Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Jump Starting the Struggle to Decarcerate the Garden State

In recent months, on a personal level, my enthusiasm has waned and unfortunately some of the goals we had for this year have not been realized.  Part of the reason is that I have begun to question the effectiveness of what I was doing – are we affecting policy?  Are we building a base in the communities?  Are we making inroads with the incarcerated?  Are our information channels being utilized, read, followed, forwarded?  Are we connecting with like minded organizations and individuals?    Not having great answers to all these questions – I got discouraged, lost enthusiasm and stopped doing some of the things I was doing to try to keep the effort building.  No doubt some momentum was lost accordingly.

I am now attempting to shake my self from this malaise and get back into action.  But in so doing – I want to try to be somewhat more effective.  It is a year and a half now since we began and we are no further along with real Decarceration in NJ than when we started.  We need to begin to change that.

Some of the steps I would like to take and see us take are:
1.       Assess the organizations and individuals around the state that have identified with our efforts and / or participated in them and to figure out a way to develop roots in various communities around the state so that there are free standing Decarceration efforts going forward and community organizing committees.  Toward these ends I am urging everyone to complete the organizational membership form:     
2.       Get standing committees in local communities to agree to plan events.  Have a targeted set of dates for coordinated events.
3.       Encourage organizations to adopt Decarceration positions and have a place that makes all the statements accessible.
4.       Get commitments from writers and content producers to keep blog active.
5.       Redouble efforts to reach out to thousands of incarcerated in the NJ facilities.  My bet is that they do not know about our efforts.  They are not yet engaged in our efforts and are not yet funneling information to us about the injustices occurring on the inside.
6.       Encourage the families to tell every story and raise every cry for justice, relief from excessive sentences, release, an end to neglect and abuse, etc.  There should be 1000s of justice campaigns in NJ and we should have a searchable database or at least a common place for their stories.  We need to lean into each other for mutual support so that the system start to get the impression that it is are not taking out the incarcerated one by one in isolation – but that when it messes with one – it messes with all – that we will find out about it and act.
7.       Produce the second issue of the NJ Decarcerator.  The second issue will focus more on reach out to and incorporation into our efforts of the incarcerated and their families.
I definitely want to get us back on track and believe the premises of our organization and 6 point action plan still make sense.  However I would like to see us lay down a firmer foundation so that work can continue through committees and allied organizations all over the state and so that we make Decarcerating the Garden State a top priority for our communities to the point where inaction by those political office holders will be at their own peril.
If you want to help with the effort and help get us relaunched, please contact: and also be sure to complete the membership form: