Last week in an op-ed for the Albany Times Union, ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson called on New York's Senate to eliminate the legal loophole incentivizing the NYPD's aggressive use of Stop and Frisk, which results in thousands of racially-targeted marijuana arrests each year. Although Blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, Black New Yorkers are 4.5 times more likely than whites to face criminal charges for marijuana possession.
Rashad notes that inaction on reform by the all-white Senate leadership coalition speaks volumes about these Senators' comfort with governing Black and brown New York differently than white communities. To date, over 9,000 ColorOfChange members have joined our campaign to end discriminatory marijuana arrests. If you live in New York, please take a moment to call the Senate leadership to help keep the pressure on to reform this racially biased, costly law before the legislature concludes its session June 20th.More »
Discriminatory and abusive policing tactics deployed by the NYPD have become a national scandal. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, police have logged more than 5 million street stops of mostly Black and Latino residents, very few of whom are ever charged with actual wrongdoing. Our community members are being targeted by the NYPD largely based on the color of our skin. And some of these unjust stops escalate to violence and injuries, or — in some tragic instances — death.
Each of us can do our part to deter police misconduct and violence across the five boroughs. That's why ColorOfChange and our community partners have launched Cop Watch NYC — an innovative new tool that makes it easier to track and publicize police encounters in our neighborhoods. If enough New Yorkers routinely exercise our right to film the police, officers will think twice before engaging in discriminatory and abusive tactics.More »
In April, North Carolina ColorOfChange members said no to HB 217, an extreme bill that would have routinely sent children as young as 13 to adult prison by eliminating judges' discretion over how young people are charged. Our voices made a difference — in response to public outrage, the bill was amended to drop its focus on the youngest defendants.
But the changes are not enough. In the current version of the bill, prosecutors are still given unchecked power to send kids as young as 15 to facilities with negligible rehabilitative support, where they face a greatly increased likelihood of sexual abuse and suicide.
This week, HB 217 will get a hearing in the Senate judiciary committee, and it's likely our best and last chance to turn back this dangerous assault on North Carolina youth. Before the committee votes, its members need to hear that we won't accept any version of this bill that makes prosecutors more powerful than judges when it comes to deciding the fate of our children. If you live in North Carolina, please take a moment to call key committee members and urge them to vote no on HB 217.More »
UPDATE: 6/1/2013 The Department of Justice has appealed the 6th Circuit Court ruling making the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. The ruling is stayed until the appeals process is complete.
Making history last week, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act is retroactive — meaning that thousands of individuals within the Court's jurisdiction and currently imprisoned under the discriminatory 100:1 crack/powder cocaine disparity may apply for sentence reduction. In 2010 the Fair Sentencing Act reduced the original disparity to 18:1, and for years advocates have been concerned that the new ratio only applied to people sentenced and charged after 2010.
The disparity in question came about as a result of a federal law called the Anti-Drug Abuse Act passed in 1986 as a part of the infamous "War on Drugs." This law introduced a huge (100 to 1) disparity between the penalty for possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine. A person had to possess 500 grams of powder cocaine before they were subject to the same mandatory prison sentence (5 years) as those possessing just 5 grams of crack cocaine, despite the fact that the two drugs have identical chemical compositions, thereby punishing small-scale crack cocaine users more severely than powder cocaine users.More »
On Thursday, Governor Martin O'Malley signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Maryland. The bill was passed by the General Assembly in March after having languished in the Senate Judiciary Committee for years — failing to reach the floor in 10 of the previous 12 sessions.
The bill finally reached the floor thanks in part to pressure from ColorOfChange members and coalition partners. The heated floor debate in both chambers marked the first time since the practice was reinstated in 1978 that either the House or the Senate deliberated the death penalty.More »
UPDATE: (4/24/13) The Delaware House Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on Senate Bill 19 today. You can follow the hearings by watching the hashtag #DERepeal for tweets from our coalition partners.
Delaware recently took a huge step toward becoming the 19th state in the country to abolish the death penalty. Just before the legislature's spring recess, the Delaware Senate passed SB19, which would repeal capital punishment in the state. Lawmakers returned to Dover today, and the House of Representatives is expected to begin deliberations on the bill shortly. Thus far, Governor Jack Markell has been silent on his position.
Across the country, race has been shown to be a determining factor in whether a defendant receives the death penalty, but in Delaware the problem is particularly pronounced. Delaware has sentenced Black defendants to death for the murder of white victims at a higher rate than South Carolina and Georgia combined.
Read the email we sent to our Delaware ColorOfChange members after the jump, and if you're a Delaware resident, please urge the state House and Gov. Markell to repeal the death penalty.More »
This week, we submitted nearly 25,000 public comments from ColorOfChange members all over the country to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is considering implementing rules to crack down on price gouging in the prison phone industry. The Huffington Post reported on our campaign, highlighting corruption in the industry that allows phone companies, corrections agencies and private prisons to strike deals that make them the most money, while leaving the families and loved ones of incarcerated individuals struggling to pay artificially inflated rates.
As a testament to the powerful voices of ColorOfChange members, over 3,300 of the comments we collected were from everyday people moved to share personal stories of their experiences with outrageous phone charges or other reasons why the campaign is important to them — and these voices are making a difference. After the jump, take a look at some of the member comments we found particularly compelling, and let us know in the comments if you've been impacted by the high cost of prison phone calls.More »
For the millions of families with an incarcerated loved one, exorbitant prison phone rates make staying in touch a serious financial burden — and for some, just not an option. All across the country, phone providers and prisons reap profits in the millions from hiking up phone rates, while people like Martha Wright, an 86-year-old grandmother, are forced to choose between medication, food, and speaking with her grandson.
Public corrections agencies and private prisons strike deals that will benefit them the most, and in some states commissions on phone calls — kickbacks — can make up as much as 60% of phone charges. The burden of this explicitly exploitative practice weighs heavily on Black families, whose communities are disproportionately policed and targeted for incarceration. Maintaining family bonds while in prison is key for mitigating the countless challenges of imprisonment, and is known to greatly decrease recidivism and facilitate re-entry.
Now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering capping prison call prices in line with rates available to the public, and will be accepting public comments through Monday. After the jump, check out the email sent to our members, and don't forget to sign the petition calling on the FCC to step end the predatory phone rates.More »
UPDATE: On Friday, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to repeal the death penalty without amendments by a vote of 14-8. The bill is expected to be debated by the full House starting this week. Please take a moment to call your delegates and tell them you support repealing the death penalty without amendments.
Earlier last week, the campaign to end the death penalty cleared a major hurdle when the Senate voted 27-20 in favor of a bill repealing this inhumane punishment. The Senate and Senate President Mike Miller blocked repeal efforts in 10 of the last 12 sessions. The bill now moves on to the House of Delegates. Governor O'Malley is ready to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.More »
One year ago, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was unjustly pursued and killed while walking home from a convenience store in Sanford, Florida. For weeks after Trayvon's murder, police failed to take his shooter, George Zimmerman, into custody. This lack of accountability was a tragic reminder of the racism persistent in the criminal justice system and it sparked a national outrage. ColorOfChange members and our allies, have worked tirelessly to demand justice for Trayvon, and an end to Shoot First laws — the laws used to protect Trayvon's killer from justice. As a result of these efforts, Zimmerman may stand trial in June. But even with a trial date planned, we must continue to demand justice.More »