The New Jim Crow

Durham City Wide Study of The New Jim Crow

These are tumultuous times for the criminal justice system. Huffington Post reports that exonerations of wrongfully convicted people are at an all time high. Meanwhile, Marissa Alexander has finally been released from a nightmare of incarceration incited by firing a single warning shot at a known abuser. In the background, police are not being charged for killing the people they are sworn to protect -even when the murder is caught on tape as in the case of Eric Garner. The “Drug War” continues to separate families, racially profile young black men, and cost taxpayers billions of dollars to incarcerate people of color on simple drug possession charges.

If there is a single thing that can be said about “criminal justice” right now, it is that the system is woefully broken.

 Durham City Wide Study of The New Jim Crow

In the midst of this unrest, our partners at SpiritHouse are hosting a Durham City Wide Study of The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book examining race and the criminal justice system. Click here to learn more about the event and take part. Watch a preview of the book below.


What is being done to combat this situation?

As these injustices continue to pile up, communities across the U.S. are coming together to fight back.

  • The #BlackLivesMatter movement has raised awareness about our troubled criminal justice system and its apparent indifference to the lives of Black men, women, and children.
  • Organizations like SCSJ continue to hold Clean Slate Clinics to assist people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system to regain control of their lives by getting free legal assistance to obtain certificates of relief, expungements, and other documents necessary to overcome the massive barriers to finding employment, housing, and education with a criminal record.
  • Universities such as UNC are holding panels to discuss how white supremacy reinforces racism in academic settings.
  • Arizona State University has a new course examining white supremacy and how it reinforces racist systems in the U.S.
  • YOU can join the movement to reverse the tide by participating in Durham’s City-Wide Reading of The New Jim Crow. Act now!

List of Community Partners

Trude Bennett

Martin Eakes

Irv Joyner

Alison Moy

Mary Moore

Vivian Timlic- NAACP

Diane Standaert


Action NC

Center for Documentary Studies (Staff)

Central Park School for Children Equity Team

City Well Church of Durham

Communities in Partnership Old East Durham

Durham Anti-Racist White Caucus

Durham People’s Alliance

Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

FADE Coalition

First Presbyterian Church of Durham

Golden Belt Neighborhood

Muhammad Mosque No. 34

North Carolina Central University Black Law Student Association

North Carolina Public Defender Association Committee On Racial Equity

Project TURN

Self Help Credit Union

Southern Coalition for Social Justice

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church


Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers

marijuana cases

Durham police report offers irrelevant detail on local marijuana cases, ignores racial profiling

Most of the people arrested and charged only with misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2013 and the first half of 2014 had prior criminal records, a new report from the Durham Police Department says.

That said, it was much more common for police to stack a possession charge with other, sometimes more serious charges when they caught a person with some pot.

Other drug offenses — everything from paraphernalia possession to trafficking in heroin — are regular pairings with a misdemeanor marijuana charge.

Police commanders drafted the report to answer a query from City Manager Tom Bonfield, who wanted a closer look at why 86 percent of the department’s misdemeanor marijuana-possession arrests from Jan. 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014 were of blacks.

The document, available online at, included maps showing that marijuana arrests were more common in east Durham and a scattered few areas in the northern and western part of the city.

East Durham is predominantly black, a fact that lends itself to the suspicion the department is engaging in racial profiling when it comes to marijuana enforcement.

But the eastern portion of the city also experiences a disproportionate share of the city’s most serious, “Part 1” crimes: homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor-vehicle theft.

The report looked at the actions of officers that preceded an arrest, finding that about 40 percent of the 739 pot-possession busts they made over 18 months were the result of “self-initiated” work of officers.

Another 12 percent followed a complaint by residents.

Of the “self-initiated” busts, 35 percent followed a vehicle stop. The department has acknowledged that officers stop more black motorists than whites.

Department analysts also focused on the pot-only arrests out of the 739, a subgroup of 191 cases that targeted 182 different people.

Of those, seven were arrested twice on pot-possession charge in the 18 months, and one person was arrested three times.

