As this year comes to a close, I want to first thank you so much for your support over the years. Your encouragement and dedication to justice is the reason why I am home today. After spending all of those years behind bars, I am finally home and still fighting for justice. It has been an amazing journey since my release this past February. For those of you who do not know, I took a position at the Abolitionist Law Center after my release. The Abolitionist Law Center is a Prison Litigation legal nonprofit that works to help individuals such as myself fight back against mass incarceration. It is my hope that my testimony will encourage you to become a monthly sustainers so the Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) can continue to keep me on board to do the incredible work I have been doing this year.
Leading The Fight Against Death By Incarceration
The Abolitionist Law Center utilizes education and advocacy in order to further the prison abolition movement. Since coming home I have been at the forefront of ALC’s organizing. Being sentenced to life in prison or as we call it, death by incarceration, I know so many of the people languishing in Pennsylvania prisons, and I am committed to doing everything I can to bring our people home. In June of this year, I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel at the Fight Toxic Prisons convergence here in Pittsburgh that ALC hosted. We had hundreds of people attend workshops and training sessions to better understand how environmental issues are associated with mass incarceration. I discussed the role of prisoners and families in creating the Human Rights Coalition in 2001 and how that has contributed to the work of prison abolition. For instance, ALC’s Legal Director Bret Grote started out as a HRC investigator.
ALC works closely with movement partners the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI). Formed in Philadelphia, at the urging of people serving life-without-parole sentences, CADBI has made impressive strides in its short existence. Since my release in February, my primary organizing has revolved around building CADBI chapters statewide and forming alliances with progressive movements across the state to pass legislation that would provide parole eligibility for lifers in Pennsylvania.
In addition to helping build and sustain CADBI chapters that have been started in Reading, York, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Delaware, and Chester County, I facilitated CADBI meetings and workshops for the families of the incarcerated. In early October, I worked with CADBI to mobilize over 400 people (photos) to rally in Harrisburg against DBI sentences by forging relationships with Reclaim Philadelphia, ReHumanize International, and Lancaster Stands Up.
I am beyond fortunate to cross the state, building CADBI chapters and support for parole for lifers, and ultimately building a strong movement that will be able to roll back mass incarceration in the state of Pennsylvania. At the moment I am developing new CADBI chapters in Lancaster, York and Erie, Pennsylvania. In addition to organizing in Pennsylvania, my travels have extended to Denver, Buffalo and Washington DC representing the Abolitionist Law Center and CADBI to raise awareness about Death By Incarceration sentences and the need for the communities and people most impacted by these sentences to be at the forefront of fighting to abolish them.
Expanding Our Offices
I was able to officially return back home when the Abolitionist Law Center opened a satellite office in Philadelphia due to the high incidents of incarceration, legal caseloads and organizing in Philadelphia. To better serve our community and to provide for more direct engagement, the office in Philadelphia also serves as a hub for community organizing and abolitionist work. I have the fortune of supervising legal interns as they learn about movement lawyering through a community lens. Additionally, the office became an organizing center when we all had to unexpectedly mobilize to fight against the inhumane mail policies that were introduced in the state prisons. The office is a space for loved ones of the incarcerated to learn, to advocate, and organize for abolition. Philadelphia has the largest population of those impacted by death incarceration sentences and PADOC policies. I was sentenced to a death by incarceration sentence as a juvenile in Philadelphia, now I am leading the fight against it from our office because of supporters like yourself.
Leading The Fight Against Solitary Confinement
Working in community organizing, my new responsibilities include leading a statewide campaign the Abolitionist Law Center is spearheading to end long term solitary confinement. Working in partnership with the ACLU’s Unlock The Box Campaign to End Solitary Confinement, I am organizing family members of prisoners in solitary confinement and movement allies to force the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to end long term indefinite solitary confinement. This November, I facilitated a workshop at the Unlock The Box Conference in Baltimore on best practices to incorporate families and prisoners in the work to end solitary confinement. As a result of the conference the Abolitionist Law Center is now a national partnership with legal advocates across the country to end long term solitary confinement.
In October, the Human Rights Coalition staged an Art Against Abuse event in Philadelphia to highlight the inhumane conditions of solitary confinement. The event featured a one woman play by a formerly incarcerated Black woman who was held in solitary confinement. It was my distinct honor to serve as an organizer and cohost of the showcase which was inspired by my passion for the arts. The event was a success and dozens of people and organizations signed on to pledge to work towards abolishing long term solitary confinement in Pennsylvania.
What’s Next ?
I was recently promoted to Director of Community Organizing based on my knowledge and experience organizing directly impacted communities. My vision going forward is to build a movement to end mass incarceration that possesses teeth and a strong bite so that policy makers and politicians will take notice of the communities their laws have been devastating. Help us accomplish this vision. I am asking that you please consider a monthly donation of between $25.00 and $50.00 to our sustainers fund so we can continue this great work.
In closing, thank you for your support. Happy New Year to you and yours.