
Deborah Munson Cardenas – Texas
Dena Castellon – Georgia
Rosanne Clausen – Strong Prison Wives – New Jersey
Debbie Collins – Georgia
Rhonda Courtney – Grassroots Guardians of Truth – Georgia
Cindy Cristan – California
Ed Davis – Episcopal Diocese of Texas
Kelsey Lynn DeAvila – Jails Action Coalition – New York City
Franklin Deese – North Carolina
Esther DeLeon – California
Celeste Didlick-Davis – 3R Development, Inc. – Ohio
Alexandria Dorsey – Arizona
Ann Edenfield Sweet – Wings For LIFE International – New Mexico
Kirstin Eidenbach – ATLaS Justice Center – Arizona
Carolyn Esparza – Community Solutions of El Paso – Texas
Christina Faurot – Alabama
Sherrin Fitzer – Illinois
Felicia Ford – Leap of Faith Advocacy and Legal Services – California
Katelen Fortunati – Chestnut Health Systems – Missouri
Brenda Fosdick – Illinois
Jacquelyn Frank – Illinois
Rebecca Ginsburg – Education Justice Project – Illinois
Sandra Girard – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan
Liz Gordon – Pillars, Inc. – New Zealand
Heidi Graham – Idaho
Truth Graff – National Incarceration Association – Georgia
Connie Grier – The Respect Alliance – Pennsylvania
Patti Hammonds – Prison Fellowship – Texas
Lyndsey Harris – United Kingdom
Avon Hart-Johnson, PhD – DC Project Connect – Washington, DC
Radiyyah Hasaan – Families in Crisis, Inc. – Connecticut
Candy Hendrix – Wyoming
Alicia Hernandez – The RIDGE Project – Ohio
Randy Hibbard – Georgia
Ray Hill – Founder, Former Host/Producer: The Prison Show – Texas
Thomas Ann Hines – Crime Victim Impact Program – Texas
Tonya Lee Hines – Georgia
Roger Hollar – Mercy Heart – Texas
Fred Hollis – Our Daily Bread – Michigan
Lee Anna Howell – PCAG – ACCIPP – California
Katherin Hervey – The Prison Within – Washington
Morgan Holladay – Compassion Works for All – Arkansas
Tracy L. Wells-Huggins, RN – Justice for Families – New Jersey
Catherine Janese – New York
Angel Jenkins – Georgia
Alicia Johnson – Georgia
Monalisa Johnson – Parents with Incarcerated Children – New York
Lauren Johnson – Texas
Charles Jordan – The RIDGE Project – Ohio
Marvin Jordan – PCAG – A Better Way – California
Sandra Joy – Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Delaware
Rita Kerwin – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan
Linda King – Prison Families Anonymous – New York
Mari Kita – Hawaii
Sara Kruzan – Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network – California
Melissa Kumar – Families in Crisis, Inc. – Connecticut
Diane Letkemann – Family Participation Prison Reform – Michigan
Pete Letkemann – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan
Barbara Lee Lewis – Because Love Allows – New Jersey
Nancy Loucks – Families Outside – Scotland
Michelle Manley – Florida
Joseph Mathew – Corrections India – India
Verna McFelin – Pillars, Inc. – New Zealand
Heather Moore – Kansas
Michelle Moore – Arkansas
Zamia Mosman – Bridges Prison Ministry/Victory Worship Center – Arizona
Nikki Olson – Justice For Families – Wisconsin
Ariel Orozco – California Families Against Solitary Confinement
Dr. Robert Powitzky – Justice and Serious Mental Illness – Texas
James Prager – Re-entry Coalition of NW Ohio
Pete Quinonez – Bridges Prison Ministry/Victory Worship Center – Arizona
Sandy Quinonez – Bridges Prison Ministry/Victory Worship Center – Arizona
Benjamin Raikes – Hudersfield University – England
Yvette Reaves – Prison Family Nation
Joan Redding – Texas
Journey Reed – Maryland
Lecroy Rhyanes – Voices Behind Walls – Texas
Carol Rienstra – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan
Rich Rienstra – Citizens for Prison Reform – Michigan
Suzie Rimstidt – Indiana
Jennifer Rundall – Inmates Matter Too – Texas
Margo Santiago – Florida
Leslie Schieffer – Texas
Liliana Segura – Campaign to End the Death Penalty – New York
Ronald Simpson-Bey – Just Leadership USA – Michigan
Reginald (Reggie) Smith – Texas
Francis Ssuubi – Wells of Hope – Uganda
Terry Steinberg – Journey of Hope – Virginia
Damon Stewart – Light of Law & End New Jim Crow Action Group of Atlanta – Georgia
Monique Tate – Georgia
Ida Mae Terry – Connecticutt
Tommie Thompson – Justice Journeys – Georgia
Catherine Tijerina – The RIDGE Project – Ohio
Ron Tijerina – The RIDGE Project – Ohio
Richard Torres – Youth Arts Program (YAP) – Texas
Jonathan Trethewey – ATLaS Justice Center – Arizona
Michael Trout – The Infant-Parent Institute – Illinois
Melissa Victor – Texas
Darryl Watton – Canada
Chaplain Bernell Wesley – Community Chaplaincy Outreach, Inc. – Georgia
Claudia Whitman – National Death Row Assistance Network of CURE – Colorado
Samantha Williams – Oklahoma
Marie Wiegand – Nebraska
Mignon Zezqueaux – Texas Advocates for Justice – Texas
* To be included as an Advocacy in Action Coalition Member, send your request to email@example.com for further information.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
All donations are appreciated & tax deductible. Please note that donations will appear with the name “Community Solutions of El Paso.” Community Solutions is the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that produces and hosts the annual InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference and all activities associated with the conference.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Special Note: The full White Paper being released today by the Advocacy in Action Coalition of the Prisoner’s Family Conference is provided here as an attachment.
