Daryl Presents at Philanthrophy NY

Daryl Atkinson attends 3 major Criminal Justice Reform Conferences This Week

This week Daryl attended three different criminal justice reform conferences around the country.

On Monday, November 9th he participated in the Criminal Justice and Public Health National Convening hosted at the Ford Foundation in New York. The main focus of the conference was to bring together public health professionals and criminal justice reform advocates, to create a shared vision for public health inclusion in the criminal justice reform movement.

The following day on Tuesday, November 10th Daryl spoke at the Justice Reform: The End of Mass Incarceration Briefing. The event was hosted by Philanthropy New York and included participants from over 20 foundations interested in criminal justice reform. Watch the briefing.

Wrapping up the week, Daryl is presenting at the National Consumer Law Conference along with co presenter Michelle Drake of law firm Nichols Kaster. Their presentation focuses on how the Fair Credit Reporting Act can be used to achieve racial equity. The National Consumer Law Center is hosting the event in San Antonio from Thursday, November 12th through Saturday, November 14th.  Consumer Rights Litigation Conference.






Ian Mance presents at Code for America Summit

At this year’s Code for America Summit in Oakland, CA, SCSJ’s Ian Mance presented on Identifying Racial Bias in Policing Practices. In 1999 North Carolina became the first state to pass legislation allowing the State Bureau of Investigations to collect traffic stop data from state, city and county police departments.

This massive collection of data was requested by Ian as a law student at the University of North Carolina. To his surprise the data came on a CD drive in the form of a huge text file. The data set proved to be an incredible resource and he was soon contacted by other jurisdictions that wanted to take a look at their local traffic stop information. To keep up with the demand Ian knew the data needed to be compiled into a more user friendly and accessible platform. 

He contacted Colin Copeland of Code for Durham to discuss his idea and the Open Data Policing NC website was born. The primary use of the website is to gather and display NC traffic stop data for all 100 counties and each of the law enforcement agencies within those counties. Everyone from the Greensboro Police Department to the campus police at universities.  

The website’s dual purpose makes it a resource for communities and a management tool for police chiefs. The website illustrates specific data sets of Stops, People, and Searches and only the ID numbers of officers. Visitors can easily utilize the website’s search feature to research their local police stop data. Users are provided graphs and correlations of how different races and ethnicities are treated in traffic stops.

Before the Open Data Policing NC website, huge collections of data illustrating high disparities in traffic stops, consent searches, and the reporting of contraband seized in searches were being collected but no one studied it. Now community based groups, criminal defense lawyers, law enforcement agencies have a incredible tool to bring about improvement in police management. Recently Roanoke Rapids, Chapel Hill, and Greenville used data to start police reforms within their local agencies.

Watch the whole presentation here


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SCSJ’s Daryl Atkinson meets with POTUS on Ban the Box

President Obama Announces Federal Ban the Box.  SCSJ’s Daryl Atkinson is in Newark, NJ today for a round table discussion with President Obama, Senator Cory Booker and other members of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples’ Movement who have been working for many months to achieve better policies.  While in Newark, the President will highlight the re-entry process of formerly incarcerated individuals who are working to put their lives back on track and earn their second chance. The President will visit a residential facility, Integrity House, and later convene a round table discussion at Rutgers University – Newark, Center for Law & Justice, where he will also deliver a statement.

Today’s White House Press Release details the new actions and facts to promote rehabilitation for the former incarcerated.

Note the Federal Ban the Box will only apply to federal employment and not independent contractors. MSNBC writes about the President’s landmark announcement today.

In October 2014 the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement (FICPM) went to the Department of Justice and made four demands, changes to the policy around public housing for former prisoners were one of them. Daryl drafted a memorandum on behalf of the FICPM or their request for policy change.  Today’s New York Times highlighted this policy change.


Daryl Award Ceremony Pic - Copy (2)

Daryl Atkinson awarded Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award

On the evening of Tuesday, October 6th, the Institute for Policy Studies awarded Daryl Atkinson and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice the Domestic Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award. The award was in recognition of Daryl and the organization’s work with reforming the criminal justice landscape.

