We know mass incarceration resulted from a mix of policy and practice choices among lawmakers and justice officials. Advocates are seeking to influence criminal justice policy at the state level in order to advance reform. And this year, a substantial number of legislative measures were introduced to address mass incarceration.
What’s Your Advocacy Strategy?
The criminal justice reform coalition you are working with works hard to identify a policy goal to challenge mass incarceration. Coalition partners are exploring ways to animate state lawmakers to adopt reforms and enable change. Reforms happen when you advocate for them.
Advocacy successes happen in small and large coalitions and among groups with deep resources or shoestring budgets. Successful advocacy strategies identify concrete policy goals and leverage effective tactics to accomplish reform.
Let’s take a look at an example from South Carolina. Hearts for Inmates wants to retroactively recalibrate the state’s truth-in-sentencing structure from an 85-percent minimum time served to a 65-percent time served, similar to reforms in Louisiana and Mississippi. The group has earned a strong reputation due to its effective grassroots engagement and community mobilization. The group’s advocacy strategy is comprised of various tactics to achieve its goal of truth- in-sentencing reform. Following an advocacy training where members learned about the South Carolina legislature, organizers leveraged tactics in support of sentencing reform.
- Coalition members have organized around a petition that now has over 17,000 signatures.
- Hearts for Inmates members were encouraged to send letters and emails and to schedule meetings with state legislators to discuss the truth-in-sentencing reform. The group posts calls to action via its Facebook page, which allows for regular engagement with members. Earlier this year, Facebook added the Town Hall icon that easily connects persons to their elected officials.
- Hearts for Inmates has also earned recognition through public events and discussions. Since its founding, Hearts for Inmates has organized rallies on the steps of the capitol building, hosted a legislative breakfast, and mobilized members to attend legislative hearings.
Hearts for Inmates advocates at the South Carolina State House
These are just some of the tactics that can make up your advocacy strategy. So, get out there and start advocating. If you would like help in creating your advocacy strategy and planning advocacy tactics that will get your policy goals passed, let us help. Whether it is hosting a conversation at your state capitol on life sentences or working closely with a legislative champion to challenge collateral consequences, there are practical successes to look to in the movement to address mass incarceration.
Want to discuss your 2018 advocacy plan for state criminal justice reform? Contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org
Connecticut – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced plans to close a medium-security prison in 2018 following declines in the state prison population.
Louisiana – The state released 1,900 incarcerated persons earlier this month. Persons were released due to a provision in the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative that passed earlier this year. Persons convicted of non-violent offenses who have served 35% of their prison sentences are eligible for early release.
Massachusetts – House lawmakers are scheduled to debate a comprehensive criminal justice reform package this month. The Senate passed its own version of the massive criminal justice overhaul in October. Both chambers are looking to scale back mandatory minimums and address collateral consequences.
Virginia – More than 168,000 residents with felony convictions were newly eligible to vote in this month’s election. Outgoing Gov. Terry McAullife granted eligible returning citizens the right to vote through executive action.