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State Advocacy News: Direct Services to End Life Imprisonment

November 26, 2019
Community organizations working to challenge life imprisonment are anchoring campaigns to address mass incarceration.

Community organizations working to challenge life imprisonment are anchoring campaigns to address mass incarceration. Several groups provide direct services like parole preparation or commutation assistance for persons serving life sentences. These service programs meet the immediate needs of those incarcerated and provide an avenue for persons directly impacted, including loved ones, to enter reform organizing efforts. Community organizers often provide parole preparation workshops for family members and the incarcerated and reentry support. These efforts help build the base to challenge life imprisonment and connect new leaders to reform efforts.

Parole Preparation

Several organizations including California’s Anti-Recidivism Coalition, New York’s Parole Preparation Project and Louisiana’s The Parole Project offer support in parole preparation to persons sentenced to parole eligible life sentences. The groups provide representation and reentry coaching for persons released from long prison terms. Groups in Texas and Michigan also connect parole preparation trainings with ongoing reform campaigns.

Commutation Applications

Some persons sentenced to life without parole have successfully sought commutations reducing their prison terms, to make their release a possibility. Groups like the California Coalition for Women Prisoners through the Drop LWOP campaign developed a commutation application guide. Campaign organizers report commutation support serves as an organizing strategy to connect incarcerated persons and their supporters to services and advocacy efforts.

Advocacy Leadership

Service delivery practices have enabled linkages between clients and reform efforts. UnCommon Law centers formerly incarcerated clients as Parole Success Advocates who participate in several initiatives including legislative reform and leadership development.

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The Sentencing Project and UnCommon Law hosted a conversation on reforming life sentences in San Francisco. Pictured left to right: Ashley Nellis and Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project, Miguel Quezada of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice – CURJ, and Keith Wattley of UnCommon Law.

Other News

Alabama – State advocates urge prison reform to address chronic overcrowding.

Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds says she will work to expand voting rights next session and explore other criminal justice reforms.

Kentucky – Lawmakers plan to reintroduce a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to most persons with felony convictions.

Michigan – Policymakers advanced several measures to make it easier for certain state residents to seal their conviction histories.

New Jersey – Lawmakers voted A-5823 out of committee. The legislation expands voting rights to persons with felony convictions on probation or parole.

New Jersey – Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission recommends elimination of mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses .

New York – Advocates rallied for more investment in community services to challenge mass incarceration.

Oklahoma – Advocacy group plans ballot initiative to prohibit the consideration of prior non-violent felony convictions as justification to enhance sentences for additional felony convictions.

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