news 

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OCTOBER 10, 2021

Walking away from prisons and jails in Massachusetts

On October 5, advocates, allies, and directly impacted people gathered in an online meeting to testify in support of H1905 / S2030. “We can put the money where we can see it make an impact,” said founder of Justice 4 Housing Leslie Credle, referring to the taxpayer dollars spent on incarceration. 

“Our community needs resources, but the government chooses to overpolice and underfund, prosecute, oppress, and destabilize, destroy. I could go on and on, but I think you get it,” Credle said in closing. 

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SEPTEMBER 16, 2021

Activists discuss public housing issues in Boston following State hearing

Leslie Credle, the founder of Justice 4 Housing, an organization that focuses on finding public housing for previously incarcerated individuals, said a partnership with the BHA has allowed them to provide Section 8 vouchers to individuals released in the past two-and-a-half years. 

Credle said parents should not have to choose between leaving public housing or losing their housing voucher and removing their child off the lease if their child is arrested. “It’s going to perpetuate the cycle of incarceration,”

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JULY 21, 2021

‘Solitary by Another Name’: How Efforts to Reform Solitary Confinement Are Being Derailed by Corrections Departments

Leslie Credle and Romilda Pereira, advocates with the group who both spent months in solitary, say that it’s essential that impacted people weigh in. Doing so “allows people to be aware of what the DOC is actually doing, versus what they’re telling you they’re doing,” Credle tells The Progressive. 

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JUNE 1, 2021

Landlords Barred From Using Criminal Records to Deny Housing

A five-year study by the Boston Foundation makes the case that housing instability threatens the health of low-income Boston area residents.


The Boston Foundation's Health Starts at Home initiative began in 2016, with funding for four local organizations that work on the two issues in question: housing and health care. (Disclosure: The Boston Foundation financially supports WBUR.) Those groups hired housing counselors to connect struggling families with resources available in the community, and researchers said that allowed previously isolated families to learn about support options.

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MAY 4, 2021

De-carceration as a Public Health Strategy: Stopping the Spread of COVID-19

The second event in our series will consider prison depopulation or decarceration in response to the threat of COVID-19 in places of incarceration. In response to the growing number of COVID-19 outbreaks in these facilities, public health experts, civil rights attorneys, and advocacy groups have made urgent appeals for decarceration. 

To examine these issues, this webinar will bring together a diverse panel of researchers, practitioners, and activists to discuss the role of decarceration as a part of the public health response to COVID-19 and examine current decarceration efforts around the world.  

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March 29, 2021

By & For: Powerful Women in Activism

Injustices of the world make community organizing and activism so important. Activism and community organizing are based on the belief that we can live in the world we dream of. A world where everyone, regardless of meritorious notions of “deservedness” like employment, is taken care of.
Everyone can and should have their needs met; activism seeks to make that possible.
Everyone has an active role to play in addressing society’s injustices. For activists that make this work a primary focus of their lives, that responsibility can sometimes be greater, challenging even, but evermore rewarding. The following women explain what their activism work means to them, the process of that work, and how they take time to recover. 

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March 10, 2021

'I Don’t Want To Die Here': One Woman's Experience With COVID While Incarcerated

At the beginning of 2021, Lizette Nevarez was nearing the end of her 10-year criminal sentence. She had just four months left before going home.
Then, she got COVID-19.
As has happened since the start of the pandemic in prisons across the country, a COVID-19 outbreak hit SMCC at the end of January. In total, Nevarez and 11 other women at the facility — almost half of the population in the minimum security unit at SMCC — eventually tested positive for the disease.

After the outbreak at SMCC, the Department of Correction announced that the facility, which had only been operating at about 10% capacity, would close temporarily and the women incarcerated there would be moved to county jails across the state that can better support their rehabilitation.

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FEBRUARY 3, 2021

Women’s Commission Listens To Testimony About Racial Prejudice & Systematic Oppression in MetroWest

Borden and Credle said that language is not just contradictory in suggesting a prison can be “trauma-informed,” but it ignores the other issues surrounding incarceration that would be better addressed with the $20 million—or $40 million, or even $50 million—spent on a new jail.

 

Borden’s rehabilitation program will focus on art as therapy to help formerly incarcerated women overcome the trauma of prison and abuse, and Credle runs Justice 4 Housing, which works to provide co-op housing for people recently released from prison.

