New York’s governor plans to use pardon power to restore voting rights to felons on parole

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to bypass the state legislature and grant pardons to more than 35,000 felons on parole making them eligible to vote.

Cuomo announced his plan Wednesday, report the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Democrat & Chronicle, the Washington Post and the Times Union.

Cuomo will grant pardons to current felons on parole as well as new felons as they enter the system each month.

Iowa and Virginia already use executive orders to pardon parolees. They are among 18 states and Washington, D.C., that allow parolees to vote, according to the Times, which cites information from the governor’s office. Fourteen of the 18 states currently restore voting rights for felons automatically when they are paroled. Two others never remove the right to vote.

Current law in New York bars convicted felons from voting unless they are on probation or have completed parole. Cuomo said that he had asked lawmakers to change the law, but he did not get needed support in the Senate.

“I’m unwilling to take no for an answer,” Cuomo said. “I’m going to make it law by executive order.” BY DEBRA CASSENS WEISS – Original Content – ABA Journal


Where is God?

On trust, expectations, dependence, peace, contentment and thankfulness…

A dragon fly hovered over my rosebush today, and a sliver of a cloud shaped like a wishbone, floated past my front porch, as I sat journaling. There was a time I couldn’t say that, a time when the pain of life distracted me from all that was good, from seeing the simple things, and the wonder of the moment. Don’t we all experience those times, when we My Soul Clings to You_dragonflywonder instead, where has God gone?

Right now I have a friend who is on the verge of losing his house to foreclosure, he’s also lost his job, and he’s asking me, where is God? What do I say to him in his time of pain? When he looks around and the one he trusted seems nowhere to be found, when he sees his expectations of a God, who has run to his rescue so many times before become nothing, a shadow of times past.

On trust…Through my journey as a single mom two times over, I’ve found that God can be trusted. Yes, sometimes He doesn’t jump to my allegiance, sometimes he lets me experience pain and loss, sometimes He doesn’t even save me from my circumstances, or give me what I want when I want it, but I’ve found that I can trust Him to make sure I’ve endured, I’ve gotten stronger, wiser, sharper, a better steward of His goodness, I’ve learned to love despite the unloving, and with a God-sized heart. I’ve learned He has my back, I’m still here, I’m still alive and I’m finding him in the strangest of places deep inside my soul, where my expectations are lining up with His.

On expectations…Yes, I’ve changed my expectations to realize that God is the God of the unexpected. I’ve found that letting go of my expectations has made me a better person deep inside, when I follow God’s heart and expect the unexpected. Sometimes he doesn’t march to my drummer, sometimes He allows me to go through those desert places, or empty times when I long for His touch or a cold drink of water, and then eventually find it in the most unexpected place. Such as the hope I feel that the stars still twinkle above, that the sun still paints colors in the sky when it rises and sets, and that the sparkle of the dew in the morning is pretty consistent, and even tasty. That I can depend on Him for many things…He says not to worry about the things I need, but to seek Him first!

On dependence….I find dependence and freedom at the same time as I seek Him first. I make a choice to be a Mary, languishing at His feet even though I feel time is ticking away….thus my devotion, my journaling, my rest…be still oh my soul. When I find the world is totally bent on independence, and passing me by with demands such as: achieve first place, rise to the top, the early bird gets the worm, the highest bid wins..…well the beat goes on and leaves me behind. Here languishing at His feet even if it’s just for moments of time, I find dependence on One that can be depended on to hold all things together, while I breathe in a few moments of peace. While I refresh my soul with words of hope, and renew my mind with thoughts that are from Him, and therefore know without a doubt, what is His good and acceptable and perfect will, there’s my rest. It’s at those times when I write in my journal and I find the answers to some of life’s toughest questions, and I am ready to answer a friend when they ask me, where is God?

On Peace….There is a peace in knowing God is where He’s always been, He’s never left, He may back off a bit allowing my trust to grow, my expectations to change, my heart to strengthen, my soul to bloom, and for me to find peace and contentment even in a fast paced world. In this place of peace I find my purpose, and a joy that is lasting. It’s then I know I’m here to impart to others a hope and encouragement that never leaves.

