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.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

SB 1342 - A Small Victory . . . But the Fight Must Continue


Thanks to the hard work of many organizations and individuals we have won a small victory, as SB1342 will not be introduced during the winter veto session. The political forces behind this inhumane legislation have retreated back into their smoke filled rooms to negotiate with, pressure and cajole our legislators into some future form of a bill next year.

Our job is to continue to reach out to our state representatives and senators and urge them to
vote against whatever future form SB 1342 takes.

Until every human (that means you) is mistake-proof, mandatory minimum sentencing makes no sense.

Consider this: In a roomful of teen-aged boys, who may or may not have been listening, he carried himself with such dignity and self-control that he seemed like a king. Since I don’t remember his name, let’s just call him King.

He’d come to share his experience in hopes that they would learn from it. In his sixty years he’d had many experiences. He was a Vietnam veteran who served his country and returned home to diligently work and provide for his family until his recent retirement. And now he was a convicted felon, serving eighteen months in prison.

His crime? While driving his car, King made a left hand turn without signaling. After being stopped by the police, he agreed to let them search his car. Why not? He’d never broken the law and wasn’t breaking one now. Why not cooperate with their request? He had nothing to hide. Unless you count that unregistered gun his brother had left in the car without King’s knowledge.

In Illinois an unregistered gun in a car owned and driven by King was considered HIS gun. The prosecutor decided to pursue the case. In the U.S. criminal justice system, the prosecuting attorney has the power to choose which cases to pursue - almost absolute power. The only thing that comes close to offsetting that power is the discretion left to judges in the sentences they give.

King received eighteen months in prison for his “crime.” He could have received more. He possibly could have received less. Personally, I don’t think he should have gone to prison at all. But still, the judge made the choice to give less time than what he could have received. The judge made the choice. Let me repeat, the JUDGE made the choice.

In the legislation proposed by SB 1342, judges will have absolutely no choice in the sentences given for illegal gun possession. First-time offenders would receive a mandatory three-year sentence, regardless of the circumstances. Judges would have no choice.

Mandatory sentencing has been shown to be ineffective in deterring crime. It has been proven to result in a disproportionate number of people of color being incarcerated. You may believe the hype that mandatory sentencing is necessary to stop gun violence. You may choose to support the next version of SB 1342, or to fail to voice your opinion at all.

Just remember your choice the next time you forget to use your turn signal.

To continue the fight against mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes:

  • Please keep calling, emailing, writing to your elected officials and get others to do the same. Find out how by clicking here
  • Grow your personal knowledge of the issue using the resources below:
  • The bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Zalewski’s, editorial about SB 1342 has had highlights included (click on them to see the comments) to show some of the key areas of disagreement. Click here to view and of course, feel free to share with others. 
  • Lastly, this click here for an excellent brief from the Shriver Center on the effectiveness of mandatory minimums. 
The fight is not yet won. We must remain diligent. Thank you all for your help in defeating this bad legislation thus far, and keep up the good work!

Michelle Day, Esq.
The Next Movement, Project Nehemiah &
Trinity UCC Justice Watch Team

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

From The Inside: Worm's Story

Last week we introduced Andre "Dre" Patterson, a resident in Stateville Correctional Center, and a volunteer writer for The Next Movement's blog. The first series of articles will be focusing on various crossroads . . . intersection points where a better decision could have led to an entirely different future. Here's . . .

Worm's Story

Nobody told him he wasn’t supposed to. That was the mindset of twelve year old Willie or “Worm”, the first time he got high. Even if someone had told him “just say no,” it probably would have gone over the cornrows on his head atop his four foot tall body. Raised in the land of vacant lots and dope spots, which is the west side of Chicago; Worm’s natural reaction was to do as he saw, not as he was told.

When Worm was eight, his mother and uncles used to throw raucous card parties with all of the neighborhood super-heroes: gangsters and hustlers. They would send little Worm back and forth to the store and have him light their squares (cigarettes) and joints. So, when he was twelve and one of his friends passed him a blunt and told him to light it, Worm did so like he had been there before.

