In this month’s newsletter, you will find articles asking you to support IAHR’s end of year appeal, upcoming events in Maryland including Advocacy Day, photos from our fall events, and an article on reducing sentences for violent offenders.
Support IAHR's End of The Year Campaign
We all have many hopes and goals for the New Year. But the prayer this holiday season for thousands of people in Maryland and Virginia in solitary confinement is singular -- end my torture; free me from this cage!
Please join us now in answering that plea. Your year-end contribution to Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR) at our website can help end this solitary suffering for so many of our neighbors.
In Maryland and Virginia prisons, there are many people in solitary for months and years. IAHR is writing legislation for the upcoming legislative sessions in both states that will:
- end putting people with special needs such as the mentally ill in solitary.
- put a strict limit on how long any prisoner can be placed in solitary confinement.
- end the practice of directly releasing people from solitary to the community.
It is easy to forget about incarcerated people. We don’t see them; and we usually don’t hear from them. But as Nelson Mandela once said, “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.”
Will you support IAHR so that we can become a nation that is judged by how we treat “our lowest citizens”? Together we can end the torture that goes on every day in our regional prisons and jails.
Click here to help men and women in solitary confinement.
IAHR's Next Forum on Solitary Confinement in Maryland
When: Sunday, January 12, 2020 from 3 to 5 p.m.
Where: Oakland Mills Interfaith Center, 5885 Robert Oliver Pl, Columbia, MD 21045
Questions? Contact Rabbi Feinberg at 202-669-7700
Refreshments will be served
Click here to RSVP
Warren Rymes is a returning citizen whose sentence was commuted by Governor Hogan in August 2018. Since that time, Warren has become involved in IAHR. Warren is especially interested in solitary confinement and mental health services in the Maryland prison system. Warren advises criminal justice students in the Prison and Justice Initiative at Georgetown University. He also lectures in the Georgetown Law School. Recently, Warren began consulting with the Mayor’s Office of African American Male Engagement on a project to stop violence in Baltimore. Warren has also started his own business called 3R which assists returning citizens in their recovery, rehabilitation, and reentry.
Kimberly Haven’s journey as an advocate began when she sought to regain her own voting rights after release from a Maryland prison in 2001. As a result of Kimberly’s hard work and the support and guidance of organizations and affected individuals, the Maryland House and Senate in March 2007 approved the Voting Rights Protection Act, which re- enfranchised 50,000 residents who had completed their sentences. Since that time, Kimberly Haven has served as the executive director of Justice Maryland, the Maryland Justice Project, and project director for the Maryland Public Defender's Pre-Trial and Bail Reform Campaign. Currently, Kimberly is serving as IAHR’s Legislative Liaison to end the abuse of long-term isolation in Maryland state prisons.
Munib Lohrasbi first developed a passion helping people with disabilities while volunteering with Best Buddies, a nonprofit that works to create opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in high school, Upon graduation from the University of Maryland Law School, he wanted to combine his passion for disability rights advocacy with his criminal justice and legal background. In the OSI-Baltimore Community Fellowship, Lohrasbi works with Disability Rights Maryland (DRM) to improve conditions for people with disabilities in prison around the state.
Charles M. Feinberg was a congregational rabbi for 42 years. He served and led congregations in Wisconsin, New York, British Columbia, and Washington, DC. He served as a rabbi at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC from 2006 to 2015. During his career, Rabbi Feinberg has been an advocate for Central American Refugees, the poor and the homeless, for interfaith dialogue and cooperation, and for respecting the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis. Rabbi Feinberg received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Rabbi Feinberg is beginning his fourth year as Executive Director of IAHR.
IAHR’s will be sponsoring another forum on Sunday, February 9, 2020 at 3 p.m. at Episcopal Church of the Acension in Silver Spring, MD.
Fourth Annual IAHR Advocacy Day in Annapolis
Please join us in our campaign to limit the abuse of Solitary Confinement
Date: To be determined early January
Location: House Building, Prince George’s County Delegation Room, Room 150, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis 21401
Time: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Legislation: Two bills (but no official numbers yet):
Bill #1: to ban direct release from solitary to the public (with some exceptions, especially for the health of the inmate), sponsored by Delegate Jazz Lewis.
