Unite the People August Newsletter 2018

 

FORWARD


       In 2017, Unite the People, formerly known as We the People Org, began the process of writing a ballot initiative with a goal of releasing the 2,700 Californians locked up for nonviolent third strikes under our State’s mandatory sentencing law. Although we lacked the time or financial resources to move our initiative to the ballot in time for the November 2018 elections, we started a powerful grassroots movement of dedicated volunteers and family members with loved ones who have been unjustly incarcerated. Our immediate objectives now are to grow our membership, raise the financial resources we will need for a ballot fight in 2020 (approximately $2 million), and begin preparing to launch signature gathering efforts for The People’s Fair Sentencing & Public Safety Act by the Fall of 2019. We are also working on a legislative effort with the California Assembly and Senate to allow early release and re-sentencing for nonviolent third strikers. We are determined to make a difference and bring an end to mass incarceration!


A MESSAGE FROM OUR FOUNDER


 Mitchell McDowell, Founder of UTP

Mitchell McDowell, Founder of UTP

I'd like to start by saying THANK YOU to the hundreds of volunteers that have joined our organization’s efforts to reform California's 3 strikes sentencing structure. My sincerest thank you goes out to our core group of members (too many to name) who have spent tireless hours day and night lending their time and expertise to advance our cause. Without you all we wouldn't have gotten anywhere, so to you I give many thanks.

I would next like to briefly explain what happened with our 2018 initiative. The People's Fair Sentencing and Public Safety Act of 2018 gained much traction and public awareness and, despite its ultimate failure to qualify, had a really incredible all-volunteer effort toward gathering the 500k signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Originally, our initiative's deadline was July 16th.

Even though attaining the funding needed to qualify strong for the ballot was a struggle, we still had a couple months left to achieve our goal when the Secretary of State's office announced they were moving up the cut off date to submit signatures to May 11th.

Their reason was that due to the amount of initiatives filed for this years ballot, they wouldn’t have the allotted time to count the signatures to qualify for the 2018 ballot if date was not changed. You could have still continued to gather signatures and turned them in, but those would be used to qualify for the 2020 ballot. Receiving this surprising news of the earlier cut off date definitely caught us off guard. As much as it hurt myself as well as the others in our organization, I had to make a decision.

In other words, we could have still continued to gather signatures and turned them in, but those would be used to qualify for the 2020 ballot. Receiving this surprising news of the earlier cut off date definitely caught us off guard. As much as it hurt myself as well as the others in our organization, I had to make a decision.

My decision was to pull the initiative on the 2018 campaign and focus all of our momentum towards the 2020 ballot. With us filing our initiative again in approximately 12-13 months from now, that allows us the time to build our volunteer base, increase our funding stream, and really be ready to push harder and stronger for the 2020 ballot.

Just like the majority of us in our organization, I also have a loved one, my younger brother, doing life in prison for a nonviolent 3 strikes case. If you are affected by this inhumane law, either by being incarcerated or a loved one of someone incarcerated, we at UTP want you all to know that WE WON'T STOP UNTIL YOU GUYS ON THE INSIDE ARE HOME!!!

In closing, I want to leave you with this... there is power is in numbers!! We have the numbers, we have the people, and we have partner organizations all working with us to create change. Now all we have to do is to come together, work together, and most importantly -- NOT GIVE UP!!! Asking nicely for change, for the system as a whole to treat people humanely, doesn't work. It hasn't worked yet, and won't work until we all get fed up with this unfair treatment of the disadvantaged community.  I'd like to extend my personal invitation to all people, and all other social justice organizations out there, to join us in this movement to DEMAND FAIR SENTENCING LAWS!!!

Let's not talk about it anymore, we know what the problem is and why it is, we've talked about it long enough, it's time to DEMAND CHANGE AND BRING OUR LOVED ONES HOME!!!

-Mitch (mitchell_mcdowell@unitethepeople.org)


STORIES FROM OUR COMMUNITY


 CEASAR'S STORY

CEASAR'S STORY

Ceasar McDowell has been given three concurrent life sentences under California's "Three Strikes" law, with his third strike resulting from a non-violent domestic dispute.

Background: In his community, Ceasar was well known for being a great father to his children and a hard working provider for his wife and children. He was always very involved in his children's schooling, after school programs, and taking the kids to-and-from school daily.

One day after returning home, Ceasar was informed that his wife and the mother of his children was having an affair with a local Riverside, California police officer. This was the cause for Ceasar and his wife to have an argument that lasted on and off for a few days. There was screaming and yelling about the affair, which is not unusual for a married couple in this circumstance, but there was no physical harm or violence.

As Ceasar packed his things to leave while they still continued to argue, the neighbors, over-hearing the argument, decided to call the police. This phone call to the police ended with Ceasar, who was 26 years old at the time, being sentenced to three concurrent life sentences under California's draconian "Three Strikes" law - for criminal threats, misdemeanor false imprisonment, and misdemeanor child endangerment (arguing in front of a child).

As Ceasar packed his things to leave while they still continued to argue, the neighbors, over-hearing the argument, decided to call the police. This phone call to the police ended with Ceasar, who was 26 years old at the time, being sentenced to three concurrent life sentences under California's draconian "Three Strikes" law - for criminal threats, misdemeanor false imprisonment, and misdemeanor child endangerment (arguing in front of a child).

Now, 18 years later at 44 years old, Ceasar has missed out on his children's entire lives. He's missed their proms, birthdays, holidays, the births of his grandchildren, etc. His children were also deprived of their father.

With no good time credits allowed for the majority of his sentence (fortunately, Prop 57 changed this and he has accrued 10 months so far), Ceasar will have served nearly 25 years before attaining eligibility for parole, at a cost of nearly $2 million to California taxpayers.

This is just one of the many examples of the unfair over sentencing that has lead to mass incarceration. If you would like a short story of how over sentencing has affected you or your loved one included in our newsletter or to be shared on our social media pages please mail them to:

  

Unite the People ATTN: Dawn

1040 W. Kettleman Lane #262

Lodi, CA 95240

 
 
 

FIGHTING FROM THE INSIDE OUT


unnamed.png

My name is Cedric Pierce and I’ve been incarcerated for 20 years.

Time and time again, I’ve stayed up awaiting the results of an initiative that would have affected my circumstances, only to be disappointed. I’ve also witnessed initiatives pass, but due to ambiguous interpretation, only foster minor changes.

It is the objective, at Unite the People, to surpass past results. Unlike other organizations, we are not associated with politicians with a base to contend with; we are simply freedom fighters. This organization is about us, the inmates affected by abusive sentencing policies.

Inmates will not only be included, but relied upon to make this initiative a success. Our voices and concerns will be heard and addressed. This gives us the unique advantage of crafting legislation that provides maximum relief for abusive sentencing policies. We are the ones who suffer the extreme conditions of living in prison therefore we must become the biggest advocates of prison reform.

We can no longer wait for liberation, we must position ourselves to be liberators. We must do more than join this battle, we must lead it. Unite the People is here to challenge the status quo by becoming the organization that is truly ours.

This is the platform and current strategy:

1. We need 10,000 committed inmates to donate $5 per month for one year.  ($600,000)

2. We need 10,000 inmates to secure at least one family member or supporter to donate $10 per month for one year.  ($1,200,000 plus)

A successful campaign requires financing, which is the central aspect of legislating. If we believe in and move forward as a whole with this strategy, we - the inmates - will produce at least $1.8 million in 12 months. This does not include the amount raised by additional fundraising by UTP.

I’m personally donating a minimum of $5 per month and have enlisted 5 family members to donate $10 per month. If each of us commit, a small sum will grant us success. There is a cost and sacrifice for our freedom. The questions is, are you willing to help pay the price?

Until next time... Live, Dream, Inspire

-Cedric

 

Mail donations to:

Unite the People ATTN: Dawn

1040 W. Kettleman Lane #262

Lodi, CA 95240

 

 
 

CONTRACT CHANGES TO HEALTHRIGHT360 - DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS


Contract changes and budget cuts to HealthRIGHT 360 could have some detrimental effects on long-term released offenders. Unite the People has joined with pastor Dennis Martinez to become a part of the public awareness campaign and grassroots organizing to get funding reinstated for this vital program. We need to support efforts such as Dennis’ to ensure our loved ones succeed. In the article below, Dennis has briefly written about the reentry program and effects funding cuts will have.

