March Against Mass Incarceration

On September 19 in Springfield and Amherst, there will be marches against mass incarceration. The marches are being organized by local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which has a web site at www.naacp.org.

The Springfield event starts with a rally at 11 a.m. at Mason Square Green. The protesters will then march to City Hall.

The Amherst march starts at 10 a.m. from two locations: Haigis Mall at UMass and Hampshire College's Groff Park. Both Amherst marches will end at Sweetser Park in Amherst, across from the police station.

The marches are also about police misconduct, poverty, and other issues.

Chris Fabricant is a lawyer and former professor of law in New York City. He works for the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that has freed 329 people in the USA from prison by proving they did not commit the crime they were imprisoned for. Each of those people spent an average of 14 years in prison. Seventeen of the people who were freed had been sentenced to death but were freed before the government could execute them.

In May 2015, Fabricant told the Valley Post that George Perrot of Springfield, Massachusetts has been in prison since 1985 for a crime he did not commit. “We hope and expect that Mr. Perrot will be granted a new trial, considering that false and misleading 'scientific' evidence was used to secure his conviction,” Fabricant said.

On September 11, 2015 a judge heard Fabricant's arguments about why Perrot should be released. A ruling is expected soon.

The Innocence Project, which has a web site at www.innocenceproject.org, is also working to free a New Hampshire man who is in prison in Massachusetts. Robert Breest of Concord, New Hampshire has been in prison since 1971 for a crime that he and the Innocence Project say he did not commit. Last month, Fabricant filed an appeal with the New Hampshire supreme court. A decision is expected soon.

The USA has about 2.2 million people in prison or jail. That is a 500 percent increase over the past 30 years. (The nation's population increased 34 percent in the past 30 years.)

African Americans and Latinos are much more likely to be in prison in the USA than white people. That's according to this web page, published by lawyers in Northampton:

www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/raceinc.html

No other nation on earth incarcerates such a high percentage of its people. As of 2008, the USA had about 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. "England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63." That's according to "U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations," an article by Adam Liptak that appeared in the New York Times on April 23, 2008.

According to the New York Review of Books, "Now and then a book comes along that might in time touch the public and educate social commentators, policymakers, and politicians about a glaring wrong that we have been living with that we also somehow don’t know how to face. 'The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness' by Michelle Alexander [published in 2010] is such a work."

On the book’s web site, she lists groups that work to reduce the number of prisoners in the USA:

www.NewJimCrow.com/take-action

The book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond explains why the average black person is much poorer than the average white person. Rich people can afford better lawyers.

In 2012, a judge ordered John Grega released from prison in Springfield, Vermont, near Brattleboro, after 18 years in prison for a murder that he probably did not commit. The murder happened in 1994 in Dover, Vermont, which is also near Brattleboro.

As of 2000, there were about 200,000 wrongfully convicted people in prison in the USA. That's according to the book “Actual Innocence” by New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer and two other authors.

About half the people in U.S. prisons are there for non-violent crimes, mostly related to drugs.

As of 2010, there were 665 Vermonters at private prisons in Kentucky and Arizona. The prisoners were sent there by the state of Vermont. The prisons are owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). To boost profits, CCA and other prison corporations lobby for harsher punishment for possession of drugs. These corporations pay their CEOs millions of dollars a year. Being far from home means the prisoners lose contact with friends and family, making it harder for them to find housing and a job when they get out. This makes it more likely they will end up back in prison, costing taxpayers around $50,000 a year per inmate.

Suzi Wizowaty is a former elected member of the Vermont legislature. She runs a group that works to reduce the number of people that Vermont imprisons. The group's web site is:

www.VermontersForCriminalJusticeReform.org

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