Hanukkah #BlackLivesMatter

Durham: Peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protest on 1st night of Hanukkah

Some 100 people gathered in downtown Durham Wednesday evening for a peaceful protest on the first night of Hanukkah, part of a nationwide “Chanukah Action to End Police Violence” event.

Carolina Jews for Justice was an organizer locally for the protest by the Major the Bull statue at CCB Plaza.

About 20 menorahs were lit during the hour-long event, the servant candle at the center lighting the first candle of the menorah on the first night of the Jewish holiday.

Crystal is leaving Saturday for a trip to Israel, and will be there for the rest of Hanukkah. He wants to work with others to bring to reality the blessing of peace for all people.

The miracle of Hanukkah, he said, is that the few beat many, but also that they took the first step.

“There are great movements of change when people make the first step together,” he said.

Organizers also distributed “8 Nights, 8 Actions,” a way to dedicate each night of Hanukkah to “Black Lives Matter” issues and people, created by “Chanukah Action.”


Dec. 16, 2014 @ 08:31 PM

Follow on Twitter: @dawnbvaughanThis press clipping first appeared on heraldsun.com on December 16, 2014.

Ban The Box

‘Ban the Box’ hiring policies: What Syracuse can learn from Hawaii and North Carolina

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Will Syracuse’s new “Ban the Box” ordinance really make a difference in who gets hired by the city and its contractors? Do Ban the Box laws have any effect?

According to two recent studies, the answer is yes.

The Syracuse city council this week voted 8-1 to prohibit the city and its contractors from asking job applicants about their criminal records until late in the hiring process. The idea is to give people with criminal records a fair shot at winning jobs.

Skeptics question whether the Ban the Box rules are merely red tape that will complicate the hiring process without changing the final outcomes. But two recent studies suggest that Ban the Box policies have an effect.

Consider: In the three years since Durham, N.C., adopted a Ban the Box policy, the percentage of new city employees with criminal records has increased from 2 percent in 2011 to more than 15 percent this year, according to a report by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Or consider this: In Honolulu, the percentage of people accused of felonies who were repeat offenders decreased after Hawaii passed a Ban the Box law in 1998, according to a peer-reviewed academic study published in June in the American Journal of Criminal Justice.

Hawaii’s Ban the Box law helped reduce the number of repeat offenders, most likely by making it easier for ex-convicts to find jobs, according to researchers Stewart D’Alessio, Lisa Stolzenberg and Jamie Flexon, criminal justice professors from Florida International University.

“Our analysis suggests that Hawaii’s ban the box law is on the right track,” they wrote. The researchers cautioned that their study should be replicated in other cities to confirm its validity.

Syracuse’s new ordinance applies to the city and to private companies that provide services under contract to the city. Under the new rules, job applicants cannot be asked whether they have been convicted of crimes until they after have been judged qualified for employment.

The city or a contractor may withdraw a tentative job offer if the applicant’s criminal record indicates that he or she would present a risk to property or to public safety.

Mayor Stephanie Miner has not indicated whether she will sign the ordinance. The legislation passed with 8 votes, two more than would be required to override a veto.

The city and county of Durham, N.C., each adopted administrative policies midway through 2011 to ban the box for prospective employees. That year, 15 of the city’s 668 new employees – or 2.2 percent — had criminal records, according to data provided to Syracuse.com by the city.

Here’s how many new Durham employees had criminal records in subsequent years: 28 of 628 in 2012, or 4.5 percent; 53 of 513 in 2013, or 9.4 percent; and 16 of 103 through June 2014, or 15.5 percent.

City personnel managers have not seen any negative consequences from the new policy, said Amy Blalock, senior public affairs specialist.

Similar results were obtained by Durham County, according to the report by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a Durham group which lobbied for the Ban the Box policy. The county hired 96 applicants who had criminal records in 2013, up from 52 in 2012 and 35 in 2011, the report said.

