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.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Faith and High School Screening Opportunities for The House I Live In

Charlotte Street Films and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference are partnering to host screenings of The House I Live In, an award winning documentary film that dissects the War on Drugs through insightful interviews with every aspect of the transactional cycle: drug abuser, dealer, police officer, prosecutor, judge and corrections officer.

The House I Live In delivers an emotional reality - The War on Drugs is an abject failure, destroying lives, families and communities,  and people of conscious should be outraged and recognize the need for immediate change to this cornerstone in the epidemic of mass incarceration in America.

Presented as 2013 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Commemorative Events, if you are member of a faith institution, or high school administrator or activist student, details of the screening opportunities are as follows:

  • For Faith Communities - National Screenings, Saturday, January 12, 2013 to register click here.
  • For High Schools - National Screenings, Friday, January 18, 2013. To register click here.
The Next Movement screened this film at Trinity United Church of Christ on November 4, 2012, and it was an emotion charged event. What a gift to the fight to end mass incarceration.

Churches and schools should make every effort to participate in this wonderful opportunity.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The House I Live In - Documentary Screening Nov 3, 2012

Friends of Justice!

Please make a special effort to attend, and to invite your friends and colleagues, to the special FREE film screening of the powerful new documentary The House I Live In.

November 3, 2012

2:30pm Rev. Otis Moss III and filmmaker Eugene Jarecki
3:00pm Film Screening
4:55pm Q&A
5:30pm Popcorn, Punch and Networking

As I read The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander's ground breaking book that describes the systemic structures that are led to the mass incarceration and criminalization of millions of people of color, I still remember my feeling that this book would be the "tipping point" that would begin to halt the growth in incarceration in America. More than two years later, as I've witnessed the fresh organizing and mission priorities of many social justice institutions, the impact of Professor Michelle Alexander's book continues to reverberate and grow the movement to end mass incarceration.

Eugene Jarecki's new film, The House I Live In, delivers another powerful blow to the American prison industrial complex as he provides personal perspectives from every front of the War on Drugs - from the dealers to abusers, police, corrections officers, judges and prosecutors – and they all reach a common conclusion: The War on Drugs has failed, and we must do something.

Please share broadly! While it would be great if everyone would read The New Jim Crow, this movie is another tool in building the mass movement we will need to bring about the systemic change we demand.

 Daryle Brown

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Prioritizing Prison Reform

In an Op-Ed this morning in the Nation of Change webzine, Christopher Petrella put forth ten tactics for reducing prison populations:
  1. Replace mandatory sentencing laws with more flexible and individualized sentencing guidelines.
  2. Strategically reduce “three-strikes” laws for non-violent offenders.
  3. Relax Truth-in-Sentencing thresholds 
  4. Organize against prison gerrymandering to ensure that low-income communities—and particularly communities of color—receive a fair portion of federal aid. 
  5. Make full employment a domestic policy goal.
  6. Eliminate the use of for-profit, private prison companies.
  7. Fund prison education programs and incentivize inmate participation. 
  8. Provide incentives for employers to hire “ex-convicts.”
  9. Suspend “Operation Streamline.”
  10. Support community policing efforts.

As I reviewed the list, I found myself nodding in agreement. Most are fairly straight forward (and at any rate, you can refer to the original article for more details). A couple are not as commonly discussed. Number 4 addresses the fact that, as hard as it is to imagine, communities that house prisons get to claim the inmates as “residents” and as a result get increased tax dollars allocated to them, while reducing the tax dollars to the often distressed communities from which they come. And, number 9, “Operation Streamline,” is talking about the huge numbers of people that are being held in detention as a result of questionable immigration status.
Dr. Patricia Simples and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle
at The Next Movement forum/panel discussion
Treating Drug Abuse as a Public Health Issue, Not a Crime

While all of these are ideas that are easy for those with a prison reform mind to agree with, the elephant in the room is missing.

As recently as 2009 there were 1.7 million people in prison, jail, or on probation or parole for drug offenses. Currently there are over 500,000 people in prison for drug offenses, 80% of which are for use and possession. In addition, many of the other crimes theft, prostitution, robbery, etc. – are related to drug habits. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 crimes were committed to obtain money for drugs, according to a Bureau of Justice study from 2004 . . . that would mean another 400,000 inmates. Yet, Mr. Petrella does not include ending the War on Drugs among his tactical solutions.

