Mike over at Corrections Sentencing points us to an article that touts the fact that former prisoners should be invited to the table when talking about reform. Colorado now has the Sentencing Commission in place and of the 26 people who are at the table, none of them are former prisoners. Although the Homelessness Commission reserves a spot for one formerly homeless person. If you want real reform you need to talk to the reformed.
Elizabeth Gaynes has worked with people involved in the criminal justice system for more than 30 years: as a young law student in the early 1970s, she was galvanized by the uprising at Attica, and helped to defend some of the incarcerated people who were involved. Later, she took the reins as executive director of the nonprofit Osborne Association, which provides services to incarcerated people and their communities.
But until her daughter turned 16 and started speaking up about prison issues, Gaynes kept a rather relevant piece of personal information close to her chest: her kids' own father was incarcerated, and had been for a decade. "We really didn't volunteer that information very much in the world," she says. "Even people like me who worked in this business felt pretty restrained."
All of that's changed now. Part of it, Gaynes says, was her daughter's outspokenness. Part of it, however, was a larger cultural shift that is now reaching a tipping point. People affected by incarceration are raising their voices and telling their stories in ever-larger numbers. And, for the first time, politicians, policymakers, correctional officials, and foundations are listening.
"There are more formerly incarcerated people speaking up, organizing to fight for civil and human rights," says Dorsey Nunn of the San Francisco-based nonprofit organization Legal Services for Prisoners With Children.
There is now more funding than ever before available for organizations doing work around issues of incarceration -- some $40 million in federal and foundation dollars, up from almost nothing in 1999. More organizations working in the field are employing people affected by incarceration, and graduating those employees to leadership positions. And politicians and correctional officials are recognizing that, in conversations about correctional policy, they must reserve a seat at the table for those who have lived it.
Read the Article Here