Syracuse lawyer and Ban the Box supporter Alan Rosenthal, of the Center for Community Alternatives, said until recently he was not aware of any quantitative research on the effects of Ban the Box legislation. But the recent studies are encouraging, he said.

“The answer seems pretty loud and clear that there are positive results to be reaped from this,” he said.

Contact Tim Knauss anytime: Email | Twitter | Facebook | 315-470-3023

Ban the Box in Durham, NC by Tim Knauss

This press clipping first appeared on syracuse.com on December 10, 2014.


Grand Jury Decisions in Ferguson, and now, in the Eric Garner Case in NY

The following piece was written by asha bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance and shared with her permission.

In May of 1857, having just heard of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case (for those of us thinking of Travyon Martin today, ironically it was filed as  Dred Scott v Sandford), which in effect validated the existence of slavery and seemed to ensure its continuance, the great abolitionist, orator and ex-slave, Frederick Douglass, said:

In one view the slaveholders have a decided advantage over all opposition. It is well to notice this advantage…(but)  This is one view….there is another, and a brighter view. David, you know, looked small and insignificant when going to meet Goliath, but looked larger when he had slain his foe….Thus hath it ever been. Oppression, organized as ours is, will appear invincible up to the very hour of its fall….Take this fact—for it is a fact—the anti-slavery movement has, from first to last, suffered no abatement. It has gone forth in all directions, and is now felt in the remotest extremities of the Republic.

It started small, and was without capital either in men or money. The odds were all against it. It literally had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. There was ignorance to be enlightened, error to be combated, conscience to be awakened, prejudice to be overcome, apathy to be aroused, the right of speech to be secured, mob violence to be subdued, and a deep, radical change to be inwrought in the mind and heart of the whole nation. This great work, under God, has gone on, and gone on gloriously…Our strength is in the growth of [our] conviction, and this has never halted.

 In less than six years after he made that statement, of course, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

And so as the progeny of people who traversed mountains higher and more rocky than ours, and with far fewer resources, did, we continue.  And we do it with all the care, compassion and strategic brilliance that has defined us every day leading up to this day.  We do it as allies, we do it as colleagues, we do it as organizers and friends.  We do it as partners in this work.

The horrific decisions out of Ferguson and now, New York, have this moment.  We acknowledge that.  But knitting ourselves together I know this: we will write the final and beautiful chapter in history.

With a powerful belief in justice and in each of you,

asha bandele

Director, Advocacy Grants Program

Drug Policy Alliance

The Marshall Project

The Marshall Project sheds new light on the U.S. criminal justice system

An important new criminal justice resource has just come online: The Marshall Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization devoted to criminal justice reform.

The Marshall Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization founded on two simple ideas. In their own words:

1) There is a pressing national need for high-quality journalism about the American criminal justice system. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Spiraling costs, inhumane prison conditions, controversial drug laws, and concerns about systemic racial bias have contributed to a growing bipartisan consensus that our criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform.

The recent disruption in traditional media means that fewer institutions have the resources to take on complex issues such as criminal justice. The Marshall Project stands out against this landscape by investing in journalism on all aspects of our justice system. Our work will be shaped by accuracy, fairness, independence, and impartiality, with an emphasis on stories that have been underreported or misunderstood. We will partner with a broad array of media organizations to magnify our message, and our innovative website will serve as a dynamic hub for the most significant news and comment from the world of criminal justice.

2) With the growing awareness of the system’s failings, now is an opportune moment to amplify the national conversation about criminal justice.

We believe that storytelling can be a powerful agent of social change. Our mission is to raise public awareness around issues of criminal justice and the possibility for reform. But while we are nonpartisan, we are not neutral. Our hope is that by bringing transparency to the systemic problems that plague our courts and prisons, we can help stimulate a national conversation about how best to reform our system of crime and punishment.

After only a week online, the Marshall Project has brought us important journalism on the Death Penalty, ending the School to Prison Pipeline, and other essential criminal justice reform issues. SCSJ strongly supports the Marshall Project and all efforts to bring a racial justice lens to issues surrounding criminal justice and mass incarceration.

Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers

using data to change police behavior

Activists Wield Search Data to Challenge and Change Police Policy

Press Clipping: 5 former inmates file suit against Lanesboro Correctional

By Tina Terry


This Anson County prison has been plagued by violence and controversy all year.  Now five inmates  are suing more than a dozen people including guards and administrators saying they failed to keep inmates safe from violent attacks.

READ: Lanesboro Lawsuit

Those five NC inmates are serving time for crimes like murder, rape, and armed robbery.  In their lawsuit they claim prison administrator David Mitchell failed to protect prisoners, “from assault by other inmates with contraband weapons.”

They also make the same allegations about more than a dozen others including correctional officers and sergeants.

Plaintiff Orlando Harshaw said he filed a grievance about possible staff gang activity. He said a unit manager took the grievance and shared it with “another inmate known to be actively involved with the Bloods.”  He said that endangered his life.

IMAGES: Former inmates file suit against Lanesboro Correctional Institution

Another plaintiff, Sean Smith, said an officer escorted him into the shower and allowed an inmate to attack him while he was restrained in handcuffs.

“They feared for their safety,” said Daryl Atkinson.  He’s an attorney for the plaintiffs.  He said his clients have been transferred to other facilities to serve their time.  He said they are asking to never have to return.  They’re also seeking compensatory and punitive damages and they want major changes at Lanesboro Correctional Facility.

“No matter what you may have done in society, you aren’t deserving of treatment that can render you in an unsafe situation.”

The Department of Corrections said it would not comment on pending litigation.  However, a spokesman said lawsuits by inmates are fairly common nationwide.

READ: Lanseboro Grievance

Channel 9 has reported on problems at Lanesboro Correctional Institute. In November an inmate accepted a plea deal after being accused of stabbing and killing a fellow inmate.

In October, investigators said the administrator was stabbed in the prison recreation yard.

Earlier this year, the Department of Public Safety asked the FBI to investigate gang activity at the prison. Agents took control of the prison because they believed inmates were using smuggled phones to plan attacks from inside.

This piece originally appeared on wsoctv.com on November 18, 2014.


Press Clipping: Inmates sue staff of Lanesboro Correctional

WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

ANSON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) – Five former prisoners of Lanesboro Correctional in Anson County say guards at the prison helped gang-affiliated inmates get weapons and wage attacks. They are now suing the facility.

The five men say they filed the lawsuit because of their time at Lanesboro Correctional Institution. They are still serving time, but at different prisons. They are also asking never to serve time in Anson County again because of what they say happened there.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Stacey Wynn, Orlando Harshaw, Sean Smith, Benjamin White and Tavieolis Hunt. They are serving sentences for different convictions, including murder, rape and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

No one is arguing that the men should not be in prison. But the lawyer for four of the men, Daryl Atkinson with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice based in Durham, says they should be safe.

“Irrespective of what people may have done, on or in society the punishment is imprison,” said Atkinson, “The punishment is not to be placed in an unsafe environment where you can be stabbed and cut and your medical conditions can be ignored.”

The stories the inmates have shared, outlined in the 45-page lawsuit, include circumstances where guards allowed inmates to be stabbed by other inmates who were gang members. They even allege a unit manager in the prison provided the weapons, and say a hidden bag of shanks was found in the ceiling of his office.

All five inmates filed formal grievances with the Department of Corrections, which is now called the Department of Public Safety. They claim those complaints were ignored and that they were sent back to live in dangerous conditions.

Some of the alleged attacks are documented due to hospital visits and treatment. Atkinson says they don’t want to go back to Lanesboro. He says the men want compensation for pain and suffering, and that they don’t want others to experience what they did.