“When you talk about building new prisons, you are putting out the message that those of us that live in these communities that you are intending future generations to be in those beds”

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OCTOBER 14, 2020

CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON CO-AUTHORS HISTORIC AMICUS BREIFS IN LAND MARK IN MA SUPREME JUDICAL COURT CASE

How have Massachusetts courts historically treated the question of racial profiling during traffic stops?

Katy Naples-Mitchell: In 2008, the Supreme Judicial Court decided Lora, which established the right for a defendant under the state equal protection doctrine to prove they were stopped on the basis of racial profiling.

Challenging the idea of a pretext stop, that a police officer can stop you on the basis of a minor civil motor vehicle infraction when their real motive is to see if they can find something more.

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July 21, 2020 

How zoning laws exclude Black families from areas of economic opportunity

Our global pandemic forced us to grapple with truths we always knew but too often ignored. One of those truths is the direct relationship between one’s housing and one’s health.

 
Historically, racially discriminatory policies have denied Black people the opportunity to live in neighborhoods that give them access to not only quality jobs, schools, and other services, but also health care and wellness support networks. 
Just as racism is embedded in the history of housing in America, racism is also reflected in the unequal health impacts the COVID-19 epidemic has had on communities of color.

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OCTOBER 7, 2021

Solitary by Another Name

In 2018, Massachusetts passed a law that aimed to reform solitary confinement, which was defined as twenty-two hours or more in a cell. The following year, however, the Massachusetts Department of Correction created new units that held people in cells for twenty-one hours per day. The department contended that these units were not “restrictive housing” under the law.

 

While she hopes the new legislation improves conditions, Credle is afraid that Massachusetts “will find a new loophole and we’ll be back at the drawing board again.”

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SEPTEMBER 15, 2021

A Company That Designs Jails is Spying On Activists Who Oppose Them

Activists and elected officials marched the three miles from the Suffolk County House of Corrections to the Massachusetts State House Monday morning in support of a moratorium on construction of a new women’s prison in Norfolk.

 

Many of those present Monday made the point that the record low number of female detainees in Massachusetts doesn’t warrant the building of an entirely new prison, which if it was to be the same capacity as Framingham, would be able to house more than 500 people. According to James, only 135 women are currently serving time in state prison.

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JULY 20, 2021

Moratorium bill could block women’s prison in Norfolk

Leslie Credle told the committee about the fatal shooting of her daughter, Brianna Hardy, in 2017 and the “mental torture” she has endured since then. But Credle — herself a formerly incarcerated person — said she does not wish prison on her daughter’s murderer.

“I’m here as a mother who wants nothing more than to have that person pay for their sins, to burn in hell, but not rot in a prison cell because prison is not going to bring my daughter back,” Credle, who leads the Justice 4 Housing organization, said. “I’ve lived in a prison cell as well, and I know what the DOC does to people who live in their prisons, and it’s definitely not rehabilitation.”

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May 28, 2021

Bristol sheriff’s treatment of detainees is curbed

ICE has a long way to go before conditions improve
Though the two detention contracts ICE just ended (the other is in Georgia) were notorious, in my experience, the facilities don’t differ all that much, which is why I urge the Biden administration to close all detention facilities, including in Plymouth County , and end 287(g) programs, including with Barnstable and Plymouth counties and the Massachusetts Department of Correction.

 

The 287(g) program allows state and local officers to act as immigration agents, costing state taxpayers for no legitimate reason and putting officers in roles prone to racial profiling.

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April 20, 2021

Downing opposes new prison for women

Ben Downing said the Baker administration should abandon any plans to build a new prison for women inmates in Norfolk, saying “investing in incarceration is the exact opposite of what Massachusetts needs.”
Downing took the side of advocates who have said the state should take the estimated $50 million needed to build such a facility and spend it on programs and services to keep women out of prison.


“If there is a genuine desire by state leaders to focus on more ‘trauma-informed’ care for those interacting with our justice system, then our dollars should be directed towards decarceration, community-based alternatives, housing, mental health care, education, job training, and the endless other ways we can support — rather than punish — those carrying trauma,” [Downing] said.

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MARCH 18, 2021

Miquelle West Calls on Biden to Release 100 Incarcerated Women in 100 Days

LOS ANGELES — The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls is calling on President Joe Biden to grant clemency to 100 women in his first 100 days in office.
Sixteen of the 100 women are in prison in California.
“Our current criminal legal system was created to disproportionately oppress Black women and serves as a modern-day form of slavery,” James said. “Eighty percent of incarcerated women are also mothers, many of whom are in facilities states away from their children. These children are uniquely harmed, and incarceration of parents contributes significantly to the rates of children entering the welfare system.” 