THE MASS INCARCERATION CONTINUUM:
THE HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE OF THE 21ST CENTURY IN THE U.S.
The Advocacy in Action Coalition of the InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference released its White Paper today citing The Mass Incarceration Continuum as the human rights issue of the twenty-first century. Comprised of nearly one-hundred individuals and organizations directly affected by mass incarceration, the Coalition calls upon state and national legislators to substantially reform the United States’ criminal justice system.
The Coalition states, “The Mass Incarceration Continuum is evidence of a system that overtly devalues and devastates human lives, wastes taxpayer dollars and diminishes the quality of life and safety in our communities.” They point to the widespread consequences of hyper-incarceration and harsh sentencing policies that have made the United States the largest jailer in the entire world. With only five percent of the world’s population, the country incarcerates twenty-five percent of the entire world’s prisoners.
“This is a shameful fact that is destroying the fabric of our society, especially for minorities and the economically disadvantaged,” says Coalition spokesperson, Carolyn Esparza, a long time social worker who chairs the annual InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference. She adds, “It is the intention of the Advocacy in Action Coalition White Paper to expose this grave dilemma and propose workable solutions to our legislators.”
“We must eliminate all for-profit criminal justice contracts that demand human lives as inventory,” Esparza says, pointing to the country’s growing dependency on privatization of prisons and prison services to grow economies. “Privatization places a focus on increased revenue rather than prisoner rehabilitation and is a major factor fueling mass incarceration.”
The Coalition identifies a broad spectrum of incarceration that has resulted in a lucrative prison industry throughout the United States. That spectrum ranges from School Criminalization resulting in the School to Prison Pipeline, whereby zero tolerance policies have resulted in extensive arrests of children, many in elementary school, to the rapidly expanding prison geriatric population that has required opening hospices throughout the nation’s prison system.
The Coalition White Paper states, “Although much has been written about the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, hyper-incarceration, and harsh sentencing policies, little if any has been written about the broad spectrum of this social dilemma.” Revealing an invisible, yet intentional shroud of secrecy that assures continued profitability of the prison industrial complex, the document brings to light the causes and dangers of The Mass Incarceration Continuum and identifies areas of needed reform throughout the entire criminal justice system.
The document states, “The United States’ burgeoning prison populations comprised of men, women, and children, coupled with the impunity of criminal justice officials, resulting from long-term self-governance, has created an autonomous system, allowing officials at all levels to assert autocratic rule in a country that boasts human rights and democracy.”
The group is calling for the establishment of citizen oversight committees comprised of members empowered to effect change in a number of areas, such as holding criminal justice officials accountable for adhering to prescribed laws and maintaining integrity at all levels of the judicial system. The Coalition calls for transparency through independent audits and random site visits and the monitoring of parole hearings to assure decisions reflect recognition of the human capacity for positive change and rehabilitation.
Pointing to the United States Constitution and the United Nations’ tenets for humane treatment of all prisoners, Dr. Avon Hart Johnson, CEO of DC Project Connect, who chairs the Coalition’s White Paper Task Force emphasizes, “While we acknowledge sanctions are necessary for the safety and security of society, incarceration must not violate basic human rights or discount the constitutional rights of prisoners or their families.” Hart Johnson says, “Ninety-five percent of prisoners will one day return to our communities. It behooves us as a nation to ensure that eligible prisoners return to society as prepared citizens to contribute to the safety, security, and stabilization of our communities.”
The document concludes: “As a leader of the free world, we are obligated to ensure the processes of our criminal justice system are administered to all humans with equality and dignity, instilled with the principles of basic human rights. The enormity of The Mass Incarceration Continuum requires immediate meaningful legislative intervention. The Advocacy in Action Coalition calls upon our legislators to promptly embrace and promote genuine integrity, equitable and humane treatment throughout the entirety of the criminal justice system.”
To learn more about the Advocacy in Action Coalition of the International Prisoner’s Family Conference and the Coalition White Paper interested parties may visit the Conference website at www.prisonersfamilyconference.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Conference office at 915-861-7733.