Daryl’s work focuses on those who are released from prison and helping them have greater opportunities to find work and rejoin society. One of his current projects to help former inmates find work is the Ban the Box initiative. It seeks to ban the box on job applications that ask about criminal records.

A Washington Post article cited this quote from Daryl’s speech that evening. “There are a lot of diamonds in the rough who, if they had access to opportunity, could be amazing contributors to this country.”

Read more about the award ceremony and other awardees here

Voter ID

Voter ID Case to Move Forward Next Year

North Carolina State Court Judge Michael Morgan has denied the State’s motion to dismiss the Voter ID challenge, Currie v. North Carolina.  

SCSJ’s press release is here.  The order on the Motion to Dismiss is here and the Order on the Motion for a Stay is here.

SCSJ represents Alberta Currie, the League of Women Voters, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and two additional individual plaintiffs, all of whom allege that the state’s voter ID law violates the qualifications and equal protection clauses of the state constitution. Right before summary judgment arguments were scheduled in May, the legislature amended (and governor signed) a modification that allows voters who do not have an ID to vote anyway.  Termed the “reasonable impediment” exception, voters who do not have one of the acceptable forms of photo ID can sign an affidavit explaining that they have an “impediment” or barrier to obtaining an ID and vote a provisional ballot.  Impediments to having an ID might include:

  • Lack of transportation.
  • Disability or illness.
  • Lack of birth certificate or other documents needed to obtain photo ID.
  • Work schedule.
  • Family responsibilities.
  • Lost or stolen photo identification.
  • Photo identification applied for but not received by the voter voting in person.

These rules will be in place for the March, 2016 presidential primary election while the Plaintiffs access whether these measures mitigate the violation of their rights caused by the original law.

You can read press accounts of the rulings here, here and here.


Another Redistricting Case at the US Supreme Court to Watch

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed an Amicus Brief with the United States Supreme Court in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.  The Supreme Court, in Harris, is deciding whether partisan political gain justifies deviation from the one-person, one-vote principle of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The lower court in Arizona assumed, but did not decide, that partisanship was not a legitimate interest but held that other factors influenced the drawing of legislative districts in Arizona.  We argue (and do not support either party in this case) that political partisanship is an inappropriate method of determining the weight of a citizen’s vote and only non-arbitrary, traditional redistricting principles may result in deviations from absolute population equality.

As a friend of the Court, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice highlighted current cases SCSJ is involved in where partisanship is attempting to deviate from the one-person, one-vote principle and how political interests fly in the face of ensuring that voters have an equal voice when they cast a ballot.  The Brief reads, “Holding that manipulating population deviations to discriminate against voters of a particular political party is a legitimate governmental interest would strike a fatal blow to fundamental fairness and the opportunity of all voters to participate equally in the political process.”

We expect the Supreme Court to issue a ruling in Harris in its term next year.



SCSJ Files Amicus Brief for Virginia NAACP

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed this Brief of Amicus Curiae Virginia State Conference of the NAACP in the US Supreme Court.  The Court is considering a case which will determine whether voting rights plaintiffs in statewide redistricting cases have the right to a three-judge court to hear their claims.  The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a single judge could dismiss a constitutional challenge to a statewide redistricting plan.  We argue that the Fourth Circuit should follow every other circuit and agree to appoint three-judge panels in every such case.

As friend of the court, the Virginia NAACP pointed out that “The shortcomings of single-judge determinations, and the need for protection at the procedural-motion stage, are apparent in the recent dispositions of cases in which a three-judge court has been requested in the Fourth Circuit. Since 2010, a three-judge court has been requested in ten voting rights cases in the Fourth Circuit. In four of those ten cases, the request for a three-judge court was denied. In three of the four cases in which a three-judge court was denied, the case was subsequently dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) by a single judge. By permitting a single judge to dispose of voting rights cases where the parties are statutorily entitled to resolution by a three-judge court, the Fourth Circuit is failing to protect voting rights litigants and to provide them the benefits Congress intended in enacting the Three-Judge Court Act.”

The Virginia NAACP itself was recently denied the right to intervene in a congressional redistricting case by a single judge who just days earlier had allowed other parties to intervene in the case.



Carlos Riley Trial Pic

Carlos Riley Found Not Guilty of Assault

Durham, N.C.  A jury today found Carlos Riley, Jr. not guilty of assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer, assault on a law enforcement officer inflicting serious injury, and robbery with a dangerous weapon.  He was found guilty of common law robbery for taking the officer’s handgun from the scene.  SCSJ’s Ian Mance analyzed the officer’s stop and search history, which demonstrated that the officer had a highly-racialized enforcement history and regularly conducted off-the-books traffic stops. That information was used during Alex Charns’ cross-examination to attack the officer’s credibility.

Umar Muhammad, SCSJ’s Community Organizer, attended court in support of the family and community members as often as possible.  SCSJ’s David Hall made an appearance in the Carlos Riley case to make a motion to have Mr. Riley’s car returned.

Shortly before the verdict was read, the judge allowed Carlos’ younger sister Destini to screen her 15 minute documentary film, “I, Destini” in the courtroom for her brother. The film premiered at Hayti Heritage Center last week and is about the impact of Carlos’ incarceration on her family.  Here is her September 2013 statement to the Durham City Council about the case:


Changes Made to North Carolina Voter ID Requirements

On the eve of trial in the legal challenge to North Carolina’s oppressive Voter ID law, the General Assembly has capitulated, voting overwhelmingly in both houses to allow qualified voters who lack photo identification to affirm their identities and exercise their constitutional right to vote.

In passing House Bill 836 on Thursday, the General Assembly created an alternative to disenfranchisement for voters who lack current photo identification. Those voters will now be able to cast a ballot after providing their birthdates, the last four digits of their Social Security number, and an affidavit stating that there is a “reasonable impediment” to their ability to present a photo ID.

This change comes after months of litigation by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, and individuals, against the North Carolina State Board of Elections. The new legislation follows a series of nine public hearings held across the state this month, at which election officials fielded comments from the public about implementation of the Voter ID requirement, which takes effect beginning with the 2016 presidential primary election. SCSJ and its partners were present at each of those nine public hearings, from Manteo to Boone, and encouraged the state to allow more flexibility in implementation of the Voter ID requirement to minimize the number of voters who are disenfranchised by the 2013 voter suppression law.

At the June 3rd hearing in Raleigh, Dr. Brenda Rogers, co-president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, urged the State Board of Elections “to provide clarification to ensure that all eligible voters may exercise their constitutional right, which is not a privilege, but a right.” Rogers provided examples of how the law leaves open to interpretation many aspects of the Voter ID requirement, which harms voters by creating confusion in the election process and the potential for unequal enforcement of the law.

In encouraging House members to pass House Bill 863 on Thursday, Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, emphasized that the feedback received during the public hearing process necessitated a legislative response. When the General Assembly passed the Voter Information Verification Act in August 2013, Lewis said, “we said that it was our intent that every person who was a duly eligible voter would be fully able to participate and exercise their right.” Lewis noted that the new bill fills some of the gaps left by VIVA by providing “a failsafe” for affected voters, ensuring that “a qualified voter will have no impediment in exercising their right to vote.”

Since VIVA was enacted in 2013, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and its partners have amassed a huge amount of evidence demonstrating the burden that the voter suppression bill places on qualified voters in North Carolina, not only by imposing a photo ID requirement, but also by cutting a week out of the early voting period, eliminating same-day registration, discounting valid votes cast outside a voter’s assigned precinct, eliminating pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-old citizens, and eliminating straight-ticket voting. These changes not only add to the already long lines at polling places and the administrative burden placed on election officials, but they also disenfranchise qualified North Carolina voters who for valid reasons are unable to obtain photo identification or make multiple trips to government agencies in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Although today’s changes are a step in the right direction for North Carolina voters, obstacles to voting remain. During debate on the House floor Thursday afternoon, Rep. Henry Michaux, D-Durham, noted that the modification merely “makes a bad bill a little less worse.”

Contact: George Eppsteiner, Staff Attorney for voting rights, 919-794-4220; Allison Riggs, Senior Attorney for Voting Rights, 919-323-3909; Anita Earls, Executive Director, 919-794-4198