Making history last week, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act is retroactive — meaning that thousands of individuals currently imprisoned under the discriminatory 100:1 crack/powder cocaine disparity may apply for sentence reduction. In 2010 the Fair Sentencing Act reduced the original disparity to 18:1, and for years advocates have been concerned that the new ratio only applied to people sentenced and charged after 2010.
The disparity in question came about as a result of a federal law called the Anti-Abuse Act passed in 1986 as a part of the infamous "War on Drugs." This law introduced a huge (100 to 1) disparity between the penalty for possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine. A person had to possess 500 grams of powder cocaine before they were subject to the same mandatory prison sentence (5 years) as those possessing just 5 grams of crack cocaine, despite the fact that the two drugs have identical chemical compositions, thereby punishing small-scale crack cocaine users more severely than powder cocaine users.More »
On Thursday, Governor Martin O'Malley signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Maryland. The bill was passed by the General Assembly in March after having languished in the Senate Judiciary Committee for years — failing to reach the floor in 10 of the previous 12 sessions.
The bill finally reached the floor thanks in part to pressure from ColorOfChange members and coalition partners. The heated floor debate in both chambers marked the first time since the practice was reinstated in 1978 that either the House or the Senate deliberated the death penalty.More »
UPDATE: (4/24/13) The Delaware House Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on Senate Bill 19 today. You can follow the hearings by watching the hashtag #DERepeal for tweets from our coalition partners.
Delaware recently took a huge step toward becoming the 19th state in the country to abolish the death penalty. Just before the legislature's spring recess, the Delaware Senate passed SB19, which would repeal capital punishment in the state. Lawmakers returned to Dover today, and the House of Representatives is expected to begin deliberations on the bill shortly. Thus far, Governor Jack Markell has been silent on his position.
Across the country, race has been shown to be a determining factor in whether a defendant receives the death penalty, but in Delaware the problem is particularly pronounced. Delaware has sentenced Black defendants to death for the murder of white victims at a higher rate than South Carolina and Georgia combined.
Read the email we sent to our Delaware ColorOfChange members after the jump, and if you're a Delaware resident, please urge the state House and Gov. Markell to repeal the death penalty.More »
This week, we submitted nearly 25,000 public comments from ColorOfChange members all over the country to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is considering implementing rules to crack down on price gouging in the prison phone industry. The Huffington Post reported on our campaign, highlighting corruption in the industry that allows phone companies, corrections agencies and private prisons to strike deals that make them the most money, while leaving the families and loved ones of incarcerated individuals struggling to pay artificially inflated rates.
As a testament to the powerful voices of ColorOfChange members, over 3,300 of the comments we collected were from everyday people moved to share personal stories of their experiences with outrageous phone charges or other reasons why the campaign is important to them — and these voices are making a difference. After the jump, take a look at some of the member comments we found particularly compelling, and let us know in the comments if you've been impacted by the high cost of prison phone calls.More »
For the millions of families with an incarcerated loved one, exorbitant prison phone rates make staying in touch a serious financial burden — and for some, just not an option. All across the country, phone providers and prisons reap profits in the millions from hiking up phone rates, while people like Martha Wright, an 86-year-old grandmother, are forced to choose between medication, food, and speaking with her grandson.
Public corrections agencies and private prisons strike deals that will benefit them the most, and in some states commissions on phone calls — kickbacks — can make up as much as 60% of phone charges. The burden of this explicitly exploitative practice weighs heavily on Black families, whose communities are disproportionately policed and targeted for incarceration. Maintaining family bonds while in prison is key for mitigating the countless challenges of imprisonment, and is known to greatly decrease recidivism and facilitate re-entry.
Now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering capping prison call prices in line with rates available to the public, and will be accepting public comments through Monday. After the jump, check out the email sent to our members, and don't forget to sign the petition calling on the FCC to step end the predatory phone rates.More »
UPDATE: On Friday, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to repeal the death penalty without amendments by a vote of 14-8. The bill is expected to be debated by the full House starting this week. Please take a moment to call your delegates and tell them you support repealing the death penalty without amendments.
Earlier last week, the campaign to end the death penalty cleared a major hurdle when the Senate voted 27-20 in favor of a bill repealing this inhumane punishment. The Senate and Senate President Mike Miller blocked repeal efforts in 10 of the last 12 sessions. The bill now moves on to the House of Delegates. Governor O'Malley is ready to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.More »
One year ago, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was unjustly pursued and killed while walking home from a convenience store in Sanford, Florida. For weeks after Trayvon's murder, police failed to take his shooter, George Zimmerman, into custody. This lack of accountability was a tragic reminder of the racism persistent in the criminal justice system and it sparked a national outrage. ColorOfChange members and our allies, have worked tirelessly to demand justice for Trayvon, and an end to Shoot First laws — the laws used to protect Trayvon's killer from justice. As a result of these efforts, Zimmerman may stand trial in June. But even with a trial date planned, we must continue to demand justice.More »
On Thursday night, the Maryland Senate Judical Proceedings (JPR) Committee voted 6-5 in favor of approving SB276— the bill that would repeal the death penalty. Previous repeal bills have failed to get out of the JPR committee in 10 of the last 12 General Assembly sessions. Thanks in part to the hard work of Maryland ColorOfChange members making calls, sending tweets and signing a petition in support of the bill, Maryland is closer to repealing the death penalty than it has been in 30 years.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for floor debate. It is crucial that the bill pass the Senate without additional amendments. Please take a moment and call your Senator to tell them you support the death penalty repeal bill without any further amendments.More »
In his final State of the City address last Thursday, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that beginning in March, most people arrested in NYC for possessing small amounts of marijuana will be released and ordered to return to court, rather than being held overnight. That's good news for the more than 600,000 mostly Black and Brown people that have been arrested for marijuana possession during the last 15 years in New York City. Bloomberg also indicated support for Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed law to make small possessions of marijuana a violation rather than a misdemeanor.
The Mayor was right to institute this stop-gap measure, but it shouldn't distract from the real remedy to racially-biased marijuana currently waiting for a vote in the State Legislature. ColorOfChange members and our allies have been fighting for a deeper resolution. Please join us in calling on New York state legislators to end discriminatory and illegal marijuana arrests.More »
Today, both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly are holding hearings on the bill to repeal the death penalty. ColorOfChange submitted written testimony including the names and comments of nearly one thousand Maryland members who signed our petition urging repeal.
Leading the testimony will be Governor Martin O'Malley, a staunch supporter of repeal. He will be joined on a panel by Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, NAACP President Ben Jealous, and the bill's chief sponsors — Senator Lisa Gladden and Delegate Sandy Rosenberg in their respective chambers.More »