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weekly update – august 6, 2020

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In this issue…

New York Times: Parole Crisis Harming New Yorkers; Pass #LessIsMoreNY

In CT: Katal’s Kenyatta Thompson Guest Speaking on “Tell Them We Are Not Monsters” Webinar 

New York Times: Parole Crisis Harming New Yorkers; Pass #LessIsMoreNY

Loved ones of people incarcerated for technical violations, impacted community members, and groups in support of the #LessIsMoreNY Act rally on the steps of the Capitol in Albany demanding passage of the bill during a Day of Action in January 2020.

Last Friday, the New York Times released yet another article highlighting how New York, in the midst of a global pandemic, continues to incarcerate people for minor technical violations of parole such as missing curfew or testing positive for alcohol. This article comes just a week after the legislature resumed for a special session, where they failed to include #LessIsMoreNY Act and other much needed criminal justice legislation on the agenda. In response, groups leading the #LessIsMoreNY campaign released a statement Monday demanding Governor Cuomo and the legislature take urgent and necessary action to address New York’s parole crisis, that would in turn save lives during the COVID-19 public health crisis. 

It is unconscionable and directly goes against public health recommendations to continue to place people in congregate settings during the COVID-19 public health crisis, yet that is exactly what the NY Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) is doing. The New York Times piece explains how a man on parole, Earl Russell, was forced by DOCCS to choose between an overcrowded shelter or Rikers Island, even though he had an apartment and family to live with. New York’s current parole system is extremely antiquated and needlessly puts the lives of thousands like Mr. Russell’s at grave risk. We cannot wait for more preventative deaths to occur to take action on this issue. The time to pass this transformative piece of legislation is NOW.

Read our full press statement including quotes from A Little Piece of Light, Katal and Unchained, at this link.

Check out our twitter thread to read a more detailed outline of how the parole crisis has been and continues to be mishandled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York residents, join us in taking action now here.

In CT: Katal’s Kenyatta Thompson Guest Speaking on “Tell Them We Are Not Monsters” Webinar 

On Monday, August 3, Katal’s lead organizer, Kenyatta Thompson, was a guest speaker on the Tell Them We Are Not Monsters webinar. During the webinar, Black women across a variety of fields shared remarkable insight into the trauma-to-prison pipeline, and the impact that the carceral state has on their lives.

The webinar was organized and hosted by the JAMII Sisterhood, Drs. Erin Corbett, Bahiyyah Muhammad, and Breea Willingham. Guests on the panel included Dr. Britney Gatewood of Howard University, Michelle Daniel of NYU, Dr. Tonika Mikell of UMass-Dartmouth, Dr. Zaria Davis of New Directions Coaching and Consulting, Taylor Nuevelle of Who Speaks 4 Me?, and Tamika Spellman of HIPS DC.

“One of many takeaways: Cite Black women. Citation matters. If I may, I would also like to add: cite incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Black women writers.”

– Kirstyn Leuner, Assist. Professor, Santa Clara University

We thank the JAMII Sisterhood for including us in this timely digital event and thank all who joined us for this important conversation!

Keep practicing social distancing, wear your mask, wash your hands, and check in on your neighbors. If you want to get involved, learn more about our work, or just connect, please don’t hesitate to reach out – we’re online and on socials via @katalcenter.

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