Mass Incarceration. The New Jim Crow. The War on Drugs. Thanks to Professor Michelle Alexander these phrases are now intimately linked in the minds of social justice advocates and faith leaders as we begin a critical struggle for fairness, justice and human rights in the criminal courts, police precincts and prisons of America. The Next Movement is convinced that America can do better, and that the majority of Americans would want us to do better, if they knew the truth. The truth about systemic incarceration, structural second class status, completely uneven law enforcement practices, oppressive and selectively enforced laws that is filling the prisons of America.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Since 2002 there has been a fairly unlikely ally in the fight to end mass incarceration, LEAP, of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. This international organization of current and former police officers, probation officers, prosecutors, judges, border control agents and corrections officers, has as it's mission:  
The mission of LEAP is to reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ending drug prohibition.
LEAP’s goals are: (1) To educate the public, the media and policy makers about the failure of current drug policy by presenting a true picture of the history, causes and effects of drug use and the elevated crime rates more properly related to drug prohibition than to drug pharmacology and (2) To restore the public’s respect for police, which has been greatly diminished by law enforcements involvement in imposing drug prohibition.
LEAP’s main strategy for accomplishing these goals is to create a constantly growing speakers bureau staffed with knowledgeable and articulate current and former drug-warriors who describe the impact of current drug policies on: police/community relations; the safety of law enforcement officers and suspects; police corruption and misconduct; and the excessive financial and human costs associated with current drug policies.

You are encouraged to visit their web site (Click Here) for more information on them, and as a source of credible information on the effects of the War on Drugs, from our own law enforcement experts.

Also, for a short video of how LEAP is communicating their message on the need to end this debilitating war on drugs, click here.

It is gratifying to see that the momentum for a drastic change in our nation's drug policy is also supported by a wide variety of the very law enforcement officers that are called on, through our government officials, to implement the war on drugs.

Be encouraged . . .


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, but De-Occupy Prisons

The "Occupy Wall Street" movement is a great example of a simple idea taking advantage of the angst and anger of regular folks, and translating that into a visible protest. In the editorial I've written for Urban Cusp (Click Here), I recognize the benefits of this effort to average Americans. Of course, if we never get this mass incarceration epidemic fixed, those benefits will not be for the average black, brown or poor American, so many of whom will be either incarcerated or formerly incarcerated.

Daryle Brown

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Last Note From Troy Davis

To All:

I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.

As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.

I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist.

So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.

I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing,


Never Stop Fighting for Justice and We will Win!

Friday, September 23, 2011

America's Light Dimmed Again Yesterday


For over 20 years, Troy Davis has been proclaiming his innocence of the murder charge that placed him on death row in Georgia. With no physical evidence, but with 9 witnesses testifying against him, his pleas were not unlike so many heard from the accused throughout the justice system of America. But, after years of appeals, recanted testimonies (from 7 of the 9 witnesses) and confessions from another man that he did the killing, cries sprung up throughout the country of "Too-much-doubt," from the grass roots to the ivory towers.

From former President Jimmy Carter, to Pope Benedict XVI, from the NAACP to Amnesty International, from my friend Ted Pearson, to my pastor Rev. Otis Moss III, calls have gone out to withdraw the warrant for Troy's execution. Unfortunately, all the protests, letters, emails, tweets, etc., have not been enough to save him from the broken justice system we live with in our disUnited States of America.

America, the supposed "light on the hill" of moral certitude and character has once again spilled blood unnecessarily, callously, and for the world to see. Our light dimmed again yesterday! 

When America knowingly allows a death penalty in spite of proven fallibilities in our justice system, our light will continue to dim.

As long as the single most reliable predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death is the race of the victim (77% of death penalty sentences are when victim is white), American's light will continue to dim.

And, as long as America continues to lead the entire world in the imprisonment of their own people, America's light will continue to dim!

I thank God for the many good people that fought the good fight to keep Troy Davis alive these many years, and look forward to our battles ahead. If not for this strand of decency, we would certainly be lost in the dark.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ending Mass Incarceration: Children are a Critical Link

While there are many individual issues to be addressed along the way to dismantling the current criminal (in)justice system, one of the more heinous aspects is the way the system treats children.

The Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children is one organization that is working to protect the rights of children as they interact with the justice system. One of the programs they are actively involved in is a campaign to eliminate the Juvenile Life Without Parole sentence (JLWOP). In Illinois there are currently over 100 prisoners with this sentence, some sentenced when they were as young as 13, and many that were not directly involved in the crime (a lookout, or driver for example). An excellent document developed by the coalition, Categorically Less Culpable: Children Sentenced to Life Without Possibility of Parole in Illinois, provides great insight into the issue.

The JLWOP team has recently issued their latest newsletter (Click Here to view). In it you will find a broad array of information and first person accounts on the issues, as well as two stories in particular you are encouraged to read:

- Vulnerability of Youth in Police Interrogations.

