In the last 2 weeks, Newark residents and others have met to begin planning a panel discussion on the topic of mass incarceration to be held on the steps of City Hall in Newark at 5:30 pm on Wednesday July 30.
We are hoping to use this event to launch a statewide coordinated effort to bring about the passage of what we call The NJ Decarceration Act that will call for sweeping reductions in NJ’s state prison populations. We are sure that you have heard the statistics, how this nation has 6% of the world’s population yet holds 25% of the world’s prisoners, more than every other country on the planet.
Already, close to 1000 NJ residents have signed a petition with specific proposals as to how this can be accomplished.
While there are many political and social sectors now calling for one kind of “prison reform” or another, given the racist and classist way that this state and nation determines who gets arrested, who gets prosecuted, who gets sentenced and for how long, it is of utmost importance that our communities take the lead in structuring the kind of decarceration legislation that is initiated and fought for. We need to take the first step.
Our panel discussion will consist of three mini panels:
1. The first will be a broad overview of the mass incarceration issue that will break down the social function of mass incarceration, what interests it serves, who profits and gains from it. We will also discuss the racist element, how it is used to control our communities, the conditions of prisons, the treatment of prisoners, the health toll on the incarcerated and the forms of torture deployed in prisons. Last but not least will we demonstrate how mass incarceration devastates families as well as communities socially, politically and economically in some form of fashion.
2. The second mini panel will represent voices of Newark in discussing the specifics on a local level. The Newark community will express the toll mass incarceration takes within the community. The importance around this issue is critical to the survival and well being of the Newark community.
3. The third mini panel will talk about organizing this effort going forward, how to press for the introduction of NJ Decarceration Act, how to have similar forums in the other communities around NJ, how to approach the NJ legislature on the issue, how to mobilize support from within the community and families that are directly affected by mass incarceration.
While we have held two meetings, so far we have discussed primarily the logistics. We are hoping that Newark’s rich and diverse array of activist organizations and voices participate and become part of this effort. Our next meeting to continue organizing the panel will occur on Wednesday, June 25 6:30 pm at 298 S. 6th Street on the corner of So. Orange Av. ( the old habitat for humanity building).
We invite your members, organizers and leaders as individuals as well as your organization to become part of this effort. We believe there is tremendous potential for success to deliver real and significant decarceration in NJ though our organizations and individuals working in common purpose to demand the passage and implementation of a NJ Decarceration Act. We have drafted a letter to NJ Senator Ron Rice urging him to take the initiative toward introduction of the NJ Decarceration Act. We urge your members and your organization to also make similar contact with Sen. Rice and other NJ representatives.
Please be encouraged to contact us at (908-881-5275) with any questions or ideas you have and we hope that you and / or a representative of your organization can attend the next meeting and participate in the event.
Veronica Branch Milton Conway Cassandra Dock Brittani Johnson
Michael Allen Hobbs Beautiful SeeAsia Ruben E. Mendez Bob Witanek