On contentment….In my circumstances no matter what they may be, up or down, want or lack, good times and bad, there’s a time that comes to you, despite the struggles, when you are content. It’s a stillness that takes hold of you, and while the world is on its rush walk; you realize you’re glad you’ve stepped off the road. The direction you have taken isn’t always understood, but its void of stress, and that’s a good thing, for my health, my psyche, my family.  I find on this journey that I can thank Him even when things are tough, things are not quite looking up, and the sun is still hidden behind the cloud. Why… because I know that the last promise He gave me will see me through until I see the light as a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel.

On thankfulness….Oh I’m thankful for the dragon fly that hovered over my rosebush today, the sliver of a cloud that passed by my way, the wish that came to my heart to say, help my friend to find his way….back to You, to find the love that will always stay, and then the song that whispers inside and has its way, it sings….it is well, it is well with my soul!

Yours from the front porch, hay field to the right, Hackberries creek-side, and God ever before me…

Mommy Justice


Trump Is Right About ‘Stop and Frisk’

stopandfriskOne of the strategies that helped bring about an 85% reduction in crime in New York City between 1994 and 2013 was the careful and appropriate use of “stop and frisk.” This practice dramatically reduced the number of guns, knives and other dangerous weapons, as well as illicit drugs, in the city. But according to candidate Hillary Clinton and moderator Lester Holt during Monday night’s presidential debate, stop and frisk is “unconstitutional.” They are wrong. In Mrs. Clinton’s case, it’s the usual misrepresenting she does when she does not know what she is talking about. As for Mr. Holt, if a moderator is going to interfere, he should do some homework and not pretend to know the law when he does not. Mr. Holt and NBC cannot overrule the U.S. Supreme Court.  See my previous post on this subject for the citation and an excerpt of the case.

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Captive Lives: The Invisible Lives of Incarceration

tucker-and-dad-1170x658Luna Garcia swipes through the photos on her phone until she finds it — the one of a young man with a slight mustache standing against a wall, his blue shirt neatly pressed, holding a chubby baby girl. It’s the kind of picture someone might snap at a holiday dinner, a grainy image of a girl and her dad. But just out of the frame are armed guards and metal doors. It was visiting day at San Quentin State Prison. It’s a rare photo of Luna with her father. Now 17, she doesn’t have any of him at birthday parties or science fairs. Jose Garcia was serving two years in San Quentin when she was born and has been in and out of incarceration ever since. In the few photos she does have, she can trace the passing years by the colors of his prison jumpsuits.

“He tells me that’s the only thing he knows how to do,” Luna says, her voice flat, resigned. “Prison is all he knows.”

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Incarceration Nation: How we got there

About the film:
Incarcerating US is a documentary film illustrating how the purpose of prison has changed dramatically in the U.S. With 2.3 million people behind bars, the U.S. has more prisoners than anywhere else in the world. The rate of incarceration in the U.S. has more than quadrupled over the past thirty years. The social and economic costs of the extremely high imprisonment rate demonstrate the need to reassess and make drastic changes to the current system.

The shift towards longer and more rigid sentencing policies in conjunction with the War on Drugs fueled the explosion in the prison population. Political incentives divert scarce resources away from those who are truly a danger to society to those that commit nonviolent drug offenses.

Through the eyes and experiences of people involved with the prison system, this film will show why many agree that the current system is a counterproductive mess. In a penetrating look, it will include interviews with policy experts, attorneys, judges, corrections officials, current and former inmates, former police officers, and reform advocates. It will explore the vested interests that benefit from the current model and reveal how they obstruct reform efforts. With a greater understanding of the history and policies that created the largest prison population in the history of the world, we can foster a more humane criminal justice system and reduce the social and economic costs to the nation.


Is the Current Criminal Justice System Doing What it Needs to Facilitate Reentry?

Reducing Recidivism


“Divine mercy reminds us that prisons are an indication of the kind of society we are,” Pope Francis said earlier this year from inside a prison in Juarez, Mexico. “We have already lost many decades thinking and believing that everything will be resolved by isolating, separating, incarcerating and ridding ourselves of problems, believing that these policies really solve problems.”