- From the School-house to the Jail-house: Are Our Public Schools Shoving Black Boys Down the School-to- Prison Pipeline?

As we work to remedy the mass incarceration epidemic in America, we will continually be challenged to stop the early flow of our youth into the system, and both of these stories contribute to our understanding of critical issues.

For additional insights on the larger issue on the Cradle to Prison pipelining of our children, and excellent programs being instituted to help resolve the issue, please view the Children's Defense Fund website.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike

Hundreds of prisoners at California's notorious Pelican Bay State Prison, including many in its "Security Housing Unit" (SHU) have entered the 3rd week of an indefinite hunger strike to protest cruel, inhumane and torturous prison conditions. They have made clear that they are prepared to die in this non-violent hunger strike if necessary, but they do not want to die. To them, death is preferable to their horrendous prison conditions.

At least 6600 California prisoners joined them earlier in their strike. They and their completely reasonable five core demands need the active support of people of conscience across the country. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and California Gov. Jerry Brown have refused to enter serious negations over these demands (see article here). 
In a clear display of unity, prisoners have broken down the racial, geographic and gang barriers among themselves to join this strike. CDCR has falsely claimed the strike is gang-organized.
A July 12 report from Pelican Bay stated, "The prisoners are progressing rapidly to the organ damaging consequences of dehydration. They are not drinking water and have decompensated rapidly. A few have tried to sip water but are so sick that they are vomiting it back up. Some are in renal (kidney) failure and have been unable to make urine for 3 days. Some are having measured blood sugars in the 30 range, which can be fatal if not treated." A hunger striker in the Corcoran prison SHU went into a diabetic coma on July 3.  
Not nearly enough people are aware of torturous conditions in U.S. prisons, nor of this strike. All people of conscience are encouraged to forward this urgent information to their friends and email lists, and tell California Governor Brown and the CDCR to address these issues in a humane and rational way.
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture has emailed 9000 of its California members, urging them to take action.

Important Links:

Click here to access the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity site for the latest hunger strike information. 

Click here to view letters from prisoners, including some from Pelican Bay and other striking California prisoners.

Please click here to sign the online petition supporting the strikers' five core demands.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Truth or Myth

The New Jim Crow is an eye opener in many ways, revealing many of the deepest flaws of the American justice system. And, these flaws work to the detriment of the most vulnerable in our society: African-Americans, Hispanics, the poor and disadvantaged. Many of us that consider ourselves fairly aware, still fall victim to some of the myths of our justice system. Take a look at the statements below and determine for yourself if they are Truth or Myth.
  • Most defendants (people accused of a crime) are tried by a jury, who, based on the evidence, decide on their guilt or innocence.
  • The percentage of the population in prison has remained fairly consistent over the last 30 years.
  • The “War on Drugs” is aimed at ridding our communities of drug “kingpins” and big-time dealers.
  • Four out of five drug arrests are for sales.
  • If a police officer asks to search your bag, or your car, you must cooperate and grant permission.
  • The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is at the forefront in training local police departments to enhance their ability to target drug criminals.
  • If you are arrested, you are entitled to legal representation paid for by the state, if you cannot afford an attorney.
  • Children are most likely to be represented by an attorney during juvenile proceedings.
  • Judges are the most powerful law enforcement officers in the criminal justice system.Black youth have 3 times the number of drug-related emergency room visits as white youth.
It is pretty unusual for anyone to get all of these right, unless they have read Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow. If you answered any of these questions with an affirmative (truth), then that answer is incorrect. Within the paragraphs below you'll find a few statements on the statements above (they are purposely a bit clunky, so you won't 'accidentally' see the answers before you answer the questions).

It is indeed rare for someone accused of a crime to get to a jury trial; according to a PBS Frontline report, only 5%. Most will accept a plea offer from the prosecutor. Since the 80's the prison population has gone from 500,000 to over 2.3 million. The "War on Drugs" has little or nothing to do with locking up kingpins, but a lot to do with locking up drug users (4 of 5 arrests are for crimes other than sales). Our DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), as part of their training of local departments, introduced them to techniques for legal stops that turn into drug arrests, without additional probable cause.

Perhaps the biggest myth is that you are entitled to legal representation "if you can't afford it." While it varies by state, in Virginia, for example, you get around $425 if you are charged with a crime facing 20 years or less (good luck finding competent counsel for that), and in Wisconsin, to qualify for state assistance you have to earn less than $3,000 a year. Sadly, in very few cases will a juvenile proceeding include a defense attorney.

It is easy to assume that the judge is the most powerful person in our justice system, but the reality is that judicial hands have been tied with legislation in many cases (mandatory minimum sentences, 3 strikes laws, etc.). Even if that were not the case, the fact that the majority of cases never get to a judge leaves the power in the hands of prosecutors. They decide the charges, and negotiate the plea agreements, and are usually the most critical power relationship in a criminal case.