During these same social gatherings, his mom would give him beer and put Worm in a circle of family and friends to sing and dance. Times like these inspired Worm to want to be a rapper and comedian.  He associated the weed and alcohol with fun and celebration. By the time Worm was fifteen, he was smoking and drinking every day.

With a father who lived in the suburbs, who he only saw when he got in trouble, Worm bonded with his step-dad; a small business owner and a well-known drug dealer.  His step-dad gave him a small amount of drugs to sell so Worm could buy clothes and maintain his habits. Having been inducted into street culture by his uncles when he was big enough to sit on a watermelon and break it, this was a natural transition for Worm.

In an attempt to pull her son from the tumultuous waters he had dived into, Worm’s mom sent him away to boot camp, where she hoped he would finish his education and learn discipline. It was just a vacation for Worm. When he completed the program, Worm came back home to the same poverty and hopelessness he had left. The weed he smoked to see the silver lining of the gray cloud over his environment would evolve into something more severe.

One day, a hail of gunfire parted a crowd that Worm was congregated in, causing them to duck in panic, behind parked cars and porch steps. When the shots let up, two of Worm’s closest friends lay on the unforgiving concrete, bleeding to death. That night, an angry and saddened Worm tried a drug that he had been shielded from up to this point. One of his homies, also grieving from the day’s mad drama, lit up a blunt laced with PCP, called shock. “Let me hit that shock,” a dejected Worm demanded. That first hit would consummate a long relationship between Worm and shock, that would only end when he was charged with first-degree murder, five years later.

Monday, November 11, 2013

From The Inside: Introducing Andre "Dre" Patterson


As we work to end the epidemic of mass incarceration in America one of our
challenges to to present the human side of this travesty. This can often be seen in the broken families, the struggling children, the collective misery of the communities from which men, women and children are drawn into our criminal (in)justice system.

Of course these are not all angels of misfortune. Of course human choice, personal decisions, often play a major role in determining who will populate the jails and prisons of America. And yes, of course, a stacked deck works to funnel many promising lives into permanent second class citizenship, if they are luck, or if not, a near permanent residence in one of our prisons.

Several months ago, one of our members, Ibi Cole, introduced me to a young man that resides in Stateville, a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Chicagoland. Andre is one of those promising lives that has taken up permanent residence in our prisons. Intelligent, articulate, and a gifted writer, he wanted to know if he could contribute to our fight against mass incarceration . . . even from behind bars.

Our conversations, passed through communications that Ibi facilitated, have resulted in this first series of blogs From the Inside. I've asked Andre to talk with/interview the men he shares Stateville with, focusing particularly on the "forks in the road" that led to their imprisonment. I am prayerful that each story/article will move someone's heart as we recognize our own friends, family and ourselves: But for the grace of God go I . . .

Our goal is to share a new story every other week or so for the next several months, with the first story beginning November 18th. 

Lastly, please take a few moments to provide feedback on the stories. You can comment on the blog itself, or on the various Facebook pages that we will be linking to. That said, let me introduce you to Andre:

A luta continua

Daryle Brown

My name is Andre Patterson, known to loved ones as, simply, “Dre.” I graduated from Evanston Township High School in 1997; I was an average student, with above average potential.  The northern suburbs of Evanston are not the most dangerous or degraded environments to grow up in.  But, viewing the mostly green landscape from the shadows of insecurity, personal pain and alcoholism, it appeared dark and decrepit.
Lacking the courage and tools to conquer my demons, I made some bad decisions, that lead to a sixty-year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections.  My cowardice has broken many lives, some of which I may never be able to piece together again.  But I would like to try… 
I’m going to tell you stories of other men, incarcerated like me, whose demons have manifested through addiction.  Maybe their lives and the lives they’ve affected through their actions could have turned out differently… if these addictions were viewed in a different light.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Will Cold Facts Warm Hearts? New Reports Should Call Us to Action

Today, The Sentencing Project, an organization dedicated to researching, generating publications, and advocacy, in order to change America's thinking about crime and punishment, released two significant reports. Both are intended as shadow reports to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and were written in advance of its review of U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) later this month.