“They wanted to make sure that a set of policy and procedures were put in place so other men wouldn’t be hurt in the future,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson says the listed defendants (Secretary Frank Perry, Administrator David Mitchell, Lawrence H. Parsons, Jr., Rodney Mauldin, John Harrington, Jeffrey Wall, Allan Kennedy, Rhonda Jackson, Jonathan Peguese, FNU McCoy, FNU Lawrence, FNU Andrews, John Doe Officers 1-7) will have to answer the civil litigation.

If no settlement is reached, the plaintiffs will have a period of discovery to gather more evidence.

Pamela Walker, a spokesperson with the Department of Public Safety, says they have not received the lawsuit yet. And even when they do, Walker says, they can not comment on pending litigation.

Walker did, however, review a list of the defendants to confirm if they still work for the prison system. Two of the men, Jonathan Peguese and Jeffrey Wall, were dismissed in 2013.

Below summarizes each plaintiff’s current prison term and what he alleges happened at Lanesboro to him.

Prison records show Stacey Wynn is now at Tabor Correctional. Wynn is serving his life sentence for first degree murder. His record lists that he has committed one reported infraction, damage to state/another’s property. The lawsuit states he was assaulted in November 2011 by a fellow inmate who worked in the kitchen. It alleges he was stabbed with a filet knife and struck with a chair. Wynn’s lawyer says he suffered serious injuries that were not addressed properly, leading to a permanent disability to his rotator cuff.

Prison records show Orlando Harshaw is now at Pasquotank Correctional. He is serving a life sentence for first degree murder. His record lists that he has committed dozens of reported infractions including substance possession, sexual act and disobey order. The lawsuit states Harshaw was attacked by a fellow inmate after reporting a unit manager gave preferential treatment to gang members. Harshaw claims on March 12, 2012, the unit manager showed the grievance to another inmate who later stabbed Harshaw in the ear with a shank and kicked him with steel-toed boots, rendering him unconscious.

Prison records show Sean Smith is now at Alexander Correctional. He is serving a 19-year sentence. His principal felony is robbery with a dangerous weapon. His record lists that he has committed eight infractions including fighting, misuse of phone/mail and involvement with gang. The lawsuit states Smith withdrew from a gang after completing a prison program. It says when gang members choose to dissociate themselves, their lives and safety are often threatened by active members. It says in April 2012, Smith told the prison administration he wanted to be transferred. Smith says on August 2012, another inmate took a razor and cut his neck, which sent him to the emergency room. Smith says two months later and after multiple requests for a transfer a guard walked him to a shower with his arms handcuffed behind his back and watched as another inmate attacked him with a sharp metal object.

Prison records show Tavieolis Hunt is now at Maury Correctional. He is serving a 30-year sentence. His principal felony is rape. His record lists that he committed ten infractions including possession of money/unauthorized funds, weapon possession and fighting. The lawsuit states he was assaulted and stabbed two times on March 25, 2012, and April 17, 2012. Hunt says in March 2012 when he was attacked he tried to escape by closing himself in a cell. Hunt claims the inmate on the attack instructed a guard to open the cell, and that the guard did. Hunt says he was stabbed multiple times with a weapon that looked like an ice pick. Afterwards, Hunt says he requested to to be transferred. He wasn’t and a month later, Hunt says he was attacked by two inmates in his cell and then by three inmates in the dayroom while guards did nothing. Hunt is the one plaintiff in this case being represented by lawyer Luke Largess of Charlotte.

Prison records show Benjamin White is now at Scotland Correctional. He is serving an 8-year sentence. His principal felony is habitual felon. His record lists that he committed eight infractions including profane language, involvement with a gang and assaulting a person with weapon. The lawsuit states White was attacked by several inmates who were allowed to enter his cellblock by guards and officers who supplied the weapons. White alleges the five attackers are gang-affiliated and that they sent him to the hospital with a cut on the left side of his face from his ear to his chin that required 16 sutures to repair.

This article originally ran on WTBT on November 18, 2014. Reporting by Pamela Escobar.


