July 2019 Newsletter

Interfaith Action for Human Rights

Christine -- 
 

In the July 2019 issue of the IAHR Newsletter, there are a save the date alert, a letter from prison from MarQui Clardy, Sr., a report on solitary in the DC Jail, an action item for DC residents, and an update on IAHR Board Member Diamonté Brown’s election to the Baltimore Teachers Union. 

 

Save The Date: "Human Rights at the Prison Door"  
Letter from Prison: MarQui Clardy, Sr.
Solitary Confinement(Restrictive Housing) in the DC Jail  
Action Item for DC Residents!
Update: IAHR Board Member Diamonte' Brown's Election to the Baltimore Teachers Union



 "Human Rights at the Prison Door" 

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Letter from Prison: MarQui Clardy, Sr.

Incarcerated Parenthood essay 7/8/2019

According to a 2016 report on parental incarceration, the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that more than 5.1 million U.S. parents currently spend time in jails and prisons before their children reach adulthood. Being incarcerated for a prolonged period obviously damages the parent-child relationship. But there are also less obvious, albeit equally deleterious, impacts on both parties' daily lives and relationships with others. Children of incarcerated parents often suffer emotional, behavioral, academic, and/or psychological issues, and they're six to seven times more likely to be convicted of crimes and incarcerated when they become adults. The overwhelming majority of parents behind bars - particularly the first time offenders - had no idea of those consequences when we made the decision to break the law; however, knowing these statistics and seeing how our children are ACTUALLY being affected due to our incarceration creates degrees of guilt, shame, incompetence, and parental failure that can never be adequately conveyed to non-incarcerated parents. A large part of daily prison life is learning to numb ourselves to such feelings in order to deal with the more "immediate" struggles of this environment. But every time we call home and hear our kids' long-distance voices, or look at frozen images of them taped to the walls of our cells, or even when we see televised depictions of mothers and fathers and their children playing, educating, disciplining, loving, living normal lives, those feelings rear their ugly heads to remind us how much we're failing as parents. It's a battle that will continue to haunt us long after we've won the war for our freedom.

At the time I was incarcerated, my oldest son was a six year old kid about to start first grade. Last week he turned 18, and he has just completed high school. What do you call a parent who doesn't take their child(ren) to their first day of school, show up to any of their sports games or PTA meetings, help them with any of their homework, provide financial support, or even attend their graduation? The word 'deadbeat' comes to mind. Having spent the majority of my son's childhood - and the entirety of his grade school years - in prison serving my 33 year sentence, I'm aware that I am an archetypical deadbeat dad who has utterly failed as a father. With every day that passes, and every missed moment from my son's life, this fact becomes evermore apparent and psychologically grievous.

My son and I keep in regular contact. As I've stated, he has finished school. He has a job. He does not have a criminal record. He's not a gang member or hoodlum, nor does he hang with that crowd. Considering all the statistics against him he is on a relatively good track, which makes me proud. But he still hasn't been able to completely escape the collateral consequences of my incarceration and physical absence from his life. He has anger management issues, and got in quite a few fights when he was in school. He has a rebellious attitude toward authority figures, including his mother. He started smoking marijuana when he was 16 years old and continues to smoke regularly, and he has been sexually active since he was 14. Because of my incarceration, I take no credit for his accomplishments (how could I?). But also because of my incarceration, I take all the blame for his shortcomings (how couldn't I?). There's a noticeable strain in our relationship, though we both try. Deep down, he resents me for being absent most of his life due to my dumb decision to break the law. When we talk, I often find myself desperately wanting to give him fatherly advice and guidance; but knowing that I'm a deadbeat, I feel unqualified. I feel as if I have no right to parent my own son. Whenever I do try, my words come out unconvincing and lacking conviction. I don't have confidence that he'll listen to me anyway, so usually I don't even bother. Simply put, our relationship is awkward. It's as if these concrete walls and barbed-wire fences that are physical barriers between us have become barriers between our communication as well.

For me, being an incarcerated parent means constantly struggling to reconcile the memories of my son as that jovial six year old kid who followed me around, idolized me, and wanted nothing more than to be just like me when he grew up, with the reality that that kid is now a grown man who has spent most of his life without me. It's the inability to forgive myself for being absent when he needed me the most. It's the burden of knowing I'm responsible for mistakes he'll inevitably make due to my lack of guidance. It's the constant fear that his increased risk of being incarcerated will come to fruition and that one day we'll both be behind bars. It's living with never-ending regrets and sorrows, always wondering how my son would've turned out had I never been incarcerated. This is a taboo subject not openly discussed in prison. To let down one's guard and express such emotions is considered "weak," although this is an anguishing existence that 5.1 million other incarcerated parents relate to and struggle with daily. But maybe there's someone out there who needs to read this. Maybe me speaking of my feelings of failure as an incarcerated father will inspire others to express their feelings instead of continuing to suppress them for the sake of maintaining the image of "prison toughness." Maybe our collective voice needs to be heard in order to raise awareness of this issue and bring about some sort of policy change so that this experience isn't so damaging to the parent(s) and child(ren) involved. We are not "weak"; we're human.


Solitary Confinement (Restrictive Housing) in the DC Jail

                   Restrictive Housing Unit in the DC Jail

This last year IAHR has made an effort to receive statistics on how solitary confinement is used in the DC Jail.  Through the good offices of Council Member Charles Allen (Ward 6), who is chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, IAHR has received data on solitary for the years of 2017 and 2018.  Here is run down of the data:

Restrictive Housing includes administrative, disciplinary, or protective housing units. Disciplinary occurs when an inmate breaks a rule, threatens or assaults someone. Usually there is a hearing and sentence of how much time in solitary is given.  Administrative occurs when a correctional officer feels a person should be in solitary. Often no reason is given and there is no “sentence.”  Protective custody is given when an inmate has been threatened or feels threatened. 

Click Here to view Solitary Confinement (Restrictive Housing) In DC Jail for 2017 & 2018

Some impressions from the data

Many incarcerated people in the DC Jail find their way into restrictive housing or solitary confinement.  The numbers are similar with a slight rise in 2018.  The most disturbing statistic is that in FY 2018 66 percent of people diagnosed with a mental illness were diagnosed while they were in solitary.  This means that a lot of people are in solitary because of mental health issues that have not been treated or have been resistant to treatment.  It is safe to say that solitary confinement is not the best place for people with mental illness.  Moreover, at a meeting of the advocacy coalition, ReThink Justice, Director of Corrections, Quincy Booth, said that many people in the jail don’t belong. That certainly applies to those with mental illness. Please look at the data carefully.  Rabbi Feinberg would appreciate hearing your own feedback about the data.  

DC Residents: Fill Out the Survey

The District Task Force on Jails & Justice is an independent advisory body dedicated to redefining and reinventing our local approach to corrections, ensuring that our jail is one part of a just and equitable overall system. More specifically, the District asked the Council for Court Excellence and its partners, the Vera Institute of Justice and the National Reentry Network of Returning Citizens, to convene this Task Force to evaluate the important elements of a new correctional plan for the city, make recommendations about who should and should not be held in our local facilities, and articulate our community’s priorities for a jail’s population, location, design, and services.

Why?

As District leaders are actively considering how they should be allocating governmental resources for the justice system, the time is now to discuss whether or how to build a new jail in D.C., what services can be provided most effectively in the community, and what investments best serve the diverse priorities of our residents. We know that the burden of justice involvement has a devastating impact on thousands of District residents, at a tremendous cost to taxpayers, and too often these voices are not heard in policy debates. Thus, the Task Force’s vision for the future will be, first and foremost, grounded in the lived experiences of individuals, families and communities directly impacted by incarceration, as well as in lessons learned from those who study and administer criminal justice and correctional systems.

Action Item for DC Residents!

The Task Force will combine community engagement across the District with expertise to shape a shared vision for the city’s justice system – one that will serve as a model for the rest of the nation.  In order to increase community engagement, the Taskforce has designed a survey for all DC residents to fill out.  Please fill out the survey by clicking here.  

 

After election review, Diamont'e Brown to be confirmed as new president of the Baltimore Teachers Union

By LIZ BOWIE  and JULIANA KIM

BALTIMORE SUN |

JUL 11, 2019 

                   Diamonté Brown (center) with colleagues 

An investigation into the Baltimore Teachers Union election found that a few members of the newly elected president’s caucus used some school resources to promote the campaign, but ruled the violations were “minor” and didn’t change the results.

The American Federal of Teachers affirmed Diamonté Brown as the winner on Thursday, rejecting losing candidate Marietta English’s challenge and petition to hold a new election. The AFT report, obtained by The Baltimore Sun, cited violations by the Union We Deserve caucus, which Brown is a part of, such as using employer email and facilities for campaign purposes.

In one instance, the report said, a member of Brown’s caucus sent out a notice promoting a union campaign event on her school email. The AFT report also found the that Brown’s caucus sponsored two events on school property. The third violation involved two delegates of Brown’s caucus participating as an observer in the balloting process.

“While the [the Union We Deserve] caucus did commit violations of the election rules,” the report said, “we find that these violations did not affect the outcome of the election.”

The AFT concluded that, “these violations appear minor in their scope."

The report marks an end to a contentious election season between Brown and the incumbent, English, who has held the position for more than 20 years.

Click here to read the rest of the article.


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