The first, Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System, delivers the data to show what most of us already know - that the justice system in America imprisons vast numbers of our citizens, far more than any other country in the world, and that there are incredible racial disparities.

  • Black men are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than white males
  • Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated than Hispanic males
  • If current trends continue, one in every three black American men born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime. ONE IN THREE! This is true for one in six Latino males and only one in seventeen white males.

Their findings lead them to conclude:
By creating and perpetuating policies that allow such racial disparities to exist in its criminal justice system, the United States is in violation of its obligations under Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to ensure that all its citizens—regardless of race—are treated equally under the law. 
Essentially, our criminal justice system is deeply flawed and this report is a solid piece that provides evidence of those flaws at every level - from police activity, to trials that have well-equipped and motivated prosecutors against overworked indigent defense counsel, and the failure of our system of "presumed innocence" and ultimately, huge disparities in sentencing, once convicted, including the use of capital punishment.

The second report, Democracy Imprisoned: A Review of the Prevalence and Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States, provides insight into, as Professor Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, explains it, a new caste system that has developed in America - the formerly incarcerated.

  • Despite decreases in overall prison populations in the last three years, the number of disenfranchised citizens has continued to grow, with over 5.85 million in 2010 (compared to 1.17 million in 1976).
  • 75% of these disenfranchised individuals reside in their communities
  • 7.7% of adult African Americans are disenfranchised, more than 40% of whom have completed their sentences

As with the first report, these findings show America to be in violation with the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, specifically:
“general deprivation of the right to vote for persons who have received a felony conviction, and in particular for those who are no longer deprived of liberty, do not meet the requirements of articles 25 and 26 of the Covenant, nor serves the rehabilitation goals of article 10(3)."
While they detail the grievances associated with voting rights, there are a litany of other handicaps heaped on the formerly incarcerated, including federal housing, student loans, food assistance, and various job licensing restrictions.

Unfortunately, These Facts Are Not New 

All of this has been adequately documented by Professor Alexander among others, and in fact The Next Movement, through various methods, has been working to educate the community and grow awareness.

But where is the community uprising, the indignation, the mass outrage, the ACTION?

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the issues of our time and to let that feeling of hopelessness "move" us to inaction. Fortunately, the evidence of our victory has already been witnessed by how far we have come.  As I was seeking to be accurate with Dr. King's quote on the "arch of the moral universe," I came across what is purported to be the first documented use of this metaphor, from Rev. Theodore Parker, an abolitionist who in an 1857 collection of sermons included this language in his message, Of Justice and the Conscience:
"Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
Clearly there are incredible injustices at work in the criminal justice system in America. Certainly, as people of conscience and people of faith, we know that something must be done. The Next Movement is one organization that is working to end this era of mass incarceration, and can use all the help, ideas, and energy, we can get. Join us! Email us at for more information.

Rev. Courtney Jenkins, in a sermon delivered here at Trinity UCC, taught that (paraphrasing), "Our God wants to show off His power. In our prayers, we need to ask for great things, awesome things, change that can only come about by the intercession of God power." Ending the mass incarceration epidemic in America is worthy of our prayers and will prove to be an incredible example of God's power.

2 Corinthians 9:8-10, NRSV translation, states:
8And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  9As it is written,
“He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor, his righteousness endures forever.”
10He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
God bless you.

A luta continua

Daryle Brown

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wasting Lives, Wasted Resources: The Tragedy of Life Sentences

As we work to end the mass incarceration of so many Americans, primarily African American, other people of color, and the poor, it is important that we continually educate ourselves on the many systemic issues that are driving up those numbers.

An important report was released today from The Sentencing Project, a key ally in the fight to end mass incarceration focused on the wide variety of sentencing issues that contribute to the rise in imprisonment. Their new report, Life Goes On: The Historic Rise in Life Sentences in America, details the trends in life sentences, as well as providing current statistics on a national and state basis.

