Contact: Rabiah Burks
Families Rally to Demand Justice Reform
Washington – Families from across the nation gathered on the U.S. Capitol East Lawn Tuesday to urge lawmakers to take action on criminal justice reform in 2018. Many of the attendees were rallying for the passage of bills already introduced in Congress that could potentially impact parole, sentencing, and prison reform. Today, families will meet with individual lawmakers to voice their concerns.
“We’re sick and tired of waiting for Congress to pass criminal justice reform,” Kevin Ring, president of FAMM, said at yesterday’s rally. “We know our sentences are way too long, and prisons are doing nothing to rehabilitate people.”
Attendees and affected families expressed to Congress the need and urgency for effective reform. Many families with a loved one serving a harsh sentence addressed the crowd.
Veda Ajamu spoke about her brother, Robert Shipp, who received a life sentence for a low-level drug conspiracy. While Shipp received a sentence reduction due to the Drugs Minus Two amendment, Ajamu is still fighting for his release.
“While we are grateful for the reduction, this is still not true justice. So my fight for freedom and justice for my brother continues,” Ajamu said. “It continues until he walks out of those prison doors. I made a promise to my father on his deathbed that I would never, ever stop fighting for my brother’s freedom.”
Among the speakers were the children of prisoners, including Kendall and Kennadi Williams. Their father has been incarcerated since before Kendall was born.
“Imagine with me: you are about to turn 13, and you have to live your entire life knowing you may not see your dad for a really long time,” said Kendall Williams. “You eventually communicate with him and build a relationship. The more your relationship builds, the farther apart it seems you are. And eventually all you want to do is give him a hug to comfort him and let him know you believe in him, that you still love him. But you can’t, because you are 500 miles apart.”
Families also spoke about components of the bill such as increased good time credit, compassionate release reform, keeping federal prisoners within 500 driving miles of their loved ones, expanded use of home confinement, and additional funding for recidivism-reducing programming in prisons.
The rally was co-sponsored by FAMM, Justice Action Network, FreedomWorks, American Conservative Union Foundation, the Can-Do Foundation, #cut50, and Prison Fellowship.
Congressional speakers included: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA).
Rally speakers included: Amy Povah, president of the CAN-DO Foundation; James Ackerman, CEO of Prison Fellowship; Jessica Jackson Sloan of #Cut50; David Safavian of the ACU Foundation; Debbie DiMasi; Tony Lewis, Jr.; Sarah Anderson from FreedomWorks; Stephanie and Elizabeth Nodd; and Naomi Tharpe, girlfriend of Matthew Charles.
There was also a spoken word performance by Paine the Poet.
FAMM is a nonpartisan, national advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice reforms to make our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM promotes change by raising the voices of families and individuals who are directly affected by counterproductive sentencing and prison policies.
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