End Mass Incarceration
Each year, the United Parish Stretching into Justice Ministry Team chooses a theme to expand our shared learning and understanding of a specific important social issue and how it affects our lives as Christians; to focus and unify our congregation and call us into new service projects; and to engage our congregation with new people and service organizations. Currently the Team is developing a church-wide campaign to help end Mass Incarceration.
Upcoming End Mass Incarceration Events
Latest End Mass Incarceration News
HALLELUJAH! The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (G.B.I.O.) State House rally on Monday November 13 led into a resounding vote for comprehensive criminal justice reform late Tuesday evening. We have reached a new turning point in this social justice effort, dating back before the June 2015 United Parish All-Parish meeting vote to oppose mass incarceration.
Nearly 200 people – including United Parish representatives -- attended the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s rally that began with the group singing “Amazing Grace” and ended with a spirited rendition of “Nobody’s Going to Turn Me Around.” Islamic, Jewish and Christian religious leaders addressed the crowd, joined by three State Representatives and others. The United Parish (not a G.B.I.O. member) was recognized in the introductions, and we held the United Parish “End Mass Incarceration” banner outside the State House to welcome people arriving for the rally.
Meanwhile, inside the House chamber, State Reps. quickly voted unanimously for the “Council of State Governments (CSG) bill” filed by Governor Baker that takes more limited but helpful steps forward. Then attention turned to the broader reform bill on the floor, that advocates sought to strengthen with amendments filed in advance by supportive State Reps. (212 total amendments). The debate bogged down at times on Monday and Tuesday, but after 9:00 pm on Tuesday the House of Representatives passed the bill by a 144 - 9 vote.
What’s next? The state Senate had voted for an even more comprehensive bill on October 26 (27 – 10 vote). A Conference Committee will now be appointed to put together a final text, which must then return to both the Senate and House. Assuming a final favorable vote, the enacted bill goes to Governor Baker for his signature. Reform advocates will soon regroup to discuss how to approach this stage of the process. More information about the content of the bills will be forthcoming after the text of the House bill is publicly available.
Citizen input was crucial. Everyone agrees on this! Reform would not have happened without sustained citizen input on the issues plus all of the calls, visits, and emails to our elected representative together with the many rallies, such as the large Jobs Not Jails rally on November 1 and other Jobs Not Jails rallies dating back to 2015 that United Parish joined.
Thanks to the United Parish congregation for its support for social justice. And we need to organize thank you notes to our legislators who worked hard for reform.
All are welcome to this panel discussion on the State of Immigrant Rights in Massachusetts sponsored by Brookline Supporting Immigrants and United Parish's End Mass Incarceration group. The evening will include: (1) A ten minute fly-over review of the history of immigration policy in the U.S. trying to give some handles to grasp why immigration policy should be understood as one cog of the systematic racism machine. (2) An hour or so of presentation and Q&A with folks from Centro Presente focusing on threats to DACA and TPS (as well as these program's similarities and differences). This presentation will include a brief documentary Centro Presente has created about folks in Boston who have TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and why they have it. (3) An action/relationship building activity where attendees can write letters together to their representatives expressing their concern about these issues. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Thursday, October 26 7:00-9:00pm at United Parish (Sanctuary)
EUREKA! A comprehensive criminal justice reform bill has reached the state Senate floor. At over 100 pages it is difficult to summarize succinctly. Suffice it to say that the bill – now identified as Senate Bill 2170 – hits all the priorities set by Jobs NOT Jails and GBIO (Greater Boston Interfaith Organization). It repeals many (but not all) drug mandatory minimum sentences, curtails the state’s addiction to fees paid by low income people caught in the criminal justice system, sets a $1,500 felony larceny threshold, reforms CORI (criminal records) to get people back into the workforce, restrains solitary confinement, reforms the bail system, and raises the age for juvenile court jurisdiction to 19 years.
A BIG STATE HOUSE RALLY! On Wednesday over 175 people attended a rally inside the State House, where Senate President Rosenberg was the kick-off speaker. One-half of the members of the state Senate were present and added comments, alternating with many of the activists seeking comprehensive change, including EPOCA (Ex-Prisoners), GBIO, Jobs NOT Jails, League of Women Voters, Greater Boston Legal Services, Roca, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, and the Boston Bar Association. Marian Ryan, the Middlesex District Attorney, was one of the unexpected speakers. United Parish is well-represented among the Senate supporters. Before the Rally began Beverly Bowman approached Sen. Will Brownsberger, the bill’s chief architect, to say she was surprised to learn how many constituents he has in the U.P. congregation, drawing his quick response, “I’ll come to speak anytime.” Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (Jamaica Plain) is the lead sponsor of the Justice Reinvestment Act, the omnibus bill backed by Jobs NOT Jails. Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem (Brookline, Newton, parts of Wellesley) is the lead sponsor of the bill seeking repeal of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, a top priority. They are due a big “thank you” for their efforts to date.
AND THE HARD WORK BEGINS. Citizen activists have worked years to reach this milestone. Now we must turn the corner on the five-fold increase in incarceration in Massachusetts and redress our above-average racial and ethnic disparity. But you will have noticed the absence of State Representatives from this write-up. We don’t know yet where Speaker DeLeo or members of the more numerous (140 members) and more conservative House of Representatives really stand. Citizens must take up the challenge of contacting their State Reps to say that the time for comprehensive change is now. WITHIN U.P. we will reach out on our special Legislative Alert e-mail list. To check if you are on the list or to add your name to our list send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your help.