Let your voice be heard: End the high costs of prison phone calls

Did you know that more than 15,000 children in Minnesota may not have the chance to send holiday greetings to their parents? This is because these children have an incarcerated parent. Due to the high costs of prison phone calls, it is difficult for many of these children to remain in contact with their parents during the holiday season. The harsh reality is that a 15-minute collect phone call received from a loved one who is incarcerated can cost roughly $6.45. Further, these children may also miss the opportunity to visit and spend quality time with their parents, since prisoners are incarcerated an average of 100 miles away from home and their families. As you can see, phone calls are truly a vital source of communication in order for families to remain connected. The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice seeks to ensure that children and families can remain in contact with their incarcerated loved ones by advocating for the costs of prison phone calls to be capped at a reasonable amount. Continue Reading

Bryan Stevenson: Ending the silence about the mass incarceration crisis

Bryan Stevenson is lifting his voice to end the silence about America’s mass incarceration crisis. This visionary leader is committed to reforming the criminal justice system and building a more just society. Mr. Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). EJI is a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system. Continue Reading

OPINION | Wiping away the dirt through the arts

When I was young, I worked with other kids in Phillips and Powderhorn putting murals up in lots and on buildings that might have otherwise just represented more of the same grime and decay that went on in much of the rest of these neighborhoods. I also took part in the Free Mumia rallies at Cedar-Riverside in the mid-nineties, only kind of understanding then what it all was supposed to mean in my life.

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Erica Gerrity and Isis Rising: Coalition-building to support incarcerated pregnant women and new mothers

When the Minnesota Women’s Press first reported on the work of Isis Rising: A Prison Doula Project, Erica Gerrity had a lofty goal. As program director, she hoped that by 2020, all pregnant incarcerated women in Minnesota would have access to the informational and emotional support offered by doulas during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.

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Harambee: Let’s pull together to dismantle the cradle-to-prison pipeline

During my recent travels to Tanzania, I had the opportunity to learn more about the education system. The most important lesson I learned was community members play a key role in the building a network of support for each student. This network plays a critical role in accelerating academic achievement and advancing personal development. While visiting classrooms in Tanzania, I met aspiring doctors, lawyers, engineers and even a young woman who stated confidently, “I will be president of Tanzania.” Throughout our visit, I witnessed firsthand community members working together to help children learn, thrive and grow. I also watched as the adage that it takes a village to raise a child came alive. One example is the notion of “harambee” which means “let’s pull together.” Continue Reading

Don’t put mothers and their children in prison

Today’s Twitter feed is abuzz with the news that the White House intends to announce administrative action for some of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented Americans. While the contours of the relief remain unclear, President Obama’s action undoubtedly moves the immigration reform debate to a new place and promises to make real – at least in a limited way for the very near future – the right to family unity guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights at articles 17 and 23. Continue Reading