Now, some powerful congressional Representatives, like Ayana Pressley, D-MA, and Cori Bush, D-MO, are listening. 

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MARCH 1, 2021

lockdown-  my friends inside

PBS Podcast interview of Leslie Credle and Lizette Nevarez. Leslie Credle, speaks of enduring telephone calls from friends inside prisons during the Covid Pandemic and hearing the deterioration of their mental health    Lizette speaks about being locked down during the covid-19 pandemic, inside Massachusetts prison MCI Framingham. 

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NOVEMBER 20, 2021

Mass. Department of Correction, mental health among prisoners spotlighted after DOJ report

2018-2019 investigation found that the Massachusetts Department of Correction violated the Constitution by providing poor access to mental health care and subjecting inmates to periods of isolation months beyond the MDOC’s own 14-day policy.

 

“We’ve seen it time and time again. The DOC’s only approach to responding to people’s health is through subjecting them to inhumane conditions. Like extended lockdowns and extreme isolation,“ says Ayana Auborg, a founder of Families for Justice as Healing and works closely with prison populations.

“I experienced seeing my friends in mental health watch and they disappear,” says Leslie Credle, a former inmate who works with the National Council for Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.

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SEPEMBER 24, 2020

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IS DEVASTATING FOR INCARCERATED MOTHERS AND THEIR CHILDREN

It was May 2020, and Esther Arias was finally going to be released from prison. “My older son had so much anger because he didn’t understand why everything was happening to me,” she said. “My kids have so much hurt.”

Leslie Credle couldn’t stomach the thought of her children seeing her that way: handcuffed, divided from them by an imposing Plexiglass shield, unable to reach out and touch their hands.

Women in solitary confinement face a higher risk of being sexually violated by correctional officers.

These various traumas can accumulate for mothers in solitary confinement, adding to the struggle to maintain relationships with their children.

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JUNE 23,, 2020

despite harsh lockdowns, half of women inside ma prisons caught covid-19

“It’s one big solitary cell,” Cassandra Bensahih, coordinator at Massachusetts Against Solitary Confinement, told Solitary Watch. Bensahih said everyone in Massachusetts prisons are locked down at least 23.5 hours a day, and that incarcerated people have to choose between taking a shower or making a phone call during their 30 minutes out. 

Leslie Credle, who was formerly incarcerated in Framingham, “living in the prison’s cells feels like living in a bathroom with another person—making lockdowns mentally difficult, and making it nearly impossible to socially distance.

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OCTOBER 2, 2021

The push to make phone calls free for people incarcerated in Massachusetts hits a crucial moment Tuesday

 “They’re profiting off of communities of color whose loved ones are incarcerated through commissary, phone calls and labor,” Credle said. “A lot of times you have families who have to choose: Do I keep my lights on, or do I talk to my parent who is incarcerated?”
Leslie Credle, Executive Director

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AUGUST 4, 2021

A Company That Designs Jails is Spying On Activists Who Oppose Them

“They are bringing in people who have no idea, who have never been incarcerated, who have never had to even think about what it feels like to take a right turn without a blinker on just to get pulled over and get your car searched” she said. “When you have [directly impacted] organizations laying out infrastructures of how we envision public safety, to say that you want to build a new prison shows that the system only has one vision. And that's to keep incarcerating us.”

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JULY 15, 2021

Court backlogs harm people awaiting trial; fuel community solutions as courts reopen

“God bless them,” said Greater Boston resident Lizette Nevarez, 60, crediting community-based programs for making a significant difference for herself and others around her. “They’re doing it. They’re making a change. This is what we need.”

Nevarez considers herself "lucky for the friends that I had" — including  the organization Justice 4 Housing for helping her get into the McGrath House, on top of connecting her with other resources as she works to get an ID, open a bank account and secure permanent housing.Nevarez now plans to become a recovery coach to intercede for others.

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May 17, 2021

MCI Norfolk Prisoner Talked Down From Prison Roof

A man incarcerated at MCI Norfolk managed to get on the roof of one of the prison buildings Sunday, threatening to jump, according to other prisoners, because he was distraught he wasn't getting medical treatment.


"He was basically saying that he had no hope," said one MCI Norfolk prisoner who did not want his name used for fear of retaliation. "He was praying and crying and said he was going to die in prison anyway."

"The problem is there is no hope here — it's just desperation and there is nothing to reach for," the second Norfolk prisoner said. " It doesn't matter what you do, how good you are, you're still not treated with dignity."
 