"Life" sentences have risen four-fold since 1984, some of it due to the end of death penalty convictions in many states, but much of the rise is also due to the increased use of mandatory sentencing, three strikes laws and other "get tough" legislation. There are now more than 160,000 prisoners serving life, 50,000 of them serving "life without parole." Of those serving life-without-parole, more than 10,000 were sentenced before their 18th birthdays . . . some as young as 12 and 13. And, as is typical with our criminal (in)justice system, these sentences are used far more frequently with minority populations. While one in nine prisoners is serving a life sentence, African Americans make up nearly half of all lifers. 

Our society has unfortunately adopted the perspective of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, that our "prisons are for punishment." Almost completely absent from the conversation is the rehabilitative aspect of serving time, the capacity for us to change, leaving no room for redemption.

Over the next several months legislation will be introduced in Illinois to address two ends of this spectrum. One group is actively working on a bill to address the early release of elderly prisoners. These are men and women that are getting totally unsatisfactory care from a prison system that is not designed to care for them - where we are wasting money that could be more efficiently used to care for them on the outside. The other is focused on providing a parole hearing process for juveniles that were sentenced to life without parole. In this situation, the Supreme Court has already ruled this sentence to be unconstitutional, but the state has been slow to address those individuals that are already serving those sentences. You will hear more from us on specific actions and support requests for these two initiatives.
Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:3
A luta continua.

Daryle Brown

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NSA Data Mining or Drug War People Mining . . .

An interesting article in Nation of Change eNews today, on the moral challenge to support NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. As I consider the various information flowing through all of my media and news outputs on this subject, I have to admit . . . I'm still not sure.
I'm not sure if Snowden is a hero, traitor, or somewhere in between.
I'm not sure if the government capturing and sifting through meta data seeking to shine a light on potential enemy plans for our demise is worth the sacrifice of a bit of my personal privacy.
I'm not sure if one day we'll be sorry, or that this is "the tip of the iceberg" or "the first domino."
What I am sure of is that America is sliding into a police state, and that we have been sacrificing our constitutional rights in another way that has caused no panic among the media, the pundits, the government or the majority of people. We have allowed the war on drugs, and associated stretches of police and prosecutorial power to all but eliminate our rights to privacy, freedom from unwarranted searches, the expectation of probable cause, the right to a jury trial . . . and on and on, but where is the cry of indignation.
When the rights of poor, black, and brown individuals, inner-city communities and even rural communities, are laid bare and treaded on with abandon, there is little concern raised on CNN, FOX, ABC, hell even The Onion. Even as our investment in prisons begins to exceed our investment in higher education, few are noticing or caring.
Given the reality I witness, that the NSA is tapping into our data streams isn't surprising in the least. Frankly, I prefer the passive data collection to the active stop-and-frisk, "random" traffic stops, racial profiling, and other tactics used in the interest of "justice."

Daryle Brown

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

If Only Common Sense Weren’t So Uncommon . . .

This is not the way to create safe communities

Once again, the public is subjected to totally thoughtless commentary from people to whom we entrust our safety, and general quality of life. Once again, a politician is putting forth policy ideas that if implemented would be incalculably worse than the problem they are seeking to solve. Once again, for want of a headline, a completely senseless proposal is getting attention it does not deserve, wasting resources we can’t afford, and misleading the public.

We were utterly disappointed in Senator Mark Kirk’s bizarre solution to the gang and gun violence problem we have in Chicago. We are revolted by the senseless violence and deaths that have plagued some of our communities, but the idea to lock up 18,000 members of one particular gang as a solution is thoughtless, simplistic, and devastatingly wasteful. 

You lock up 18,000 black men and then what? Most certainly, any gaps in the drug trade would be immediately filled either by “dealers in training” or the competition, and most likely spur a new round of competitive warfare; ultimately, our communities would be less safe, less stable, and less livable.

For all of that “less,” it will certainly cost more. In fact, the $30 million that Senator Kirk has requested is a rounding error compared to the $810 million it will cost to imprison that many people.

It is sad and disturbing that Senator Kirk and his staff appear to have done no research on this issue — not with the leading academics, not with the local politicians, not with the communities. It seems the best we can hope is that this is somehow a ploy to bring attention to this problem.  