Lastly, while we are conditioned to think of African American community as the primary drug users, the fact is that white youth are admitted to hospitals 3 times as often for drug related emergency visits.

So, how did you do?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Campaign to End The New Jim Crow brings Michelle Alexander to New York

Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness was in New York City to lecture and participate in a panel discussion on issues surrounding the mass incarceration of primarily men and women of color. Speaking at Riverside Church, when Dr. King gave his famous Vietnam speech, she was again called upon to tell truth to power.

She was hosted by the Campaign to End The New Jim Crow and the Prison Ministry of Riverside Church.

The links below take you to YouTube videos of the key activities:

  • Click Here to see the press conference held outside the church (the first speaker is Joseph "Jazz" Hayden, one of the leaders in this effort and a close partner with The Next Movement)
  • Click Here to see Michelle Alexander's lecture
  • Click Here to see the panel discussion featuring an excellent range of experiences
There is a tremendous amount of work to be done, and this excellent event is evidence that organizing is taking place nationwide to do it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Your Voice is Needed - RE: U.S. Sentencing Commission June 1st Hearing

On June 1st the U.S. Sentencing Commission is holding a hearing to consider retroactivity of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, signed by the President on August 3, 2010, which reduced the statutory mandatory minimum penalties for crack cocaine trafficking, and eliminated the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. This very significant legislation reduced the outrageous disparities in sentencing for crack versus powered cocaine (and other controlled substances), which resulted in increased incarceration rates among minority and disadvantaged peoples.

While this legislation was critically important, it left to the Commission to consider if the amendment to federal sentencing guidelines should apply retroactively. This question is the subject of the hearings on June 1st.

It is not unusual for those suffering the original injustice of unfair, unjust and inhumane laws, to be forgotten when those same laws are modified and amended. In Illinois, we have an entire class of inmate, the "C Numbers," who were given indeterminent sentences (no end-date), and when laws were passed in the 1980s that eliminated this type of sentencing, no consideration was given to how to resolve their situations.

ACTION: Your help is need to assure the Commission hears from the people on this issue, and to provide the push to assure that real justice prevails. A note from Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), recommends the following actions in support of making the new guidelines retroactive:

  • Come to the hearing. If you can make it to Washington, DC on June 1, please join us. There is nothing more powerful than the faces of the individuals whose lives have been impacted by harsh sentences. Check the FAMM website for the location details ( They will be posted as soon as the Commission makes them available. 
  • Write a letter to the Commission. The FAMM Sample letter is at the bottom of this note. 
  • Share this note with your Facebook friends and family members and have them write the Commission.
  • Sign a petition. The Commission counts signatures on a petition the same as the letters it receives. So if you do not have time to write and share your story with the Commission,  go to to sign an online petition.
In our fight to end mass incarceration in America, this is a small step, but a meaningful one for the men, women and families affected by these harsh sentences.

Daryle Brown

Sample Letter

United States Sentencing Commission
One Columbus Circle, N.E.
Suite 2-500, South Lobby
Washington, D.C. 20002-8002

Dear Commissioners:

I am writing to ask you to make the new crack cocaine guideline retroactive.As you know, the penalties imposed on crack offenders over the past 24 years were very harsh and disproportionate to the penalties for other drug offenses, especially offenses involving powder cocaine. Last year, the Commission played a leading role in convincing Congress to pass the Fair Sentencing Act, legislation that reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine. Now that the sentencing guidelines for crack have also been reduced, the Commission should apply that reduction to people who were sentenced and are imprisoned under the old guideline. It would be fundamentally unfair to ignore those whose unjust sentences gave rise to passage of the Fair Sentencing Act and the guideline amendment that followed.

The Commission should also apply retroactivity as it has with past guidelines, in a straightforward way, without additional restrictions. The Commission made changes to the LSD guideline retroactive in 1993 without conditions. Two years later, it made a reduction to the marijuana guideline retroactive without limitation. In 2007, the Commission lowered crack cocaine sentences somewhat and approved retroactivity. At that time it responded to concerns voiced by the Bush Justice Department and law enforcement groups by implementing new rules to protect public safety. They instructed judges to examine the prisoner’s conduct, including while in prison, to assess the impact of early release on community security. This additional safeguard helps ensure that no dangerous offenders will be released early. Any additional restrictions on who could be eligible for retroactivity would only perpetuate the sense of unfairness surrounding crack sentences and undo the good will your work fostered.

I strongly urge the Commission to apply its recent crack guideline amendments retroactively and to reject any new restrictions that will limit its reach. Judges have sufficient information and tools to ensure that only those who should benefit from the reduction will receive it.
Thank you very much for insuring that justice is served.