Criminal-background checks found that 143 of the 182 — about 79 percent — had been arrested at least once before being picked up on the marijuana charge.

Forty eight of the 143 were already convicted felons.

Collectively, the 143 had 908 previous arrests and 402 convictions.

“Put another way, nearly four in five persons charged with only misdemeanor marijuana possession had been arrested on average 6.35 times each before the marijuana offense,” the report said.

Department and city officials have spent much of the last year and a half dealing with racial-profiling allegations raised by groups like the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Fostering Alternatives to Drug Enforcement.

Fostering Alternatives — also known by the acronym FADE — advocates deprioritizing marijuana-law enforcement, on the grounds that a single possession charge can end up becoming a lifetime barrier to employment or housing.


Youth Justice

SCSJ announces partnership with Youth Justice North Carolina

SCSJ has always maintained a strong commitment to addressing issues of racial equity in education, eliminating racial bias in the criminal justice system, ending mass incarceration, and removing unjust barriers faced by persons with criminal records.  We are now excited to announce a new strategic partnership with Youth Justice North Carolina which will augment our existing programming with passionate advocacy on behalf of youth and their families, cutting edge tools and resources to end the school-to-prison pipeline and an expansion of our focus to feature juvenile justice and education justice issues. As of the first of this year, the two organizations are merging.

Youth Justice North Carolina is an organization of law and policy experts, practitioners, and advocates whose mission is to “ensure equity, fairness, and justice for North Carolina youth in high-quality education, juvenile, and criminal systems.”

For more information on this partnership, please visit

lives matter

Black and Brown Lives Matter: March for Justice & Racial Unity

Date:    Tuesday,  December 23

Time:    12noon  (Press Conference 11:30am)

Begins: Ebenezer United Church of Christ

734 Apple St.  Burlington, NC

Concludes: First Christian United Church of Christ

415 S. Church St. Burlington, NC

Distance: 1.2 Miles


Join the marchers and lift up a voice asking for justice and equal protection under the law for all people.  Join the marchers and lift up a voice for racial unity and peace in our hometown.  Join the marchers and make a difference.


More details from Noah Read:


Local clergy and community groups will march in support of the national
movement to end racial disparities, focusing on our criminal justice system

Community members and coalition members of the local faith-based Partnerships to Empower People and the NAACP’s Alamance People’s Assembly will gather for a short press conference and a 1.25 mile march from Ebenezer Baptist Church to First Christian UCC in Burlington, NC.

We march in solidarity with those peaceful protesters across our nation calling for equal protection under the law. To further this goal, we support a commitment to the improvement and full enforcement of all laws prohibiting racial profiling, to the full investigation of all possible cases of excessive force in policing, and to the reversal of current trends in the militarization of local law enforcement.

We also march in support of all community members, especially members of law enforcement, who believe that the only way to avert future tragedies, remedy today’s unsustainable conditions, and heal our historic wounds is to embracing as our best hope the formidable work of building relationships across all barriers. Or as it says in the book of Isaiah, we hope to join those who

“…will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities… (and) will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”

To that end, this event is an urgent invitation for our community to begin that work.

#     #     #

When: Tuesday, December 23, 2014 Press Conference begins at 11:30 am. The March will run from 12:00 noon until 1:00 pm with a short prayer service at 1:00 pm.

Where: Press conference, March begins at Ebenezer, UCC, 734 Apple Street, Burlington, NC. March ends at First Christian Church, UCC, 415 South Church Street, Burlington, NC. Van transportation will be provided to take people from Ebenezer to First Christian. Bus transportation will be provided to return to Ebenezer from from First Christian.

Those who are unable to walk the March are encouraged to join us before the March for the 11:30 press conference and after the march at 1:00, for a brief prayer service at First Christian.

Contact: Noah Read, Alamance NAACP – or 336.260.4399

This information is also posted on the Alamance NAACP website here:

and on Facebook here:

Noah Read

Alamance NAACP Political Action Chair


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 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 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 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 on November 18, 2014.