Monday, December 10, 2012

The House I Live (since the drug war still exists)

Eugene Jarecki's The House I Live In powerfully exposes disillusionment from the long waged war on drugs. What's more the exposure is from the story's everyday key actors: cops, judges, and prison guards. What's more the pain is not monopolized by the families and inmates, the key actors note the system's shortcomings. 40 years and a TRILLION (twelve zeros) dollars later, the US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated people. The are untenable realities.

I find it confounding, and perhaps it's because I've been studying the prison industrial complex as an activist that people can be unaware that there is still a war on drugs. Do yourself a favor and perform a quick google search on "war on drugs". There are links to US government site, headlines from CNN and Huffington Post decrying it's a failure, and so much more. You probably won't get into the parts about how the multitude of policing organizations get to keep the cash and goods from seizures or the part about systematic racism. For the details may want to look at Christian Parenti's Lockdown America or Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

All is not nigh, there is a change in the tides, and Americans are actively organizing to bring about systemic change in the war on drugs. The current battleground is marijuana legalization where not only are states expressing their right to self-govern such as in Colorado and Washington, but also nationally folks are also in favor the federal government not intervening in these practices. Time will tell whether the veneer of the war of drugs is fading and we witness a contraction in the abhorrent prison system.

Can you imagine a world where more money is spent on prisons than education? Look no further than California where state prison spending outstripped higher education. As someone that has worked on and advocated for educational access for the better part of a decade I am dumbstruck that we could let this happen anywhere in the world let alone in our country. Aren't we the land of the free? Home of the brave? Home of the free-market is where I am ashamed my Wells Fargo mortgage means that my banking is helping invest in the future of private prisons. How could it turn out that the American Dream I have ended up living can be no more easily disentangled than all the leverage that ultimately brought down Bear Stearns? Where do I begin to improve upon where I find the world today?

One way I have been helping make a difference is by volunteering with the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO). We're advocating for educational access inside the prison system. That's where 2.3 Million people, who are by-in-large are undereducated and face serious challenges to re-enter society prepared to be contributing members. 

If you agree with these ideas, your help is needed. Take action through the following organizations, and spread the word:
Feel free to list out additional resources in the comments section; I will gladly update this post.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Some thoughts on today's election...

I waited for three hours. When I got the front of the line, I told them who I was, cast my vote, and it was counted.

I am tired of this election. I am tired of the billions of wasted dollars trying to inform low information voters with sound bites. I want change. Not "change that I can believe in". I want M-F'ng change. I want an informed and involved populous.

I want people to be as educated as they care to be - for free (it's an investment with LOTS of dividends). I want people that are prepared for the workforce (there are 3M jobs waiting for the right people to fill them, TODAY!). I want people to have healthcare for an extremely high quality of life (it's not Obamacare -- it's healthcare and we're all better off with it).

I want to stop locking up our people at a despicable rate. I want soft drugs legalized. I want people that have problems with drugs to receive treatment, not incarceration.

I am working on all the above problems to make the world I want to live in. Help me make that a reality or do your best to convince me why I may be off base -- I don't have all the answers, but I'm not waiting for corporations or anyone else to tell me what I need.

I am proud to have the right to cast my vote. I don't have the money to pay for lobbyists and buy the policies I desire. I am reliant on democracy and the voice of my fellow citizens. I expect my representatives to represent everything I have stated above, and I will work to hold them accountable for my vote.

Monday, October 22, 2012

edX initial impressions

For the past several weeks I have been participating in the 6.00x Intro to Comp Sci and Programming class provided by MIT through the collaborative edX effort. It has been really great. Their syllabus states the course requires approximately 12 hours of effort, and unfortunately, it's not too far afield. The structure is very clean, and nicely everywhere I'm encountering difficulties the discussion forums are often well populated with feedback on similar if not exactly the same issues. The learning curve has been steep both getting into Python for the first time and recalling math that I haven't used in 3-10 years.
This course is not the only reason there are a paucity of posts for 2012, but it's a current contributing factor. My hope is that with some added skills I'll be able to begin prototyping some ideas we've been kicking around the house.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

For the last several months I have been studying the criminal justice system with a particular lens of education available in the prisons. The argument is simple: the more education inmates attain, the less likely they are to be re-incarcerated. I am interested in the immediate restoration of Pell Grants and all other opportunities for education in the prisons. Below is a list of organizations I have come across in my research. If you have suggestions of other organizations that should be added, please reach out.

  • Prison Education Associations
  • Reentry:
    • National
    • New York
      • Cases
        • New York City's courts are the front door to CASES programs. Our legal staff maintains a presence in courtrooms citywide. We work with judges, district attorneys, defense lawyers, legal advocates, the NYC Department of Probation and the NYS Division of Parole to identify individuals appropriate for our programs and we advocate for their supervision by CASES. CASES court representatives report frequently to judges and other criminal justice stakeholders on our participants' progress towards the fulfillment of their legal obligations.
      • College and Community Fellowship
        • College and Community Fellowship (CCF) is unique among organizations aimed at helping people reclaim their lives after criminal conviction. Many programs try to address the basic needs of people returning to the community after conviction and prison, but only CCF guides them through the stages of higher education while promoting their leadership, self-advocacy, artistic expression, civic participation and long term economic security. We see beyond reentry. We see limitless possibilities for our participants, their families and their communities. We expect what others deem impossible and the results are incredible!
      • College Initiatives
        • Our mission is to create pathways from criminal justice involvement to college and beyond and to establish and support communities invested in their own success.
      • Fortune Society
        • The Fortune Society is a nonprofit social service and advocacy organization, founded in 1967, whose mission is to support successful reentry from prison and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities.
      • Osborne Foundation
        • We offer opportunities for reform and rehabilitation through public education, advocacy, and alternatives to incarceration that respect the dignity of people.
      • Getting out and Staying Out
    • Washington
    • Washington, DC
  • Juvenile Programs:
    • International:
      • PACT Urban Peace Program
        • The PACT Urban Peace Program is dedicated to helping at-risk youth and building peace and hope in our urban communities in partnership with the courts and schools.
  • Legal Aid:
  • MISC
    • Correctional Association
      • The Correctional Association of New York is an independent, non-profit organization founded by concerned citizens in 1844 and granted unique authority by the New York State Legislature to inspect prisons and to report its findings and recommendations to the legislature, the public and the press. Through monitoring, research, public education and policy recommendations, the Correctional Association strives to make the administration of justice in New York State more fair, efficient and humane.
    • Critical Resistance
    • PEN Writing Assoc - Prison Writing Program
    • Prison Reform Movement
    • Women on the Rise (WORTH)
      • WORTH (Women On the Rise Telling HerStory) is an advocacy/consultant group comprised of currently & formerly incarcerated women, who have the expertise and understanding to engage, navigate and challenge policy and perceptions concerning incarcerated women.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Game night! After another amazing dinner served-up with delightful company, recently, we played an excellent game of Celebrity. Five of us made our way through a plentiful array of people known previously or now known. Thought I'd share some of their highlights (or at least, who we acted out -- pretty hilariously):

Janet Jackson
Andy Rooney
Paris Hilton
Joan Collins
Alec Baldwin
Cookie Monster
Lindsay Lohan
Amy Winehouse
Lionel Richie
Stephan Hawking
Ringo Starr
Mama Cass
Benny Hill
Kermit 'the Frog'