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.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Only YOU Can Prevent the Coming Police State...


Over the past few years we have witnessed police abuse of power on a visceral level unknown throughout our history. The almost universality of the camera phone, the increased use of police dashboard cameras, and the early implementation of police body cameras, have brought the public right into the midst of police/public interaction.

The murder of Laquan McDonald, shot 16 times by a Chicago Police officer, and the attempted cover up, caused the resignation of Gerry McCarthy, the police chief of one of the largest departments in the country. And soon after, the defeat of powerful Cook County States Attorney, Anita Alvarez. Many suspect that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will also be unable to wipe the blood of Mr. McDonald off in time to save his next election bid.

Lest we sleep, police unions, and "law and order" politicians are, of course, fighting back. Oh, that they would be fighting back with better oversight, removal of criminal police officers from their rolls, renewed programs to build relationships with the communities they serve, or an end to racial profiling and "stop-and-frisk" citizen stops. What a blessing this would be!

But no, instead, they are digging in, as an occupying force would be expected to do.

One of the local efforts has been the so-called Blue Lives Matter ordinance, led by Alderman Ed Burke. Essentially, this is an example of overkill, and as University of Chicago Law Professor, Geoffrey Stony said, ". . . why do we need this new law? Other than the symbolic dumping on Black Lives Matter, which is ugly." #BlackLivesMatter and many other millennial infused justice organizations have proven effective in fighting for basic human rights in America, and as such are being targeted by our increasingly racist government administrations - it will only get worse.

Nationally, there are at least 10 states that are working to criminalize protests. For example:

  • In North Dakota, where the DAPL protests have been taking place, they have introduced a bill, HB 1203, which provides for a legal exemption to motorists that "negligently [cause] injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road…” 
  • In Indiana, SB 285 provides law enforcement to “use any means necessary to clear the roads of the persons unlawfully obstructing vehicular traffic” once a gathering is determined to be unlawful.
  • In Michigan, a bill was passed that provides for fines of $1,000 a day for individuals and $10,000 a day for organizations for picketing.
These actual, and prospective, laws are designed to limit our right to protest, to silence the people. 

And now comes an executive order from #45 . . .

Instead of focusing his efforts on the causes of violence in our communities, this order calls on the Department of Justice (now led by ex-senator Jeff Sessions, a man viewed as too racist to serve as a judge) to work with other federal agencies (FBI, NSA, Homeland Security, etc.) to "develop an executive branch strategy to prevent violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers." 

From our local politicians to state politicians across the country, to president #45, there is a concerted effort to stifle free speech and our right to assemble in defense of our rights and the constitution. 

We must stay vigilant! We must stay engaged! We must stay woke!

Over the coming days, weeks and months you will hear of protests, petitions, boycotts, letter writing campaigns, etc. Don't leave it up to your neighbor to respond!

A luta continua,

Daryle Brown
Trinity UCC Justice Watch Team
The Next Movement committee

P.S. Thank you to the elected Community Police Accountability Council for continually sharing content relevant to the fight, much of it used in developing this note.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Action Taken on Excessive Police Powers

Hmm, went to post a new blog today and discovered that this one was never published! Still, good thing that Eric Holder did. Now let's see what the new AG has in store for us . . .

From Jan 16th . . .

Few people realize that police departments across this country can confiscate property - homes, cars, cash - without a criminal conviction, plea bargain, or even evidence of a crime.

That's right! You could be driving from your home with cash collected to put a down payment on a home, and the police can stop you, search your car (if you give permission, which most people are afraid not to . . . even though it is YOUR RIGHT), and if they found your $5,000 in an envelope, could assume it was from criminal activity and confiscate it.

"Innocent until proven guilty" means nothing in these situations. It is your responsibility to prove to the police that your property was in your possession legally.

On Friday, January 16, 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder issued an order barring local and state police from using federal law to confiscate property without proving that a crime occurred (see entire article by clicking here).

Since 2008 state and local police departments have confiscated cash and property worth over $3 billion (THREE BILLION DOLLARS), in more than 55,000 seizures. 

The federal program, called Equitable Sharing, allowed the local agencies to keep 80% of the proceeds, and balance going to federal agencies.

As we work to end mass incarceration in America, this type of program that provides incentives for police to behave inappropriately must be closed down!

This was a great decision by A.G. Holder and a victory to be celebrated.

A luta continua,


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It is Darkest Before the Dawn . . .


For me, the Ferguson grand jury decision not to charge police officer Darren Wilson with a crime in the shooting of Michael Brown, was not a surprise. I may have been surprised at the ineptitude of the prosecutor, or the clumsy way they announced it, or the attempt to explain away the racist overtones, but I never expected justice.

The killing of Eric Garner was different. Here there was a video of the police choking this man to death . . . of Mr. Garner repeating over and over, "I can't breath." (CAUTION, the video is painful to view. You can view by clicking here.) How in the world can a grand jury not even think the case deserved to go to trial? 