SCSJ Files Suit Challenging Mistreatment at Lanesboro Correctional

Five men formerly held at Lanesboro Correction Institution in Anson County, NC have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that officers repeatedly helped gang-affiliated inmates get weapons and wage attacks. Plaintiffs in the case allege that they were violently assaulted by fellow prisoners wielding contraband weapons, and that corrections staff were aware of these attacks and refused to intervene or move the plaintiffs to safer quarters. The Lanesboro Complaint is available here.

“This case is about protecting the human rights and dignity of people who were held in Lanesboro Correctional Institution.  Our U.S. Supreme Court has held that a person’s punishment for committing a crime is imprisonment, not exposure to maltreatment and unsafe conditions,” said Daryl Atkinson, Senior Staff Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which filed the complaint in partnership with the NC Central School of Law and the law firm of Tin Fulton Waker & Owen, PLLC.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that prison officials have a duty under the Eighth Amendment to protect the people in their custody from violence at the hands of those who might do them harm,” said Ian Mance, an attorney at the Southern Coalition.  “The plaintiffs in this complaint were stabbed in their heads and throats by people armed with deadly weapons, some of whom, we allege, carried out the attacks while in areas of the prison where they had no business being,” said Mance.

“This lawsuit raises important concerns about how the administration at Lanesboro has jeopardized the safety of the people in its custody, its own employees, as well as members of the community at large,” said Scott Holmes, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys and Director of the Civil Litigation Clinic at the NC Central School of Law.

Media coverage is available below.


WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Observer


Charlotte Observer Reports that Officers at Lanesboro helped gang members wage attacks

Five former inmates at Lanesboro Correctional Institution have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that officers at the Anson County prison repeatedly helped gang-affiliated inmates get weapons and wage attacks.

Some officers went so far as to open locked doors to allow attacks on inmates, the lawsuit contends.

The suit also maintains that supervisors at Lanesboro failed to take action when victims asked to be separated from their attackers or transferred to other prisons. Those inmates were attacked again after their requests were refused.

It’s the latest in a string of troubling allegations about Lanesboro. Located in Polkton, about 45 miles east of Charlotte, the high-security prison has repeatedly drawn scrutiny after violence, inmate deaths and claims of improper conduct by corrections officers.

Earlier this year, the N.C. Department of Public Safety asked the FBI to assist in a wide-ranging investigation into gang activity and other problems at the prison.

And last December, the Observer reported that the SBI was conducting a probe into accusations of official misconduct.

The plaintiffs in the latest complaint – inmates Stacey Wynn, Orlando Harshaw, Tavieolis Hunt, Sean Smith and Benjamin White – say they were violently assaulted by fellow prisoners wielding contraband weapons.

They’re seeking monetary damages, along with changes to ensure the safety of current inmates at Lanesboro. The inmates are doing time in different prisons now. In their suit, filed Nov. 7, they are asking for a court order prohibiting the state from transferring them back to Lanesboro or housing them in the same facility with their attackers.

The suit was filed against the current and previous administrators at Lanesboro, various officers at the prison and Frank Perry, the secretary of the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

A spokesperson for the state Department of Public Safety said the agency has not yet received the lawsuit and cannot discuss it.

Letting violence reign?

Among the suit’s allegations:

• On April 2012, two corrections officers at Lanesboro allowed an attack on White by opening a door to let five inmates from another housing area into his unit. The attackers cut his face with a weapon resembling a razor. Among those who allegedly watched the attack: unit manager Jeffrey Wall. The suit alleges that Wall knew the attack was going to happen and made it possible by “providing access to weapons and/or access for the inmate attackers to the unauthorized area.”

Earlier this year, an SBI agent and a prison captain searched Wall’s office and retrieved envelopes containing homemade weapons, according to a search warrant affidavit. Wall could not be reached for comment Monday. Earlier this year, he told an Observer reporter that he had been the subject of an investigation but had been dismissed from the prison for other reasons.

• In March 2012, another corrections officer allegedly opened a cell door to let two gang members attack Hunt. The gang members chased Hunt, overpowered him and stabbed him multiple times with a weapon resembling an ice pick.

