Katal 2022 Stewardship Letter

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3 January 2023

 Dear friends,

As we step into to 2023 and the fights ahead, we’re also reflecting on the past year – the challenges we faced, the accomplishments, some losses and, fortunately, some victories. Katal marked its sixth anniversary, and in many ways we’ve really come into our own. Here are some of our highlights from 2022:

Transforming parole and getting people free: In New York State, our focus in 2022 was making sure that the Less Is More parole bill – which reforms how the state manages noncriminal technical violations of parole – was properly implemented. (We passed this law with our campaign partners in 2021.) We organized people who are on parole and their families, monitored the implementation process, met regularly with elected officials and liaisons from the governor’s office, fought back against ridiculous lies from opponents of reform, held more than two dozen community forums and education sessions across the state, and more.

In December, with our partners at Unchained, we published a one-year implementation report showing some remarkable results of our collective work: Over 13,000 people who were following the rules have been released from parole early. We cut the parole population statewide by nearly 40 percent. Nearly 2,000 people who were in jails and prisons for noncriminal technical violations of parole have been released. Those who remain on parole are no longer subject to automatic incarceration for most noncriminal rule violations. They can cut their time on parole in half by complying with the rules. And there’s more – we hope you’ll check out the report!

COVID-19 and #CutShutInvest in Connecticut: Even as many political leaders tried to “move on” from the pandemic, COVID-19 remains a leading cause of death in the United States – especially among older adults – and is especially devastating behind bars.[i] In Connecticut, we organized to raise awareness about the impact of the coronavirus in jails and prisons, demand action to keep incarcerated people safe, and hold Governor Ned Lamont and the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) accountable. Our actions included a protest and rally on the last day of the legislative session outside the State Capitol in Hartford, followed by a march into the capitol building to stage a die-in.

In September we organized an action outside the DOC headquarters, honoring those who had died of COVID while incarcerated in Connecticut, and raising the voices of the families impacted by the inaction of Lamont and his administration. Throughout the year we knocked on thousands of doors statewide and held hundreds of conversations with residents who believe we must cut the population in jails and prisons, shut them down, and invest in real community safety: housing, health care, education, and jobs.

Building Leadership and Organizing Capacity (BLOC): Our popular BLOC program continued to grow. We brought on new apprentice organizers and a new policy fellow. We provided hundreds of coaching hours to organizers and advocates in Connecticut, New York, and around the country. We conducted dozens of trainings with students, organizers, activists, funders, and others. We served as speakers or presenters at nearly two dozen events. And we laid the groundwork for expanding our BLOC Roundtables in 2023!

Katal Convenings, Information Sessions, and Speaking Events: In 2022, we organized dozens of meetings, info sessions, actions, and other events. Some of the highlights:

  • We continued our monthly statewide criminal justice reform calls for organizers, advocates, and other community members in Connecticut and New York State.
  • With artist Josh MacPhee, we hosted the workshop “Community Arts as Activism” in June at the Museum of the City of New York, where kids and grown-ups made art, practiced screen printing, and imagined a world without the Rikers Island jail complex.
  • In September we hosted Catch Up with Katal, sharing updates on our work and engaging with our supporters. The event built on our “Katal at 5” event from 2021.
  • In October, we attended and gave a presentation at the National Harm Reduction Coalition conference, held in Puerto Rico. Our first in-person conference in years!
  • Katal staff served as guest speakers at multiple colleges and universities, including giving a presentation on organizing at the UConn School of Social Work.
  • We organized two big actions in New York City to demand closure of Rikers Island. In November, we organized a rally and march outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan to demand federal intervention in the crisis. And on a frigid afternoon in December, our members and allies rallied on the steps of City Hall to demand that the city council hold the mayor accountable and close Rikers.

 

Katal in the News: In Connecticut and New York, we’re helping to shape the public debate about mass incarceration and public safety. Katal was featured in dozens and dozens of news articles and television and radio programs during 2022. You can read them online. Here are some of the highlights:

  • On March 9, the Poughkeepsie Journal featured us in Tiffany Cusaac-Smith’s article “NY Is Closing 6 Prisons Thursday. What Will It Mean for Local Economies?” We talked about how the Less Is More Act contributed to the closing of six prisons statewide.
  • On April 3, we were on the Here and Now program on New York City’s ABC affiliate, discussing criminal justice reform and the Less Is More Act.
  • On May 21, the CT Post quoted co–executive director Lorenzo Jones in the article “‘Buffalo Reminded Us Again’: Mass Shootings Prompt Fear, Frustration Among Members of Black, Jewish Communities.”
  • In June, The Progressive Magazine featured Katal and our partners discussing how the Less Is More Act came to pass, in a lengthy piece by Victoria Law, “Less Incarceration, More Safety: How New York Activists Pushed Through Changes to Limit Parole Revocations for Minor Infractions.”
  • On July 3, Kenyatta Muzzanni, our director of organizing, discussed the connection between LGBTQ+ rights and women’s reproductive rights on What’s Your Point? on WPKN in Bridgeport, CT.
  • Kenyatta and Katal member Claudia Cupe were interviewed for Lisa Backus’s July 25 article for CT Insider, “Inmates Sue Over ‘Unsafe and Unacceptable’ COVID Conditions in CT Prisons.”
  • On October 7, CT Insider’s article by Alex Putterman, “Where are CT’s Incarcerated From? New Data Shows Prison and Jail Population by ZIP Code,” quoted Lorenzo Jones about racial disparities in incarceration: “Draconian drug policies follow poor people.”
  • The City’s article “Federal Judge Kicks Rikers Receivership Question Down Road” reported on the November 17 rally that Katal organized, urging Chief Judge Laura Taylor Swain to appoint a federal receiver for Rikers and expedite its closure. The story quoted Katal member Henry Robinson, who spoke at the rally.
  • On December 17 in New York City, our senior community organizer, Melanie Dominguez, and Katal member Henry Robinson talked about the deadly conditions at Rikers Island on WBAI’s weekly radio program On the Count.
  • On December 29, in The City’s article “City Hall Still Planning for Shutdown of Rikers Island Jails, But Is Mayor All-In?,” we called out Mayor Adams for abandoning the plan to close Rikers.

In addition to being featured in news stories this year, Katal staff and members published numerous articles and essays. Here are 10 highlights from 2022:

 

As part of our organizing work, we published dozens of press releases about our campaigns and actions in Connecticut and New York, bringing attention to a range of issues and uplifting the voices of our members, partners, and allies. These releases provide detailed summaries of our actions, announcements, and statements throughout the year. And, of course, we sent weekly state-specific updates to our followers in Connecticut and New York, highlighting the work of Katal, our partners, and the movement.

We kept up a dizzying pace in 2022. And we’ve got big plans for 2023 as we continue to organize for equity, health, and justice. Please consider making a contribution to fuel our work in 2023 and beyond.

Thank you for your support – we deeply appreciate it.

Lorenzo Jones                                                                         gabriel sayegh
Co–executive director                                                       Co–executive director

 

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “COVID-19 as the Underlying or Contributing Cause of Death,” updated November 16, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/data-review/primary-cause.html; as of January 10, 2023, the COVID Prison Project reported that 2,911 people incarcerated in prisons nationwide and 287 staff members had died due to COVID-19; 637,692 cases had been diagnosed among people incarcerated and 240,445 cases among staff in U.S. prisons, not counting jails; see https://covidprisonproject.com. Also see Emily Widra, “New Data Confirms that Prisons Neglected COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies, Putting Public Health at Risk,” October 13, 2022, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2022/10/13/covid_policies/.

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