Well, in the midst of my revulsion, as I'm distracted and less productive than I should be, Asha Bandele (Director, Advocacy Grants Program at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)) sends out a note to the many partners of DPA regarding the decision. She has graciously allowed me to reprint it here:

Dearest Partners,

In May of 1857, having just heard of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case (for those of us thinking of Travyon Martin today, ironically it was filed as Dred Scott v Sandford), which in effect validated the existence of slavery and seemed to ensure its continuance, the great abolitionist, orator and ex-slave, Frederick Douglass, said: 
In one view the slaveholders have a decided advantage over all opposition. It is well to notice this advantage…(but)  This is one view….there is another, and a brighter view. David, you know, looked small and insignificant when going to meet Goliath, but looked larger when he had slain his foe….Thus hath it ever been. Oppression, organized as ours is, will appear invincible up to the very hour of its fall….Take this fact—for it is a fact—the anti-slavery movement has, from first to last, suffered no abatement. It has gone forth in all directions, and is now felt in the remotest extremities of the Republic. 
It started small, and was without capital either in men or money. The odds were all against it. It literally had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. There was ignorance to be enlightened, error to be combatted, conscience to be awakened, prejudice to be overcome, apathy to be aroused, the right of speech to be secured, mob violence to be subdued, and a deep, radical change to be inwrought in the mind and heart of the whole nation. This great work, under God, has gone on, and gone on gloriously…Our strength is in the growth of [our] conviction, and this has never halted. 
In less than six years after he made that statement, of course, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

And so as the progeny of people who traversed mountains higher and more rocky than ours, and with far fewer resources, we continue.  And we do it with all the care, compassion and strategic brilliance that has defined us every day leading up to this day.  We do it as allies, we do it as colleagues, we do it as organizers and friends.  We do it as partners in this work.

The horrific decisions out of Ferguson and now, New York, have this moment. We acknowledge that. But knitting ourselves together I know this: we will write the final and beautiful chapter in history.

With a powerful belief in justice and in each of you,


We will indeed write the final AND beautiful chapter in history. The fight to end mass incarceration in America, to end this War on Drugs that is stripping resources from our education systems, our health care systems, our infrastructure (spelled JOBS), will be won! Because this is where justice resides. Every injustice like in Ferguson, or in New York, feeds fresh warriors into our campaigns.

For now, let's keep Galatians 6:9 in our thoughts:

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."     
 A luta Continua,


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Harry Belafonte: The Power of Film

Harry Belafonte and Sidney Portier at the Governors Awards
Harry Belafonte was the recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Governors Awards (an honorary Oscar, Mr. Belafonte's first).

His acceptance speech was incredibly powerful, insightful, incriminating, and at the same time hopeful.

What a wonderful brother, artist, and of course humanitarian.

The power of film to change minds and hearts was never so eloquently stated. This is the reason that The Next Movement embarked on our (In))Justice for All Film Festival this year, and are committed to screen meaningful social justice focused films on a regular basis, and to hold our festival annually. The 2015 festival will be held April 9-18.

You can view this wonderful acceptance speech by CLICKING HERE. Truly one of the giants of both entertainment and justice. An awesome example for us all.

Daryle Brown

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From the Inside: Dre's Story