Implementing some of the “tweaks” Mr. Petrella outlines can reduce the escalation in prison populations, but we will never achieve the reductions that are necessary, certainly not a humane and moral resolution, without addressing the fallacy of the Drug War.

Ending the epidemic of mass incarceration simply cannot be achieved if we ignore the drug policy issue. Yes, we should support his shopping list of reforms, but if we don’t begin to treat drug abuse as the medical condition that it is, we will continue to waste human potential, debilitate families and cripple our communities.

Daryle Brown

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prison Profiteering . . .

This note comes under the category of "Did you know?"

In a very informative article, Prison Privatization and the Efficiency Myth, Christopher Petrella digs into the federal Bureau of Prisons and the causes of the initial foray into private, for profit prison contracts.

Interestingly, it was our "friend" President Bill Clinton that initiated the first contracts for private prisons to manage federal inmates. While we are so often told that the competitive model of introducing for profit prisons (substitute schools if you'd like) will assure more efficient operations emerge, until those models are tested in the real world, it is a huge, and often inaccurate, assumption.

In our federal prison system, however, that was not the initial rationale at all. It seems that President Clinton introduced contract prisons into the federal system to accomplish two goals: 1) To allow for an increase in prison populations due to new laws he supported, so that he could show himself "tough on crime," and 2) He could show conservatives that he was reducing the size of the government payroll, since contractors do not show up as employees.

This article is well worth reading as it also shows how Clinton contributed to "The New Jim Crow" and mass incarceration with his support for the "Truth in Sentencing" bill and other get tough legislation.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

Daryle Brown

Sunday, June 10, 2012

America Needs to Stop Building Prisons!

Leading the world in incarcerating its own citizens, America has over 2.4 million people housed in its prisons, detention centers and jails . . . more than China, more than Russia . . on both the gross figure and in terms prisoners per 100,000 citizens (we're at 743 per 100 thousand).

While The Next Movement fights to end this outrageous ethical, moral and humanitarian crisis, one of the battles we need to stay on top of is prison construction.

In Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice are working to stop Champaign County from spending $20 million to extend their county jail. With our state and local governments in dire need of funding for life sustaining services, they argue the money could be better spent! If you agree, please sign their petition by clicking here.

The fight to end mass incarceration is inextricably linked to fights to end prison construction, both private and public. The chart below shows the incredible growth in prison populations following Richard Nixon's declaration of the "War on Drugs," and subsequent irrational legislation like "3 Strikes You're Out" laws and the crack cocaine versus powder cocaine sentencing discrepancies.

For additional information on current incarceration trends in America, click here to view the latest report from The Sentencing Project.

A luta continua (the struggle continues),

Daryle Brown

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Torture Panel Dies of Malnourishment

I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone that Illinois, a state with a reputation for political corruption like no other, should vote to remove the measly $235,000 needed to keep its Torture Commission operating for another year.

As reported in the Chicago Tribune today, as the commission prepares to release its first recommendations today, it will also most likely be its last. Click here to read article.

It is incredibly sad that with all we already know about the Burge torture scandal, and the many citizens that have already been released as a result of torture derived confessions, our legislators could kill the one agency that was finally bringing some light to issue. Perhaps too much light.

Daryle Brown

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Life. A typically positive word that captures the essence of the unique nature of our planet, and its place in the universe. 

Life. An organism that actively interacts with its environment and eagerly reproduces.

Life. As Lewis E. Lawes, warden of Sing Sing prison from 1920-1941 puts it, "Death fades into insignificance when compared with life imprisonment. To spend each night in jail, day after day, year after year, gazing at the bars and longing for freedom, is indeed expiation."

