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Governor Bryant Opens Mississippi Summit on Criminal Justice Reform

Posted on 12/11/2018

JACKSON, MS – At the 2018 Mississippi Summit on Criminal Justice Reform today, elected leaders, law enforcement and corrections officials, and community advocates joined together to discuss Mississippi’s criminal justice system, and how to reduce its incarcerated population, keep communities safe, keep families together, and make better use of taxpayer dollars.

Governor Phil Bryant opened the Summit with keynote remarks, and addressed Mississippi’s recent reform efforts and urged further bipartisan work. “The strong criminal justice and corrections reforms that Mississippi has implemented since 2014 have had important effects, but we know we have more work to do. I am excited to be among today’s group of leaders to continue this vital work,” said Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant. “I have also been honored to work with President Trump on the First Step Act, which will bring much needed reform to our federal correctional system.”

The Summit’s programming will continue throughout the day, discussing the far-reaching impacts the criminal justice system has on families, the economy, and public safety in Mississippi communities. Later today, Mississippian Demario Davis – a Players Coalition Board Member and linebacker for the New Orleans Saints – will address the Summit on the need for reform in his home state of Mississippi. Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the American Conservative Union, and Van Jones, President and Co-founder of #cut50, will share their visions for reform in a bipartisan conversation. Additional panelists and speakers will also address the Summit on different policy reforms including reforms to drug sentencing, mandatory minimums, probation and parole supervision, and pretrial detention

The 2018 Mississippi Summit on Criminal Justice Reform is happening at a critical time. Mississippi has long been one of the nation’s top incarcerating states, and currently has the third highest imprisonment rate. Despite this record, Mississippi has made great strides in recent years, including a major reform effort in 2014. Now that the impacts of the 2014 reforms have taken effect, the state has new opportunities to build on its recent success – further reducing its incarcerated population while keeping communities safe, keeping families together, and making better use of taxpayer dollars.

Mississippians strongly support ambitious reforms to the state’s criminal justice system. Four out of five registered voters, including large majorities across the political spectrum, believe it is important to reduce the number of people behind bars in Mississippi. With the 2019 legislative session fast approaching, lawmakers have a clear mandate to enact commonsense criminal justice reform policies that will safely reduce incarceration, keep more Mississippi families together, and save taxpayer dollars.

The Summit is hosted by the Mississippi Reentry Council and sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, American Conservative Union Foundation, FAMM, FWD.us, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

To learn more about today’s Summit and see a full list of participants, visit MSSummitCJR.com.

Quotes from key participants in today’s 2018 Mississippi Summit on Criminal Justice Reform are below:

Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the American Conservative Union: “Conservatives are skeptical of unrestrained government, and that skepticism applies as much to wasteful spending programs as it does our criminal justice system. We over-criminalize and over incarcerate. We spend too much but get too little in terms of public safety. And we unnecessarily break up families and destroy human potential. In Washington, we are pushing hard to see President Trump’s First Step Act get enacted to improve our federal system. And we have seen Mississippi play a leading role in state criminal justice reform. But there’s always more work to be done to make our communities safer and our justice system more effective. The American Conservative Union stands with Gov. Bryant in taking that next step.”

Van Jones, President and Co-Founder of #cut50: “Mississippi’s current system is hurting communities and families, particularly those of color – but the state should be proud of meaningful recent actions it has taken to reduce its prison population while making its neighborhoods safer. Bipartisan efforts like today’s Summit are critical to helping heal the millions of American families that have been cruelly separated by our nation’s broken and outdated justice system.”

GROUNDBREAKING REPORT: Half of All U.S. Adults Have Immediate Family Member Currently or Previously Incarcerated

Posted on 12/06/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – A new, first-of-its-kind report released today finds that nearly half of all adults in the United States – approximately 113 million people – have an immediate family member who is either formerly or currently incarcerated. Based on new research conducted by FWD.us and Cornell University, this is the first ever national estimate of the share of Americans who have had an immediate family member spend time behind bars.

“These numbers are stunning, all the more so if you think of them not as numbers but as stories like mine,” said Felicity Rose, Director of Research and Policy for Criminal Justice Reform at FWD.us. “One of the worst parts of growing up with my father in and out of prison was the isolation and shame I felt. I hope that this new research energizes reform efforts and that it can help the millions of people who have also experienced family incarceration feel a little less alone this holiday season.”

Among the report’s key findings: nearly half of all adults living in the United States have experienced incarceration in their family. In fact, one in seven adults has had an immediate family member incarcerated for more than one year, and one in 34 has had a loved one incarcerated for 10 years or more.

While incarceration impacts people from all walks of life — for example, rates of family incarceration are similar for Republicans and Democrats — the impact is unevenly borne by communities of color and low-income families. Black people are 50 percent more likely than white adults to have a family member who is formerly or currently incarcerated, and a shocking three times more likely to have a family member who has spent at least ten years in prison.

The massive increase in jail and prison populations in the United States over the past 40 years means that more and more families have been touched by incarceration. Existing research clearly demonstrates that the experience of having a loved one incarcerated has serious consequences for the health and financial stability of our families. More than half (54 percent) of the parents who are incarcerated were the primary breadwinners in their families, and three-quarters were employed in the month prior to their arrest. The loss of a family’s primary income source is highly destabilizing and can push families into financial disaster. Having a loved one spend even a single night in jail can be destabilizing and deeply traumatic for family members and this harm can be magnified the longer a person is incarcerated.

“These new findings bring to light the staggering scale of the United States’ incarceration crisis, as nearly 1 in 2 American adults has an immediate family member who is currently or has previously spent time behind bars,” said Todd Schulte, President of FWD.us. “This research corroborates what too many families have known for too long: our current criminal justice system is harming our economy, communities, and families and undermining the promise of what America can and should be.”

The holiday season drives home the pain of millions of families across the country who remain separated from their loved ones due to our harmful criminal justice policies, which waste billions of taxpayer dollars while hurting our economy and failing to make our neighborhoods any safer. Today’s report underscores the far-reaching scope of the challenge, and the critical need for lawmakers at the state and federal level to pursue policies that support families impacted by incarcerated.

For more information and to read the full report, visit https://everysecond.fwd.us.

FWD.us Statement On Oklahoma Governor's Decision to Grant 21 Commutations Before The Holidays

Posted on 12/05/2018

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin granted commutations to 21 individuals who are serving decades-long prison sentences for low-level offenses that carry no prison terms or far shorter prison terms under current law. FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement on the commutations:

“Today’s decision by Governor Mary Fallin will allow 21 families to be reunited this evening. Gov. Fallin’s decision ensures children will be tucked into bed by their parents and the gift of love will be felt in their homes this holiday season. We welcome this important news and we applaud the Governor for her leadership in improving Oklahoma’s criminal justice system and helping individuals who were punished unfairly by outdated laws. But this work is far from done.

“Despite the state referendum, there are over a thousand people still in incarcerated because the reform measures are not retroactive. FWD.us is proud to stand with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform as we continue to call on the Oklahoma legislature to enact bold reforms that address excessive and unjust prison sentences, starting with making voter-approved reforms retroactive to help the more than one thousand Oklahomans still in prison for simple drug possession.”

NEW REPORT: Without Additional Reform, Oklahoma’s Prison Population Projected to Continue Growing

Posted on 11/16/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – New data released today shows that, without additional reform, Oklahoma’s prison population will grow by an additional 14 percent in the next ten years. According to research by FWD.us, Oklahoma is projected to have 31,000 people in prison by 2028, solidifying its position as the highest incarcerating state in the nation.

In the last few years, Oklahoma has implemented a number of measures aimed at safely reducing the state’s prison population, including State Question 780 which reclassified drug possession as a misdemeanor. Earlier this year, the legislature passed and Governor Mary Fallin signed into law a portion of the reforms heralded by the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force. However, research demonstrates that these measures will not be enough to turn the tide for the state’s ballooning prison population.

“Oklahoma has made significant strides in reforming its criminal justice system in recent years. But the job here is far from done,” said FWD.us President Todd Schulte. “With the 2019 legislative session fast approaching, this data is a call to action for state legislators. The package of reforms being developed by Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform is a good place to start.”

Much of this growth is due to increases in the number of people being sent to prison each year — instead of a community-based alternative like probation or drug court. The number of people entering prison rose 11 percent in 2018, with more than 10,000 people admitted to prison. That staggering statistic represents the highest single-year total in state history .

While this growth in Oklahoma’s prison population has negative effects on the entire state, women have been particularly damaged by the system. In the last year alone, the number of women sentenced to prison jumped by 21 percent, more than doubling the overall growth rate. Despite State Question 780 being in effect, 472 women entered prison for simple possession in 2018 — the highest number ever.

These findings come at a critical time for state policymakers who will be returning to the capitol in a few months. To safely stem Oklahoma’s projected prison growth, the bipartisan coalition Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, is endorsing policies to expand upon the critical work of the Task Force, reduce the number of women behind bars, and fulfill the goal of State Question 780. Many of these policies are supported by wide majorities of Oklahomans.

View the full findings here.