The following month, after hearing that “a hit” had been placed on him, Hunt asked to be transferred to another prison. But prison officials rejected his request and sent him back to the regular population. Days later, Hunt was attacked again by other gang members with contraband weapons.

• After filing a grievance contending that corrections officers gave preferential treatment to members of the UBN gang, Harshaw was called into Wall’s office in March 2012. Wall then threatened Harshaw by telling him that he was exposing himself to physical harm and retaliation by complaining about corrections officers, the suit maintains.

Later that night, another inmate stabbed Harshaw in the ear with a homemade knife and kicked him repeatedly with steel-toed boots. He was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Attorneys for the five inmates contend that what happened to their clients violates the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Anita Earls, one of the attorneys, said it’s bad enough when corrections officers are indifferent to violence inside prisons.

“It’s a step further when there’s evidence that they are creating conditions for violence,” said Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

‘Unlawful control’

Said Charlotte lawyer Luke Largess, another plaintiff’s attorney: “I don’t think anybody believes the gangs should be running the prisons.

“… People are put in prisons because of unlawful conduct,” Largess said. “If they’re subject to unlawful control while they’re there, it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Lanesboro has been the subject of many unflattering headlines since 2009, when an inmate alleged that he was repeatedly pepper-sprayed by corrections officers after requesting medical help. The state has changed the prison’s leadership several times since then.

In September 2012, the stabbing death of inmate Wesley Turner spurred an SBI investigation and led to charges against three former inmates.

Later that year, an inmate filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Lanesboro corrections officers cracked his skull with a baton and then destroyed a surveillance video that showed the assault.

Starting in November 2013, more than 800 inmates at the prison were put on lockdown for several months after an attack injured a corrections officer. Subsequent searches at the prison found numerous cellphones, improvised weapons and marijuana.

Alexander: 704-358-5060
This article originally appeared in the Charlotte Observer.
Federal Interagency Reentry Council

Formerly Incarcerated Leaders Have Historic Meeting with Federal Interagency Reentry Council

The civil rights movement had the Big Six – Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Whitney Young, and other visionaries – advocating for the end of discriminatory treatment toward black and brown people. On Monday, October 20th we saw the emergence of the Big Eight – formerly incarcerated leaders at the forefront of a new civil and human rights movement – ending the structural discrimination faced by people with criminal records. These leaders include Daryl Atkinson, Susan Burton, Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, Norris Henderson, Manuel LaFontaine, Glenn Martin, Vivian Nixon, and Dorsey Nunn. In the first meeting of its kind, these formerly incarcerated leaders met with senior officials of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council (Reentry Council) to advocate for a set of reforms to help end the 2nd class status of people with criminal records.

The Reentry Council, which represents over twenty federal agencies, was created by Attorney General Eric Holder in 2011 to remove federal barriers to reentry. SCSJ’s, Daryl V. Atkinson, a member of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement (FICPM), took the lead in organizing this historic multi-agency meeting. Among the federal attendees were Karol Mason, Assistant Attorney General, Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Roy Austin, White House Domestic Policy Counsel. In total, representatives from over 13 federal agencies were in attendance at this historic meeting where leaders in the criminal justice reform movement advocated for the end to the structural discrimination faced by people with criminal records in employment, education, housing, and voting.

Atkinson focused on employment, highlighting Durham’s success around “Ban the Box”. Atkinson presented SCSJ’s new White Paper highlighting the case study of Durham’s successful “Ban the Box” campaign. The paper details the steps in creating and implementing a successful campaign, especially the importance of building power within marginalized communities. “We believe having directly affected people leading the campaign in every aspect, including the development of an effective policy, was a critical component to the successful hiring outcomes produced by Durham’s “Ban the Box” campaign,” said Daryl Atkinson.

The meeting was widely heralded as a success, and participants are hopeful that the lines of communication between formerly incarcerated leaders and federal policy makers will remain open. Click here to read SCSJ’s new white paper on the success of Durham’s Ban the Box campaign.