PRISON ESCAPE EXPOSES
SYSTEMIC CRIMINAL JUSTICE CORRUPTION
As the dust settles from the recent upstate New York prison escape, evidence of a broken criminal justice system is undeniable. The Advocacy in Action Coalition of the InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference suggests that poor management is evident throughout the entire criminal justice system.
Recent revelations may compel the media to investigate and fully expose systemic problems starting with America’s jails and prisons. A lack of independent oversight is believed to be the primary source of the problem. As reported by Mike Tartaglia of the Boston University Law Review in relation to growing privatization throughout the criminal justice system, “Despite holding hundreds of thousands of prisoners, private prisons are subject to even less scrutiny than their public counterparts.”
Carolyn Esparza, a licensed counselor having worked with the criminal justice system for over three decades, says, “Self-regulation is not effective. The system is shrouded in secrecy that has enabled powerful officials and huge conglomerates to build and maintain a self-serving multi-billion dollar prison industrial empire.”
This lack of accountability is addressed in an April 2015 Washington Post article which reports, “The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO and Corrections Corporation of America – and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar. They now rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute.”
According to such sources as the Vera Institute and CBS News, the United States spends over $60 Billion annually to incarcerate over 2.5 million prisoners, with little or no oversight of operations. This figure does not include costs to taxpayers for police, court or probation and parole operations.
Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson adds, “This cost of incarceration also does not address the extraordinary human cost as millions of children and countless family members are left behind, emotionally and financially devastated when loved ones go to prison.” Dr. Hart-Johnson is a university educator and criminal justice reform advocate, heading a committee of the Coalition to research data on criminal justice inadequacies. Findings of the committee will be presented to the media and state and national legislators, urging substantial reforms throughout the system.
The United States is the world’s largest jailer. With only five-percent of the world’s population this country incarcerates twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. Despite reports that crime is down throughout the country the nation’s prison system continues to grow. The Coalition reports the massive prison industrial complex is a lucrative cash cow for high ranking officials and business moguls who have a vested interest in expanding privatization of the criminal justice industry.
The recent escape from the Clinton prison helps to reinforce the negative stigma and stereotypes about who is incarcerated, which therefore encourages the lack of accountability and lack of transparency to tax payers to continue, despite reports from Innocence Projects and others, such as the ACLU, that tens of thousands of prisoners are actually innocent or excessively sentenced. “Without independent oversight the problems will only worsen.” says Esparza.
The Advocacy in Action Coalition formed at the annual International Prisoner’s Family Conference is comprised of almost one hundred individuals and established secular and faith-based organizations directly affected by the criminal justice system. Those interested in learning more can visit the conference website at www.prisonersfamilyconference.org or e-mail the Coalition at email@example.com.
Carolyn Esparza, LPC
Chair: InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference
COALITION SEEKS JUSTICE FOR PRISON FAMILIES
An Advocacy in Action Coalition on behalf of prison families was launched by attendees at the 2015 InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference held in Dallas, Texas. Representatives of prison families and established organizations across the United States and eight countries around the world gathered in May to illuminate injustices and improprieties throughout the nation’s criminal justice system that uniquely affect millions of children and families of prisoners.
Noting several presidential hopefuls have already publicly acknowledged the undeniable fact that mass incarceration is creating irreparable harm in this country, a committee comprised of professionals and prison family members is preparing a candidates’ report card on criminal justice issues in conjunction with the upcoming elections.
Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson a university educator and President of the DC Project Connect in Washington DC is chairing the Advocacy in Action Coalition committee that has identified five areas of greatest concern to address with lawmakers. Those issues include the lack of independent oversight of the entire criminal justice system and the deliberate exclusion of critical family support for prisoners and returning citizens throughout both the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems. The committee’s findings will be shared with the media to alert voters to the role of lawmakers in fueling mass incarceration.
Coalition spokesperson, Carolyn Esparza, a social worker who chairs the annual international conference states, “The average citizen is unaware of the harm done to families and our entire country by mass incarceration. Our goal is to heighten public awareness and bring an end to mass incarceration.” She adds, “Prison was never intended to be the lucrative business it has become in this country. The rampant growth of the prison industrial complex is extremely costly both economically and in terms of human lives. It is destroying families and the quality of life in our country. Our citizens deserve to know the facts.”
In addition to Esparza and Dr. Hart-Johnson, committee members actively researching and drafting the candidates’ report card include Heidi Graham, prison family advocate from Idaho; Connie Grier, university educator from Pennsylvania; Michelle Moore, prison family advocate from Arkansas; Zamia Mosman, prison family advocate from Arizona; Lecroy Rhyanes, university educator from Texas; Monique Tate, PhD graduate student from Georgia and Claudia Whitman, criminal justice reform activist from Colorado.
Those wishing to learn more about the InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference Advocacy in Action Coalition may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 915-861-7733.
Carolyn Esparza, Chair
InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference