In this month’s newsletter, you will find an important and time sensitive update on the "reporting bill," an Interview with Rick Raemisch, Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, and a Religion News Service article on IAHR's banner project.
Maryland Residents: We Need Your Help to Pass HB 1180/SB 946
The Senate Bill (SB 946) was voted unanimously out of the Senate Judicial Proccedings committee on March 15, 2016 and unanimously out of the Senate chamber on Friday, March 18 with a few amendments that we have accepted. Click here for the amended version of the bill.
However, We Face a Challenge in the House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee
The House Judiciary Committee voted favorably on the bill on Friday, with the same amendments as the Senate. But, on Saturday morning, it was special ordered to consider another amendment by Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS). The Department’s amendment would eliminate the requirement that the reporting be published online. Please reach out to the legislators of the House Judiciary Committee listed below urging them to vote against this amendment. Here is a sample letter with talking points:
Sample letter/ talking points
Dear Delegate ___________,
I understand that the House Judiciary committee is considering an amendment to HB 1180 that would remove the requirement that reports on restrictive housing be published online. It is important that these reports be published online for several reasons:
- HB 1180 is a transparency measure, there is no transparency if the reports cannot be easily seen by the public.
- These reports must be accessible to members of the public, many of whom may not have the resources, capacity, or wherewithal to access reports that are available only in hard copy.
- Other state agencies are required to report information about their practices and policies online, DPSCS should not be any different. For example, law enforcement publishes information on the racial makeup of traffic stops; the use of SWAT teams; and the use of tazers. All these reports are published online.
- The data reported in HB 1180 cannot be accessible only through an Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) request. MPIA requests are time consuming, complicated, and expensive.
Please vote against this amendment and allow these reports to be published online!
Legislators to Contact:
- Curt Anderson (email@example.com, 410-841-3291)
- Vanessa Atterbeary (Vanessa.Atterbeary@house.state.md.us, 410-841-3471)
- Frank Conaway (firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-841-3189)
- Kathleen Dumais (email@example.com, 410-841-3052)
- Glen Glass (firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-841-3280)
- Trent Kittleman (Trent.Kittleman@house.state.md.us, 410-841-3556)
- David Moon (David.Moon@house.state.md.us, 410-841-3474)
- Marice Morales (Marice.Morales@house.state.md.us, 410-841-3528)
- Susie Proctor (email@example.com, 410-841-3083)
- Pam Queen (firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-841-3380)
- Sandy Rosenberg (email@example.com, 410-841-3297)
- Carlo Sanchez (firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-841-3340)
- Will Smith (Will.Smith@house.state.md.us, 410-841-3493)
- Charles Sydnor (Charles.Sydnor@house.state.md.us, 410-841-3802)
- Joe Vallario (email@example.com, 410-841-3488)
Issue 2. Field Leaders: Safe Alternatives to Solitary ConfinementMarch, 2016
Moving Beyond Solitary Confinement: Making the Case for Public Safety
An Interview with Rick Raemisch
Director of the Department of Corrections, Colorado
with Susannah Rose
In 2011, when Tom Clements was hired as Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC), 1500 people – nearly 7 percent of the state’s prisoners – were in solitary confinement. A person stayed in a cell 23 hours a day, often for years. Then one day, often with no transition, he or she was on a bus going home. Tom Clements wanted to change the state’s use of solitary confinement, and in the two years he had in office, he cut the number of people in solitary confinement in half. But he didn’t get the chance to complete his work. On March 19, 2013, he opened the door of his home and was murdered by a man who had recently been released directly to the community from solitary confinement.
As Tom Clements’s successor, Rick Raemisch was charged by Governor John Hickenlooper with making the changes Tom Clements had not lived long enough to complete. The Governor wanted to limit or eliminate solitary confinement for people with mental illness. He wanted to understand and address the needs of people who were in solitary confinement for long periods. And he wanted to reduce the number of them released back to their community without preparation.
The new Director shared the passion for change, and he thought it would help him as a leader to understand something of what it felt like to endure solitary confinement. In January 2014 he had himself committed to an administrative segregation cell with a steel door and the bed, toilet, and sink bolted to the floor. He expected some quiet time, he says, but there was no quiet: only blaring televisions, banging, and the loud screaming of angry prisoners. The lights stayed on all night, and prisoners were awakened at intervals throughout the night for required checks by correctional officers. After only 20 hours, as he wrote in a New York Times editorial, he was wondering how long it would take for the experience to “chip away” at his sane mind. What would it be like to endure this for years? What would it be like to endure it with mental illness?
Standing with Muslims, faith groups buy banners
Rabbi Charles Feinberg and Sandra Miller
(RNS) The banners proclaim it in large, red letters: “Honor God — say no to anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Rabbi Charles Feinberg, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Interfaith Action for Human Rights, the organization that conceived the idea for the banner, keeps the prototype in the front seat of his car, and unfurls it whenever he’s among a large group of the faithful — no matter their religion. His aim is to get churches, synagogues and other houses of worship to order the banner, and plant or hang it prominently in public view.
“We would love to see many, many communities — many different religious communities – display it on their properties as a sign of support and as a way to counter some of the hate speech in our communities,” Feinberg told an interfaith gathering in Silver Spring, Maryland recently. The room gave him a warm round of applause, and a few people raised their hands, gesturing that they would be placing an order.
Feinberg said a handful of houses of worship have signed on so far to the banner campaign, which IAHR is promoting with Shoulder-to-Shoulder, and interfaith group created to oppose Islamophobia, and Tru’ah, a human rights organization led by Jewish clergy.
To read the rest of the article, please click here.