Monday, February 24, 2014

NNJCTF Gears Up for the Louisiana 2014 Legislative Session

On February 23rd, ten people braved the downpour to attend the Northshore New Jim Crow Task Force's first meeting of the year at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Lacombe. The group was very happy to welcome two new faces, and after introductions, Bonnie Schmidt opened the meeting with a review of recent activities in which members had participated, specifically the PICO-LA meeting in New Orleans and the Together Louisiana meeting in Baton Rouge. The focus of the meeting, however, was on upcoming legislation in the Louisiana legislature and on making our voices heard in the legislative process. Bonnie reminded the group that legislators have until February 28th to file legislation and that the 2014 session begins on March 10th. Although there are many bills worthy of attention, the NNJCTF is focusing on:
  • Ban the Box for State Contracts Act (eliminating the felony conviction check-box on employment applications for certain state contractor jobs--HB 217, Smith)
  • Reclassifying marijuana possession as a misdemeanor  and reducing mandatory sentencing for marijuana possession: HB 130, Honore; HB 14, Badon (At the time of this writing, the link to the bill of HB14 was incorrectly directed on the Legislature's website; the link here is to the digest or abstract of the bill.)
We hope that passage of these bills will be a step in reducing the high incarceration rates in Louisiana, will allow for fairer and more equal sentencing, and will help ex-offenders returning to the work force.

During the remainder of the meeting, the group discussed ways to communicate our concerns effectively. As part of that discussion, we viewed a Ted Talk by Omar Ahmad, an activist and former mayor of San Carlos, California (link here: and shared the personal experiences that motivated each of us to become involved in the grass roots movement of prison and sentencing reform.

It is very important that we, as citizens, become informed and active in the political process. Please let your legislators know how you stand on these bills--and others--by writing, e-mailing, or calling your legislators.

Useful links:
  1. To find your Louisiana and U. S. Legislators:
  2. To find links that will direct you to the web page of your state senator and contact information:
  3. To find links that will direct you to the web page of your representative and contact information: 
  4.  To access an index of House and Senate numbered bills:
  5. To follow the Louisiana House of Representatives on Twitter:
  6. To follow the State Legislature on Twitter:

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