What we suggest is that the $30 million dollars (money he plans to request from Congress) be combined with Mayor Emanuel’s $50 million dollars (the amount he hopes to raise through the Chicago Public Safety Action Community Fund) and redirect it to projects and programs that do make our communities safer, by creating opportunity for young men and women who otherwise would work in the underground drug economy: job training, jobs, education, behavioral health services (including drug addiction services), and other community-based services.  

While we are a bit encouraged by his meeting with Congressman Rush and a fresh commitment to engage the community on the issue of public safety, the danger is that this was merely a face-saving tactic. In the coming days, we will also seek to meet directly with Senator Kirk to offer our suggestions for real solutions to our community’s issues.

For now, please take a few minutes to write and send a letter to Senator Durbin (or call), and encourage him to skip the inflammatory rhetoric and focus on community focused solutions:

Senator Mark Kirk 524 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC, 20510 202-224-2854

Dr. Patricia Simples
Daryle Brown
The Next Movement committee

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Don't Be Fooled: Support Sensible Gun Laws, Not Mass Incarceration!


Tomorrow the Illinois House Judiciary Committee is once again pulling out the "Get Tough on Crime" card, this time in the form of HB2265, legislation that adds extra time (two years typically) to Mandatory Minimum Sentences for a wide variety of gun crimes. While on the surface, and in light of the recent highly visible shootings in Chicago, this seems to be a reasonable reaponse, IT IS NOT!

Once again our legislators and other public officials, including Anita "What Torture?" Alvarez, Police Chief Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are seeking emotionally satisfying, but ultimately ineffective legislation, to fight our problem with gun violence.

These changes in laws will create one more vector in the epidemic of mass incarceration by reducing further the power of our Judges, to judge. There is absolutely no evidence that a longer sentence will stop anyone with a propensity to violate a gun law, to suddenly think twice. Instead this will grow our already crippling prison population and contribute to the destruction of families and communities . . . while making us no safer!

Please click here today and tell he House Judiciary Committee how you want them to vote on HB2265 (this will allow you to submit a slip to the committee in opposition to the bill).

Once you've voiced your opposition to this ineffective, no damaging, bill, please click here to sign a petition supported by a coalition of churches in the Chicago area, including Trinity UCC and the Faith Community of St. Sabina, that asks for Sensible Gun Legislation that will really help to make our streets safer. Things like titling a gun like a car, so that it is always known who legally possesses a weapon, and banning military style assault weapons.

Daryle Brown
Trinity UCC Prison Ministry-The Next Movement committee

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Break in Prison Phone Rates?


Many in the social justice and prison reform community have been for years advocating to get phone rates reduced for prisoners and their families. While telephone rates for the rest of us have been declining, almost since the invention of telephone service, the cost to prisoners has not.

At Cook County jail, for example, inmates can only make collect calls, and typically they run from $7 to $15. According to the county's numbers, during one month inmates placed over 10,000 calls that cost $15! An article from WBEZ says:
The county has a contract with Securus technologies that requires the phone company to pay almost 60 percent of what it makes from phone calls back to the county. The deal has netted the county about $12 million over the life of the three-year-old contract. 
For calls to Illinois Department of Correction facilities, I visited the Securus web site that provides a rating option. Using their standard collect rates a 5 minute call from a Chicago location to Lincoln Correctional Center would be $4.10, and it seems the same for a 15 minute call.

One of the insidious aspects of this monopolistic pricing is that it affects the poorest among us the most. Those that can least afford it. This often results in little or no contact between family members and their incarcerated loved one . . . even while the research shows that one of the keys to reducing recidivism is a continuing connection to family while a person is incarcerated.

Due to ongoing pressure, the FCC is finally looking into these practices and there is hope for relief soon. On December 28, 2012, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at addressing this egregious practice. While this is certainly encouraging news, we must continue to keep the pressure on.

Your support is needed. Please take a few minutes to sign a petition by clicking here. TAKE ACTION to stop predatory phone pricing.