By this logic, it might be hard for Francis to view America as the “Land of the Free” considering it houses 25 percent of the world’s prison population, despite being home to only 5 percent of the people on Earth. In 2015, when Francis addressed inmates at a prison while visiting Philadelphia, he spoke to the ailments of a society that struggles to lend forgiveness. “It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities,” he said. “It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society.”

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New Criminal Justice Reforms Increasing State to State

The Vera Institute

states_imgmapForty-six states made at least 201 changes to their laws on sentencing and corrections in 2014 and 2015, an “increase in pace” since an analysis of state changes three years ago, reports the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice. The Vera report said most of the state actions focused on three stages of the criminal justice system: creating or expanding diversion of people from entering the system; reducing prison populations by making some offenses eligible for community-based sentences, reducing the length and severity of sentences, adding early release options, reducing the number of people re-admitted for violating probation or parole, and supporting prisoner reentry into the community.

Vera singled out several legislative trends in criminal justice reform. In the bail area, several states have addressed the overuse of pretrial detention, especially for those unable to make bail. Some states are enacting legislation to waive some fees for defendants, allow payment plans for restitution, and limit the use of incarceration as a penalty for non-payment. To deal with the opioid crisis, some states are passing laws incorporating medical-assisted treatment to supplement existing or new treatment approaches, both in custody and in the community. States also are reducing the use of solitary confinement and improving conditions and treatment for those in solitary.


Why Aren’t We Talking About the 800% Growth of Incarcerated Women?

prisoner_women_protests-ashz-090324Washington, D.C. — Holly Harris may wear cowboy boots to work, but the Kentucky mom and Executive Director for the US Justice Action Network (USJAN) is far from your average southerner.

This past Saturday, June 25th, Harris talked about her work to a group of journalists and bloggers who traveled to Washington D.C. from different corners of the country to hear from leaders of the criminal justice reform movement. Harris was the first speaker at FreedomWorks#JusticeForAll event, and as the leader of USJAN, she set the tone for what turned out to be a fascinating conference.

The veteran litigator opened her speech by outlining USJAN’s goals, explaining the organization believes “our [criminal] code just doesn’t make sense.” That’s why their “goal is to shrink criminal codes” and “get rid of these unfair, unnecessary duplicative and inconsistent laws.”

But it was something else she told the crowd a few minutes later that got attendees worked up.

The fastest growing segment of the prison population in America,” Harris articulated, “is women … and nobody is talking about that.”

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Radio Show on Offender Reentry Support – Reentering Women Give the Scoop!

Phillycam producer Vanessa Graber (center) records a show about re-entry hosted by four ex-offenders. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Phillycam producer Vanessa Graber (center) records a show about re-entry hosted by four ex-offenders. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

From a small room in Center City, radio activist Vanessa Graber wants to broadcast the realities of post-prison life to thousands of Philadelphians. Next week, PhillyCam, the public-access media nonprofit, will launch WPPM 106.5. It’s one of three new radio stations created following a grassroots push to carve out more slots on FM dials across the country. Graber’s show — hosted by four women with rap sheets — is one of the programs that will air on the community-centric station, which will also reach parts of North and South Philadelphia, as well as across the river in Camden. It’s believed to be the first radio show about re-entry that’s hosted by women ex-offenders.

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Using Data to Shrink U.S. Prisons – There are People Who Simply Do not need to be Imprisoned

texastough01IT’S AN OFT-REPEATED statistic: The United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but it’s home to almost 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

The Obama administration believes better data within the criminal justice system could correct that imbalance. Which is why today, the White House announced its new Data-Driven Justice Initiative, through which 67 cities and states will work with each other, as well as with leading tech companies like Amazon and Palantir, to find new ways to use data to shrink the size of their local prison populations.

“What we’ve seen as we’ve engaged with state and local leaders across the country is that there are people who simply do not need to be in our jails,” Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the President, said on a call with journalists today. Taking a closer look at the data, she said, can help identify who those people are.

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