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April 11, 2020

During COVID-19, Massachusetts prisons are a ‘death trap’

As of April 10, Massachusetts has reported the 4th most confirmed cases of COVID-19 of any state in the U.S. As the virus spreads, local organizers are raising concerns about the well-being of the incarcerated population.

Governor Charlie Baker rebuffed calls to decrease Massachusetts’ incarcerated population as other cities, states and countries have done, stating that “we believe the correct position is for us to continue to do the things we’re doing to keep people inside the system safe.”
 

Over 700 people in Rikers Island have tested positive for COVID-19. In Massachusetts, three incarcerated individuals have already died from the virus. 

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MARCH 16, 2021

Money can’t buy criminal justice reform. But it can fuel a movement.

For decades, politicians have favored more prisons, more criminalization and more pervasive uses of law enforcement, despite considerable evidence that incarceration does not reduce crime and that crime survivors strongly support rehabilitation rather than punishment. But over the past few years, the political landscape has begun to change. The communities most affected by incarceration and violence are organizing to elect leaders to shrink the punishment bureaucracy and to invest instead in addressing the root causes of harm by investing in safety and health.
To see what’s possible when organizers are properly resourced, look to Los Angeles.

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FEBRUARY 21, 2021

Ma builds a new prison outside of the public view

“We have alternatives, but they have their tunnel vision on building a new prison, on being stuck in those ways,”  Ayanna Aubourg said. “This doesn’t just affect communities today, but generations to follow.”

“You have all the money for policing and prisons, but unless you invest in the community you’re wasting your money,” Credle said. “Taxpayers are paying billions of dollars to a system that is broken. We can change the system but they don’t want to give up the power.”

“We are working on what’s best for incarcerated women and yet on this other track over here, as if it’s almost oblivious, before we’ve even put out our recommendations the Department of Correction is barreling ahead with building a new women’s prison,” James said.

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NOVMEBER 18, 2020

doj report spotlights doc inadequate mental health care inside prisons

“We’ve seen it time and time again. The DOC’s only approach to responding to people’s health is through subjecting them to inhumane conditions. Like extended lockdowns and extreme isolation,“ says Ayana Auborg.

 “The prison, the medical service that gets provided in jail is inadequate and right now, it is non-existent,” says Leslie Credle.

“I have people in there that call me that don’t have mental health issues and this COVID lockdown has triggered something in them,“ Credle explains.

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AUGUST 5, 2020

HISTORIC SENATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE FORUM, LED BY ADVOCATES

The issue of incarceration and racial justice in prisons has again become part of national debate following months of protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody.

Senator Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III showed a few distinct differences in how they approach a major concern of the day — how do you reform a broken criminal justice system? And who gets to have a say? While both lean heavily toward making life easier for prisoners, their visions – and track records — are not identical.

That became apparent during a forum on criminal justice Tuesday night, which drew questions from current and former prisoners and was moderated by Andrea James, the formerly incarcerated founder of the advocacy group Families for Justice as Healing.

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JUNE 23,, 2020

PRISONS ARE A DEATH TRAP

 A drive-by rally organized by Families for Justice as Healing. The women’s prison hit hard by the coronavirus, with 71 confirmed cases as of May 3.“There’s a feasible, actionable solution: we need them to be released immediately,” the rally organizers wrote in an online bulletin. 

“Over the last six weeks, our coalition has led a call for folks to ask the Department of Corrections, DAs, sheriffs, Gov. Charlie Baker, and others to release people from Massachusetts jails and prisons in order to flatten the curve and keep everyone safe from the rapid spread of COVID-19

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SEPTEMBER 22, 2021

The Long March for No New Prisons and Jails arrives in Boston

A 90-mile march, the “Long March for No New Prisons and Jails,” ended at the Massachusetts State House with 100 abolitionists and supporters rallying and holding a press conference. The marchers demanded a moratorium on construction of new prisons and jails in the state. They called on people to support two bills in the House and Senate (H1905 and S2030) which demand this. “Build up people, not prisons!” the ralliers said.​

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AUGUST 4, 2021

COVID Froze Prison Visits, Spotlighting High Cost of Phone Calls

The opposition to free phone calls is fierce. In Massachusetts, for example, county sheriffs cut the costs of calls from jails to try to get ahead of legislation that would make calls free and thereby eliminate commissions.

 

“You have to parent from behind the wall when you’re incarcerated,” Credle, 54, said in a recent interview. “It doesn't really matter who takes care of your children, no one is going to love your kids like you do.”

The once or twice weekly calls from the federal prison cost her and her family around $200 each month.