In an article in the Prison Legal News Days Without End: Life Sentences and Penal Reform, Marie Gottschalk digs deep into the almost uniquely American love affair with life sentences. Some important highlights:
  • One of every eleven prisoners in the U.S. is serving a life sentence, and a third of these are life without parole
  • The U.S. has approximately 141,000 people serving life sentences . . . TWICE the entire population of prisoners in Japan
  • The population of elderly inmates, in spite of the low possibility of them being re-incarcerated upon release, grew 77% from 1999 to 2007 -- even though the cost to imprison the elderly is three times that of a younger inmate, averaging $70,000 a year
  • Since the 1980's prison populations have quadrupled while the Life Without Parole population is 100 times greater than it was then!
  • Lifers have some of the lowest recidivism rates of any population - a study of 368 people convicted of murder who were granted parole in New York between 1999 and 2003 showed that only 6 returned to prison . . . less than 2%
As we look to halt the out of control growth in incarcerations, certain ending the War on Drugs is one of the areas of focus of many prison reform organizations, in fact one the The Next Movement considers critical. Marie makes an excellent argument that sentencing reform is just as critical, if not more so. From a report by William Sabol, the chief statistician for the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 1994 to 2006 13% of the growth in state prison populations was the result of drug offenders, while nearly two thirds was attributed to defendants convicted of violent crimes.

In the end, for those of us seeking to end mass incarceration, this article provides some valuable data points and clearly articulates the need for us to be holistic in our approach lest we have victories that are shallow and ultimately fail to correct the problem.

Daryle Brown

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Report Adds to the Case for Restorative Justice

A new report released today, "Policing Chicago Public Schools: A Gateway to the School-to-Prison Pipeline," provides fresh evidence of the downside of using police department officers as security in our public schools. Authored by Mariame Kaba and Frank Edwards, the report provides a fairly detailed view of the issue from a statistical perspective, and provides intelligent insight from two activist close to the issue:

  • During 2010 there were over 5,500 arrests of youth under age 18 - 27% of them female
  • African American's accounted for 76% of those arrested (while 45% of the student body)
  • 68% of all arrests on Chicago Public School (CPS) property were for four relatively minor categories of offense: Simple Battery (fighting), Drug Abuse Violations, Disorderly Conduct and Misc. Non-Index
Nearly 7 in 10 arrests on CPS property were for activities that in a different era, or perhaps a different school district, instead of an arrest, the situation would have been handled by school administration and parents.

One of the painful conclusions I come to after reading the report, and understanding how difficult it was for Ms. Kaba and Mr. Edwards to gather relevant information, is that folks are more interested in preserving false perceptions than securing the futures of these children.  They had to use information from the Chicago Police Department, which was limited to providing data by police district, instead of data from Chicago Public Schools, because CPS failed to respond, over several months, to a Freedom of Information Request.

Even the more general data points lead to several conclusions from the authors (paraphrased below):

  1. CPS needs to move beyond the rhetoric of restorative justice and fully fund credible restorative programs in the schools.
  2. CPS should provide timely and reliable data tracking the numbers of school-based arrests in CPS. Based on the advocacy of students and organizers, the New York City Council passed the “Student Safety Act” in early 2011. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, “the Student Safety Act creates accountability and transparency over police behavior in our schools. Specifically, the Student Safety Act; Requires the Department of Education to report to the City Council on the numbers of suspensions, expulsions, arrests and student-police altercations in schools. The City Council can then track and monitor whether discipline is being enforced equally for all students; Provides lawmakers and the public vital access to raw data on school disciplinary actions; Increases transparency at the NYPD School Safety Division and the Department of Education.” Chicago needs its own “Student Safety Act.”
  3. CPS should re-direct resources away from policing to enrichment programs that will support the healthy development of students.
  4. Finally, we call on policymakers, law enforcement, and school administrators to ensure the privacy of student records. We strongly oppose the efforts to violate student privacy by increasing “information- sharing” between law enforcement and educational institutions.
In the end, the difficulty in obtaining real accountability from our elected and appointed officials is exacerbated by a lack of better information . . . information that they control. We should demand that all information related to the criminalizing of our children be readily available AND that our schools institute policies that resolve youthful indiscretions with restorative justice practices; practices and procedures that keep them in school and progressing toward a future that does not include the criminal justice system.

Read the complete report from Project Nia by clicking here and find out more about Project Nia by visiting their web site.