Bill #2: this legislation will prohibit or limit the placement of an individual who has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness from being placed in restrictive housing except in exigent circumstances sponsored by Delegate Jazz Lewis.
Parking: Gotts Court Garage (best entrance is 25 Calvert Street, next door to a cash only garage) is the closest. There are also other options that we will send closer to the date.
9 am: Advocacy Day Volunteers arrive for registration. Continental breakfast will be served.
10 am: Briefing on legislation and advocacy training; assignments to small groups for visits.
11 am - 1 pm: Advocacy visits to House Judiciary and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee members.
2 pm: Debriefing - Volunteers share their impressions, information and insight from visits
3pm: Conclusion of the day (with many thanks!)
Register to volunteer for Advocacy Day by clicking here.
(In the "Comments" box, please indicate your district's senator and delegate.)
Closer to the date we will provide summaries of the IAHR bills and the bills themselves, more parking information and a fact sheet on solitary. NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and RJI will also have more information for you about their bill to benefit pregnant and post-partum incarcerated women
If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to contact Kimberly Haven via text or voice at 443-987-3959 or at [email protected]
Photos From Fall Events
IAHR was on the move this fall. Forums on Solitary took place at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Glenwood, MD, Temple Beth El in Richmond, VA, and Beth Am Congregation in Baltimore. In addition, over 20 pen pals met to listen to Charnal Chaney speak about her childhood and youth while her mother was serving an 18 year sentence from the time she was three years old. Here are some photos from these events.
Rabbi Chuck Feinberg, Kimberly Haven, and Munib Lohrasbi speaking before members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Glenwood, MD.
David Smith, IAHR Board Member, Vishal Agraharkar, ACLU-VA, Staff Attorney and Legislative Liaison, and Kimberly Jenkins-Snodgrass, IAHR Board Chair, speaking at Temple Beth El on December 2, 2019.
John Struc, Charnal Chaney, Guest Presenter, Michele Sumka, Lois Fingerhut, Sandra Miller, Shelagh Bocoum, and Jill Greenberg at the Pen Pal Meeting on December 4, 2019.
The Marshall Report
Can We Fix Mass Incarceration Without Including Violent Offenders?
Half of America’s prisoners are in for violent crimes, but reforms often leave them behind.
By JAMILES LARTEY
Alice Johnson and Walter Johnson are not related but do have a few things in common besides a surname. In 1996, both were separately convicted on drug-related charges and sent to federal prison. Both are black and were sucked into the criminal justice system at the height of the nation’s racially discriminatory and punitive response to crime and drug waves that crested in the early 1990s. Over more than two decades in prison, both embraced rehabilitation programs, maintained good discipline, and came to view themselves as utterly reformed.
That’s about where the comparison begins to trail off, though—at least according to most of the ongoing discourse on crime and redemption. Alice Johnson was a first-time offender, convicted of nonviolent drug trafficking crimes. Last year, the Tennessee grandmother became a cause célèbre when Kim Kardashian West successfully lobbied President Donald Trump for her release. In his State of the Union address this year, Trump said Johnson’s story “underscores the unfairness and disparities that can exist in criminal sentencing, and the need to remedy this total injustice.”
Walter Johnson is, by contrast, a stick-up legend and perhaps “Brooklyn’s most storied hustler,” as author Ethan Brown describes him in the book “Snitch.” His substantial criminal career included the armed robbery of some 300 worshippers at a Jehovah’s Witness hall in East New York in 1982, when he was 19. In 1996, Johnson became the first New Yorker put away on federal “three strikes” laws meant to stop habitual offenders.
In 1996, Walter Johnson became the first New Yorker put away on federal “three strikes” laws meant to stop habitual offenders. COURTESY OF @TELLEMBLANCOSENTYA
Historically, that’s been enough difference to completely dictate the way politicians talk, or don’t, about people like the two Johnsons, and whether or not they are entitled to a second chance at life on the outside. In the 2020 Democratic primary, things are messier. While relief for “non-violent” offenders remains a staple of talking points and campaign platforms, several candidates are also beginning to wrestle publicly with the question of what to do about violent offenders, amid a party-wide progressive swing on criminal justice policy.
Click here to continue reading.
On behalf of the IAHR Board of Directors and myself, we wish you a happy holiday season.
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