By Dennis Martinez

dennis.png

With the onset of the new HealthRIGHT 360 contract for 2018 – 2019, the language for Lifers/Long Term Released Offenders (LTROs), which once afforded them services and resources for residential treatment has been removed. These services have been the backbone and success of the LTRO Program.

What this means is that if the individual has no current substance use issues or disorders, they cannot be placed at a treatment center. The organization will no longer provide the benefit of personal guidance, support, resource management or encouragement of an assigned treatment specialist.

Individuals will be placed in transitional housing with only the benefit of a house manager between the hours of 10pm–6am. Case Management will only be provided by their AOR (Parole Agent of Record), or by the community-based program, STOP (Specialized Treatment for Optimized Programming).

Furthermore, the contract allows STOP to evaluate them out of the program as they feel the individual’s needs are met. This means someone who has been incarcerated for a long duration oftime could possibly do a minimum of 30-days at a transitional housing facility and then be asked to venture out on their own.

It is our position that a transition modality that does not afford the LTRO population the above-mentioned resources is a recipe for increased recidivism in this population and will be extremely detrimental if we do not take a stand and just turn a blind eye to this matter.

Having treated over 200 LTRO’s in the past 5-years at my training center alone, I have witnessed upon release, these individuals will have a plethora of issues to face, such as general anxiety with reintegrating back into a society that has left them behind. These individuals rarely have a grasp of a cell phone or computers.

We have recorded success stories of participants who have completed the 180-day reintegration, which began with 90-days of residential treatment, that are extremely noteworthy and will surely outweigh the expectation of a reduced program modality.

Help us put pressure on the right people:

GOVERNOR'S OFFICE

Kristina Lindquist 916-445-0873

Be sure to ask Governor Brown’s office for a follow up call w/responses from the Governor

CDCR COMMISSIONER

• Brian Roberts

(‭916) 956-4031


IS INCARCERATION ACTUALLY SLAVERY?


prisonerflag.jpg

As the county bus comes to a halt amidst the backdrop of razor wire, stone-faced buildings, and officials donning jade green uniforms, the reality of doing time moves beyond the confines of restricted freedom and becomes one of servitude, deplorable conditions, and substandard health care; far beyond the consequence of the action(s) resulting in the sentence.

While the United States makes up a mere 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. incarcerates a staggering 25 percent of the world's incarcerated people.

As perplexing as it sounds, slavery has changed face since the initial days of abolition by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many states are using prison labor to bring in money for private companies as well as the states that employ this practice. California is one such state that actively uses prison labor to benefit these major companies, many of which are corporate donors who support and invest in sustaining mass incarceration.

What should have been an outright ban on the practice, the 13th Amendment contained a clause that allowed slavery and involuntary servitude as “punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted".

So while we gave up one evil for a ‘lesser evil', the result was a modern day slavery that exploits these men and women for cheap or free labor while being subjected to dehumanizing treatment which has become normalcy.

The prison labor industry yields over $1 billion a year, while paying inmates cents per hour, a practice that would come under intense scrutiny with employment labor lobbyists, outside of prison walls.

The prison system has also long been the subject of intense debate surrounding inadequate or inaccessible health care.

Medical options that would be available to an individual freely living in society are many times albeit removed from the already limited options those doing time have in deciding health care.

Food on the inside lacks the nutritional value that’s needed to foster good health and the alternatives provided via canteen are heavily inflated, causing an undue financial burden that many men, women, and their families cannot shoulder.

There has been a growing culture of abuse, racism, and excessive force, reminiscent of the past we thought we left behind, at the hands of prison officials on those incarcerated in the prison system. Oftentimes these occurrences are overlooked, unreported, or not reported at all.

The use of prison(s) has become a revolving door ensuring the slave labor that drives the mass incarceration boat. Mandatory minimums, Three Strikes Law, and other egregious legislation keeps that revolving door rotating on its axis.

 
Judson ParkerComment