So … DEMAND it dammit! *
I am thrilled to say that I have had more than a few people say things like: “When I saw what happened to my son… in the criminal justice system … I was so angry and frustrated I didn’t know what to do … but I found the explanations for all the problems, and what to do about them, on your website! What great information. God Bless you!”
*How? Here is one great way! There is no better way to reach thousands of people on a regular basis – send one out every month!
I get lots of letters published, and ghost write for others. The keys to getting your Letter published are:
1. Keep it to 250 words or fewer.
2. Do not make it about “poor little old me”. Describe the problem as one which not only affects the individual, but is a senseless or ineffective measure, policy, or law which also harms communities and society. For example, with reentry, the obstacles make it unnecessarily difficult for the individual, but also harm society by making it hard to become productive, spending money and paying taxes in the community, and they cause increased recidivism = increased crime.
3. Speak from your heart.
4. Google any facts you are not sure about.
5. Do not name-call.
Do what works: Write that Letter! 🙂
Letter to Editor – sign name, town, state, and your phone number (they often call to verify that you sent it), and “Member of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE” if you like – shows you are part of a large group.
Send the email to yourself, and put on the “bcc” bar the email addresses for Letters to the Editor for the top ten newspapers in your state and several national ones – The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, U S A Today (google the Letter to Editor email addresses). Any questions, CALL me at 302-423-4067! 🙂
Need a Letter on some criminal justice issue and not a great letter writer? NO EXCUSE! Email me a rough draft and call me and I’ll polish it up! email@example.com .
ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME AT 302-423-4067.
Excerpts from the Article:
Karen Garrison had never considered herself an activist. In 1998, she was a cosmetologist and make-up artist. She was also the proud mother of 25-year-old Lamont and Lawrence Garrison, identical twins in their final year at Howard University. That May, Lamont and Lawrence were scheduled to graduate. They were not only their mother’s pride and joy, but also the pride of their DC neighborhood. “Everyone knew that they were going to Howard University and they were going to be lawyers,” Garrison recalled.
One month before the twins donned cap and gown to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, police showed up at the family’s home and arrested the young men on charges of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. The evidence against them? The word of an informant who had named them in order to reduce his sentence and phone records from the garage where they had brought their uncles’ car to be fixed.
Lamont and Lawrence went to trial. “They believed in the criminal justice system and that they’d get justice,” Garrison explained. Instead, the jury convicted them. Lawrence was sentenced to 15.5 years in federal prison. Because he had testified, Lamont was given an additional 46 months for obstruction of justice, bringing his sentence to 19.5 years. “If you testify and then are found guilty, everything you say is considered a lie,” explained his mother.
“When they said ‘Guilty,’ I passed out,” Garrison said. She went home and lay on the floor. Then she picked herself up and decided she needed to do something.
Before her sons’ conviction, Garrison had limited her newspaper reading to the style section, keeping up with the latest trends so that she could discuss them with her clients as she styled their hair. But now Garrison was determined to learn about the system that had entrapped her sons—and how she could change that system. She began watching the news regularly and buying magazines with articles about the criminal justice system. She stopped reading the style section and began reading the front page news and the metro section. She taught herself how to use the computer and how to navigate e-mail. She connected with groups working on criminal justice reform.
She began learning about similar cases of conspiracy and mandatory minimum sentencing that sent so many Black people to prison for years, if not decades. She attended conferences about the criminal justice system. She began connecting with others whose loved ones had been entrapped by the war on drugs, sharing what she had learned and rallying them to band to change these policies.
When people go to prison, their absence often devastates families. While the plight of the millions of children growing up with parents behind bars has been gaining more attention, the pain and devastation of parents with children locked away has been less visible. But, like Karen Garrison, parents across the country have been galvanized by their children’s ordeals not only to advocate for their own children’s freedom, but to band together to challenge and change the policies that have taken their children away.
Some have joined existing organizations. Others have started their own. Still others have acted independently, at times working in coalition with groups and organizations as well as on their own. But one thing unites them all—they’re not waiting for someone else to make the changes needed to stop the destruction of mass incarceration. They’re going to do it themselves.
“I was a cosmetologist. I know hair. I didn’t have nothing to do with this big racist [criminal justice] system,” she reflected. But with her sons’ lengthy sentences, she began to learn.
Though she had lived in the nation’s capitol, she had never attended any of the hearings on Capitol Hill. “I had thought you had to be a lawyer or something to attend these sessions,” she remembered. But when she learned that the sessions were open to the public, she began going and learning about the policies that had entrapped not just her sons, but thousands across the nation.
She also began attending meetings around criminal justice organizing, meeting people from organizations that were working around sentencing and prison policies. She also began receiving calls from mothers in similar situations. Together, Garrison and other family members banded together to fight for change.
Both mothers also know firsthand the power of numbers—both to enact change and to support each other. “When you think you’re by yourself, that’s bad,” reflected Garrison. “You can’t do it by yourself.”