He’s from a small northern suburb that doesn’t set off alarms in your head, like when you hear
“Englewood.”  It is home to the illustrious campus of Northwestern University, choice lake front real estate and one of the largest high schools in the country… even in the high crime areas, you can step out your front door in the morning and smell the life vibrating beneath the heavy mist of dew that has settled on the grass and trees. Dre trampled over this pulsating scenery like it was the desolate wild west.  Because when he’s gone off the weed and alcohol, he thinks he’s an outlaw.
When Dre was four, he was walking down an alley with his seventeen year old uncle, Ty, when gun shots rang out nearby.  “Stay here, Andre,” his uncle told him while pushing him between two garbage cans. 
“Don’t move until I come back!”
Ty pulled a gun from his waist and disappeared between two buildings. He was caught in a gang-related murder and Dre wouldn’t see him again until twelve years later.
It would be like he never left though, because Dre would be confronted by his uncle’s reputation all through his childhood. He would constantly hear from family and people in the neighborhood about his uncle’s phenomenal attributes. 
“He was so charismatic, all the ladies loved him.”… “He was so tough, all the guys respected him.”
Dre had none of these traits. As he got older and people found out he was Ty’s nephew, you couldn’t help but notice the shadow of disappointment move across their faces.
Dre was the shy, timid, soft-spoken type. 
“Speak up boy!” His dad would snap at him.  “You talk like you got rocks in your throat!” 
Dre’s over-protective parents kept him isolated in the house most of the time, which made him socially awkward, but an avid reader. By the time he got to high school, he had already read the majority of the books on the English curriculum. They had to place him in honors class.
Despite his academic potential, Dre wanted nothing more than to shake this lame persona. The characters he looked to emulate were the cats, like Uncle Ty: the dudes standing across the street from the school with their hats broke off; proudly throwing their hands in the air with fingers twisted up in signs to their allies; and embracing each other with secret handshakes. A brotherhood.  Everyone seemed to either love or fear them.
It was really this fear that kept him in check. But, when he was fifteen, he discovered a magic potion that would suppress that fear: weed and alcohol. He initially tried them when offered, because he didn’t want to be the square that said, “No.”
But, it was the effects that kept him coming back. The weed, by itself, was fun;  but, it made him feel more nervous and more vulnerable than when he wasn’t high. The liquor was another story. He felt like he had been dipped in a vat of radioactive waste and emerged a superhero. He didn’t feel like the same timid, insecure, cowardly guy he was before. Instead, he felt bold, confident, fearless; he felt free.
Dre stumbled through the rest of high school in a drunken haze, and just barely graduated. The weed and alcohol took him down a dark road. Under the influence, he chose to be initiated into the “brotherhood.” He so much admired them that, while under the influence, he chose to pick up a gun and shoot at someone he had been convinced was his enemy. 
When he woke up sober the next morning, his stomach dropped, as he remembered the things he had done. But, it was too late to think. He was nineteen years old, sitting in the county jail, facing attempted murder charges.
While he was on the inside, the thirst only grew. From what he could see around him, drugs and alcohol was the culture. Everyone did something. Even if they didn’t, he wore his addiction like a badge of honor. It was his identity. The only way he knew how to be. There was no reason to believe he had a problem, so despite the Narcotics Anonymous and Alcohol Anonymous programs that were offered on the inside, Dre looked at them as irrelevant to him. He eagerly awaited his parole date and that first drink…
Dre is now thirty-four, and serving a sixty-year sentence. He learned that putting on a mask doesn’t change who you are.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Evidence is one thing, Fighting is the right thing

A good friend and mentor, Howard Saffold (a founder of the Negro Patrolman's League and CEO of the Positive Anti-Crime Trust), once forwarded to me a wonderful report, The Adoration of the Question: Reflections on the Failure to Reduce Racial & Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System. The actual report deals with challenges to move from theory to action, from minor tinkering to real transformation, in the obvious and clearly unjust racial and ethnic disparities in our juvenile justice system, but the first part of the title, "The Adoration of the Question," has stuck with me through the years as the reams of studies have been developed on the issue of mass incarceration, but the will of our politicians, and our people, seems unmotivated to act.

This editorial in the NYTimes is another high profile call for an end to America's epidemic of mass incarceration. Motivated by a 444 page report from the National Academy of Sciences, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences - yet another treatise on this issue - they quote the usual statistics (2.2 million incarcerated Americans, disproportional effects on black, brown and poor, nearly 160,000 people serving life sentences) and some new ones ($80 billion a year spent on direct corrections costs). They also mention a report by Human Rights Watch, Nation Behind Bars: A Human Rights Solution, and a particular quote:

. . . while prison should generally be a last resort, in the United States “it has been treated as the medicine that cures all ills,” and that “in its embrace of incarceration, the country seems to have forgotten just how severe a punishment it is.”
With Professor Angela Davis' book, Are Prisons Obsolete?, from 2002, and Professor Michelle Alexander's more recent book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, and the many other books, research reports, editorials, documentary films, etc., that describe and inform on the subject of prison and mass incarceration, the depth and damage of this humanitarian nightmare is clear.

What is needed now is not more Adoration of the Question, but more action!

There are organizations spouting up in cities across America focused on ending the mass incarceration epidemic, ending the drug war, making sense of our sentencing laws, and reestablishing mental health treatment capacity in this country.  If you are in Chicago, join us, The Next Movement. If you are anywhere else in the country, look for a Campaign to End The New Jim Crow, or contact us to help locate an organization in your area.

Stop adoring and start fighting.

A luta continua,

Daryle Brown

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Modern Day Torture Chambers

Even though I have been visiting prisons in Cook County, throughout the State of Illinois, and even Oxford Federal Prison in Wisconsin, for many years, the revelation of excessively poor treatment coming out of Menard Prison was shocking.

The preliminary report from Alan Mills, the Legal Director of The Law Center, is an indictment on our very humanity. Our government would close down a puppy breeder for less negligent behavior. Our prison officials, and elected representatives by extension, are so callous, cruel and indifferent to incarcerated citizens, leaving them to be subject to disease and suffering that is totally unnecessary. When these men return to their community, what will be left of their humanity!

Please check out this article by clicking here.

As your anger rises, as your empathy kicks in, consider joining with your Prison Ministry or The Next Movement committee (of the Prison Ministry) to fight for justice, for humane treatment of prisoners, for an end to America's love affair with incarceration.

Daryle Brown