NYC March Tomorrow; Mass. 3-Strikes Vote TODAY

November 17th 2011 Day of Action

(1) Day of Action Tomorrow: If you are in or near New York City, try to make it to tomorrow’s Day of Action. I think it’s important to show the power of the movement after yesterday’s early morning eviction from Zuccotti Park.

(2) Mass. House to Vote on “Three-Strikes” Bill: I was shocked to hear that the Mass. State Senate voted unanimously for what sounds like it would be the harshest “three-strikes” law in the country.  Here’s the action alert I got from Lois Ahrens of the Real Cost of Prisons Project:

EMERGENCY ACTION NEEDED BY YOU NOW ON H3811:  An Act Relative to Habitual Offenders

Today the House submitted its version of the Habitual Offender Bill (see attached).

This Bill which was rushed into consideration in the House, would result in three strikes sentences in MA mandating life without parole.
H3811 is even harsher than the notorious California Three Strikes law, which permits parole after 25 years.

It will be voted on TOMORROW (Wednesday). Please call your Rep as soon as possible on Wednesday. After tomorrow, the House will be in recess.

Find them here:<> and enter your address.
Calling is preferable to emailing because of the time crunch.
Tell them ***your preference is for them to STAND UP TO ILL-CONCEIVED LAW-MAKING AND VOTE NO.
You can also join EPOCA which will be lobbying Reps at the Statehouse tomorrow and do this in person.

Talking points for calls:

1)This Bill has been proposed in an extremely  hurried way with no research on what these measures will cost.
2) Research has shown that 3 strikes bills do not reduce crime.
3)Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, New Jersey, New York and Michigan have all taken a thoughtful look at costs and crime rates without locking up more people or enacting tougher new laws; all have saved money and reduced crime by providing more substance abuse treatment both in the community and in prison. MA DOC only spends 2.4% of its budget on programming and by implementing effective parole practices that help parolees become tax paying, lawful citizens.

***Ask if the REP has decided how he/she will be voting and if he/she says they will vote yes, despite your protests, then you can take this next move.
1) changing life without parole to: 25 years to life (to Section 2 & 3 of the bill)–Murphy
2) In Section 3,Linsky’s amendment deletes less serious crimes from the 3x portion of the bill
3) In Section 3, Murphy’s amendment requires that a prisoner sentenced to 3x must have served at least one day in a state prison

If you want to make one more call, contact  Eugene O’Flaherty, Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. His number is:
617-722-2396 and email:

Or Brian S. Dempsey, Chair, Hosue Ways and Means Committee: 617-722-2990
And Stephen Kulik, Vice Chair-617-722-2380

Let’s get out to our State Reps IMMEDIATELY.

After you have contacted your Rep, please forward this to WIDELY!

And here’s the email I sent to my state rep:

Dear Rep. Basile,

I’m writing as an East Boston resident and one of your constituents to urge you to vote against  H3811, which would give Massachusetts the harshest “three-strikes” law in the country, harsher even than California’s notorious three-strikes law, which permits parole after 25 years, as this bill, unamended, would not.  Three strikes laws are costly and studies have shown that they do not reduce crime. Other states, including Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, New Jersey, New York, and Michigan have conducted thorough studies and rejected this approach. The money that would be spent with enhanced sentencing should instead be used for drug treatment and job training and other help for people when they get out of prison. These are the strategies that reduce crime and make communities safer.

I was shocked that Sen. Petrucelli voted in favor of this bill, when the general trend in this country is away from failed “tough on crime” policies in favor of “smart on crime” policies.

If you do vote for H3811, I strongly urge you to vote for the amendments advanced by Charles Murphy (changing the third strike from life without parole to 25 years to life) and by David Linsky (which deletes less serious crimes from the bill).

Finally, I know that Sen. Petrucelli voted against reducing the school-zone sentencing enhancement distance from 500 feet to 250 feet.  I am not sure whether the House has voted on this yet, but I strongly urge you to vote for the amendment reducing it to 250 feet. Studies show that it should be reduced to even less.  These geographical sentencing enhancements do not keep children safer and contribute to racial disparities in sentencing, since in urban areas, where people of color disproportionately live, many more people within 500 feet of a school. A drug crime may have nothing at all to do with schoolchildren yet someone convicted in an urban area is punished more harshly.  Unfair sentencing disparities end up splitting up families, incarcerating parents for longer, and harming neighborhoods and communities, and thereby harming children rather than helping them.  For more information on this, please see this study by the Prison Policy Initiative, of which I am a board member.

The ways Sen. Petrucelli voted on these bills and amendments are the wrong direction for East Boston and Massachusetts. Please do not vote the way the senator voted.


Christopher J. Sturr

If you live in Massachusetts, please take the time to contact your state rep.
(3) New Report on Private Prisons: In the late 1990s, there was lots of talk about the growth of private prisons;  then for a few years it looked like they weren’t grown as people expected, after some scandals seemed to indicate that the cost-cutting the private-prison companies engaged in led to horrible conditions and (as I remember it) some states backed off from contracts with the companies. The early concerns about the use of prison labor also seemed to be overstated;  my understanding is that the use of prison labor didn’t take off in the way that some people predicted, partly because, as convenient as it is to have a literally captive workforce, the “custodial” needs of the prison–e.g. the need for frequent lock-downs for security reasons–tended to get in the way of production. Trends like these have led some people to question the idea of a “prison industrial complex”–as problematic as it is to have 2.3 million (!) people in prison or jail (and many more millions under surveillance by the state via probation or parole), mass incarceration isn’t driven by profit, according to this view.

But a new study by PICO and the Public Campaign, Unholy Alliance: How the Private Prison Industry is Corrupting Our Democracy and Promoting Mass Incarceration (hat-tip to Phineas B.) suggests that at least the private prison component of the PIC may be having a resurgence.  So maybe profits are more of a driver of mass incarceration after all.

(4) Bill Fletcher on #OWS: Occupy Together and “Mass Left Radicalism.” Bill Fletcher is great.  I like his call for new tactics, and I like that he says that the movement “offers a home to anti-capitalism.” (Again in today’s New York Times, an article about London’s #OWS-inspired encampment in front of St. Paul’s refers to “anti-capitalism protesters,” but they have yet to use the term “anti-capitalist” to describe the U.S. movement, as if this is literally unthinkable here, even when it’s obvious. It’s called “Occupy Wall Street,” why ever would anyone think it was anti-capitalist?)

(5) Iceland’s New Bank Disaster: From Naked Capitalism–I’ve been meaning to post this.  Lots of people (including me) are surprised to hear this, when we thought the good people of Iceland had beaten back the banks.

(6) #OWS/Tea Party Faceoff Infographic: Hat-tip to AW.

–Chris Sturr

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