Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Our 2nd Year - Open Letter



Now into our 2nd year, Decarcerate the Garden State has engaged an aggressive struggle to unify affected communities throughout the state of NJ to demand robust decarceration (release) from NJ state corrections facilities.  We have brought together various organizations and constituencies around our events and demands - - and in the next year we hope to escalate the fight to a level that puts Decarceration on the NJ statewide agenda to be addressed as a crisis and among the most pressing issues in the state.  That can only be accomplished by further developing a synergy with existing groups across the state as well as those communities that exist under harsh repression of racially targeted mass incarceration.
In the past year we have held meetings and events in Newark, Plainfield, Bridgeton and Camden and  at Rowan University.  We have continued to promote our demand for the introduction and passage of the NJ Decarceration Act (http://chn.ge/Rfl0Th  ) bringing about sweeping reductions in NJ’s state prison populations and we have joined and supported efforts to curb police brutality and killing by police with impunity.  We have also received attention in the media for petitioning against the NJ State Police deployment to Baltimore to suppress resistance there to another killing by police of an unarmed Black man.
                 While there are many political and social sectors now calling for one kind of “prison reform” or another, given the racist and classist way that this state and nation determines who gets arrested, who gets prosecuted, who gets sentenced and for how long, it is of utmost importance that communities targeted by mass incarceration (like Newark, Camden, Jersey City, etc.) take the lead in structuring the kind of decarceration legislation that is initiated and fought for.  We can not leave it to the political parties and the companies and professional organizations that profit from mass incarceration to determine what kind of “reform” occurs.  Let the most directly affected communities set the agenda – that is the goal of Decarcerate the Garden State – to make sure changes truly benefit the families and communities targeted.
The following is a high level summary of the plan of action of Committee to Decarcerate the Garden State:
Legislative
The NJ Decarceration Act (to sign: http://chn.ge/Rfl0Th  ) we are pressing for would define a method to reduce NJ prison population by 50% over the next 4 years through sentence commutation nnd reduction.  We also call for local administration efforts at the city level to change the priorities of local policing from revenue raising, the enforcement of minimalist nuisance and “quality of life” ordinances and low level drug laws, especially pot laws.  This kind of enforcement targets the impoverished and often starts the cycle that leads to incarceration for thousands of NJ residents.  Local official can also pass resolutions urging the state legislative bodies to pass the NJ Decarceration Act and other decarcerating legislation.  You can also print the petition from this link and and gather signatures face to face the old fashioned way, with a clipboard and pen:  DecarcerateNJ.org/DecarcActPet.docx
Tour de Decarcerate Panel Discussions
We have held panel discussions in several cities around the state of NJ.  Our format usually provides a keynote speaker that gives a historic overview and current assessment of the mass incarceration on a national scale.  Then we usually have one or more speakers to address the issue of mass incarceration as it affects the local communities and also provide information on some of the local related community battles that are occurring.  The finishing speaker is usually a member of Decarcerate the Garden State who provides a call to action on the issue and provides the plan of attack of our organization.  We continue to seek out new venues and new local committees, organizations or individuals that are interested in bringing our presentation into their communities or on college campuses.  We usually hold one or more meetings in the community ahead of the event to make sure local concerns are addressed in the event.  IF you are interested in exploring holding such an event in your locale, please call 908-881-5275 or write Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org .
NJ Decarcerator
Over the last year we distributed thousands of copies of the first issue of The NJ Decarcerator around the state of NJ.  Now we have the second issue hitting the streets.  Now issue 2 is about hit the streets.  We are printing 1000s .  This issue is more focused on outreach directly to the incarcerated and their families who are the most important part of this fight.  We also are going to make sure the paper gets out to all of the major cities around the state (and into the prisons) and to attempt to create a dialogue with the readership around the articles and proposals presented herein.  To help distribute the paper and coordinate its success, please call 908-881-5275 or write Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org .
Justice Committee
                In addition to supporting the call for decarceration, we also participate in championing the call for justice in cases of political prisoners, those who have been falsely convicted, over charged, over sentenced, victimized by atrocity and nonetheless punished by the criminal system or abused and tortured in correctional facilities.  Please approach us with requests to support.  We will work with families as well as other organizations to demand justice.  At this point we can call attention to these issues, help educate the community and support actions around these cases.  As the community develops a stronger sense of unity around these issues, we can work with others toward effective strategies that can actually bring about results.
Personal and Group Study
We continue to encourage personal and group study of the issue of mass incarceration and the struggle to end it at its roots.  There are tremendous resources for free on the internet.  For starters, we recommend review of the following:
Johanna Fernandez from our first major event July 2014 on the steps of City Hall: http://bit.ly/1IwJKMP

Of course Michelle Alexander’s: New Jim Crow book which is readily available from booksellers and the PDF download can be found via internet search.  There are numerous sites including our own blog site that deliver regular updates on the many injustices of mass incarceration – articles can be read and discussed by you and your colleagues. decarceratenj.blogspot.com
The Blog Site
                We are publishing our work, articles for NJ Decarcerator, opinions of members, etc. on our blog site, easy link: http://bit.ly/1jLGFPY .  We want YOU as one of our blog journalists.  We hope to expand into a multi-faceted site with news on all of the system challenging struggles from various perspectives representing the on the ground struggles not only on Decarceration but police brutality, economic issues of the fight for $15, the struggles around cannabis legalization and medical cannabis access and other related efforts.  Contact us now to become an author – either on a guest or regular basis: 908-881-5275 / Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org .          
Facebook Group
                Most of our decisions, meeting minutes and some on-line discussion are documented on our Facebook group: http://on.fb.me/1rgSoqH

 Building Solidarity with and Among the Incarcerated and Families
In our second year, we are hoping to make a higher priority, organizing families and joining directly with the incarcerated in the struggle to end mass incarceration in the state of NJ.  We hope to help facilitate two way communications between those on the outside who are demanding and struggling to end mass incarceration and those on the inside and their families bearing the brunt of these repressive policies.  The message we want to send to the families and across the walls to those on the inside is a message of hope – that there are those on the outside fighting for change – also an appeal to help in the effort by helping to spread the word about the fight to each other and to family members.  The message we want to help carry OUT from behind the walls would be about what kind of support is needed, what kind of oppression is occurring inside, whether we can assist in any way efforts to organize the Decarceration fight on the inside.  Hopefully through our various media resources we can give a voice to those on the inside and draw back the curtain to reveal the truth about the horrors in NJ’s carceral facilities.             
                Please be encouraged to contact us at 973-223-2114 or 908-881-5275 with any questions or ideas you have and we hope that you and / or a representative of your organization can join this historic fight to DECARCERATE THE GARDEN STATE!
Sincerely, Decarcerate the Garden State

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