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JUNE 25, 2021

Secretary Fudge Proposes Reinstating 2013’s Discriminatory Effects Rule

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Friday published a proposal to the Federal Register that would rescind the department’s 2020 disparate impact rule and restore the 2013 discriminatory effects rule.

HUD said in its notice of proposed rulemaking Friday that it believes 2013's Discriminatory Effects Standard, "is more consistent with decades of case law and better effectuates the Act’s broad remedial purpose of eradicating unnecessary discriminatory practices from the housing market."

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May 7, 2021

Effort to bail out Black moms from jail for Mother's Day highlighted by COVID-19 crisis

Before Mother's Day each year, incarcerated Black women are released from jail to the open arms of Gina Clayton-Johnson and the rest of the advocates of the California-based Essie Justice Group.
"It's one of the most moving experiences that I've ever been a part of," said Clayton-Johnson, the executive director of Essie Justice Group.


"Black women have been holding our communities together since slavery," James said. "We are painted as bad mothers simply because we land ourselves in a prison bunk somehow. But women are doing some incredible work under some of the most incredibly oppressive situations."

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Apr 7, 2021

The U.S. spends billions to lock people up, but very little to help them once they’re released

The U.S. spends $81 billion a year on mass incarceration, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and that figure might be an underestimate. In 2017, the Prison Policy Initiative estimated the actual cost on state and federal governments and impacted families is roughly $182 billion. Those dollars go to staffing the criminal justice system and meeting the basic needs of the more than 2 million Americans who are incarcerated.

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MARCH 12 2021

PRESSLEY & BUSH CALL ON BIBIDEN TO RELEASE 100 WOMEN IN 100 DAYS

The National Council for Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls assembled 100 women Friday in Washington's Black Lives Matter Plaza to represent those for whom the organization wants clemency granted.

"To tell President Biden to exercise his"To tell President Biden to exercise his clemency authority," Pressley said, adding he can grant clemency to the 100 women "by the stroke of a pen." clemency authority," Pressley said, adding he can grant clemency to the 100 women "by the stroke of a pen."

"When this country incarcerates Black women, their entire family suffers," Pressley continued, saying this causes intergenerational trauma and hurts communities.

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FEBRUARY 8 2021

Ma builds a new prison outside of the public view

Testimony came from women of all ages representing numerous Metrowest communities and advocacy groups. Their testimony was told to a rapt audience of 45 which was composed of eight commissioners, three state representatives, and the general public.

The first testimony was provided by Leslie Credle.  As a formerly incarcerated woman, Credle stated she was providing testimony as a part of her organization’s advocacy against the building of a new women’s prison in Norfolk.

The issue of incarceration in Massachusetts for Credle extends beyond her personal experience to the issue of mass incarceration plaguing the community she lives within. Families for Justice as Healing represents Credle stated, “communit[ies of] Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan are one of the highest rate of incarcerated communities in Massachusetts 

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OCTOBER 14, 2020

massachusetts prisoners will be among the first to get vaccinated

While advocates have applauded the state’s decision to allocate vaccines to inmates, they said they hoped it would not detract from the need to take other urgent steps, including early releases to reduce crowding and increased testing to identify cases.

 

Leslie Credle, Founder of Justice 4 Housing, a group that fights discrimination against former inmates, says some who are still incarcerated have told her they don’t trust the state Department of Corrections to administer the doses.

 

“‘They’ll take it home to their wives, and we’ll get water’ — that’s what one person told me,” Ms. Credle said. “If I were still in there, I wouldn’t take it myself.”

The DOC will use vaccinations as an excuse not to decarcerate. Which is our main objective to release those who are the most vulnerable.

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JULY 31, 2020

covid-19 & police violence strengthen the case against mass incarceration

Stacey Borden, a formerly incarcerated woman herself, saw what she describes as a gap in the right type of care for formerly incarcerated women. Borden founded New Beginnings Reentry Services, which takes a different approach to helping women re-enter the community after serving time. She’s also a member of the Boston-based organization Families for Justice as Healing, which advocates for prison reform.

Leslie Credle is also a member of Families for Justice as Healing and, also, is formerly incarcerated. We spoke with both women about what re-entry looks like for formerly incarcerated women and what incarcerated people have experienced during the pandemic

ANOUNCEMENTS

We want to thank 

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For the 2021 GRASSROOTS NATIONAL ORGANIZING GRANT.

Justice 4 Housing is growing quickly.  We have exceeded expectations this year.  We are grateful for the award. Funds will be used to build  capacity.