Sunday, August 30, 2015

Call to Action: Please Use This Blog

When the Northshore New Jim Crow Task Force began meeting two years ago, participants first read and discussed Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Those discussions led us to meet people who had real experience with the criminal justice system in Louisiana, from the formerly incarcerated to relatives of the incarcerated to defense lawyers. We dug deeper. Some of us became active in local and state politics, hoping to influence the legislature of the "prison capital of the world."

The work is not done.

We have gathered information on this blog to help people become informed of various issues related to mass incarceration and endemic racism which affect us all. We have heard people express that racism is in the past, that people should look ahead, not to what happened to their ancestors, but forward to the future. But the past has created the present. We deal with the consequences of the past every day. The material posted on this blog and the videos to which we have linked support that truth.

There is a wealth of information here to aid you on your journey of informative activism. Help yourself!

On our Resources page, you can find:
  • reports that review the history of slavery in America, history that many of us did not study in school;
  • reports on people in the United States being sent to prison for debts;
  • reports on the school-to-prison pipeline and the juvenile justice system;
  • links to online videos--documentaries that explore the difficulties that the incarcerated face when they are released from jail, that investigate the effects of the (failed) Drug War on people and communities, that suggest how we can reduce recidivism, that explore the treatment of the mentally ill in our criminal justice system;
  • and more....
On our Events page, you can find an event--local or regional in Louisiana, political, informative, or celebratory--that you might like to attend.

On our Related Organizations page, you can find an organization with which you might want to become involved or to learn more about.

On the Lagniappe page, you will find news articles from writers of different viewpoints, reporting and editorializing on:
  • racism, 
  • mass incarceration, 
  • the predatory costs of prison phone calls, 
  • unequal justice in sentencing,
  • the criminalization of minority youth
  •  the high crime rate, the high poverty rate, and high incarceration rate in Louisiana and the connection of those with income inequality 
Our Home page includes the latest posts and information on opportunities for action, such as the recent posts below: 
We will continue to update this blog in the months ahead. Check in and check out what's new!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Call to Action: The High Cost of Prison Phone Calls

As a recent article in The New York Times states, "Until the 1990s, inmates [in U.S. prisons] could place and receive calls to lawyers and family members at rates similar to those outside prison walls." That is no longer the case. Prison phone calls have become increasingly expensive, creating yet another barrier between those incarcerated and the world outside, between prisoners and their loved ones, between despair and hope, between recidivism and rehabilitation. 

Largely unregulated private enterprise profits while families suffer: the $1.2-billion-a-year profits of the prison phone system come from shaking down the families of prisoners, people who often can little afford the extra costs.

The Federal Communications Committee (FCC) finally began paying attention to the complaints of prison-rights groups and to the families of the incarcerated and have begun investigating the multi-billion dollar industry. Some reforms have been set in motion, but more needs to be done to ensure fair pricing in prison phone calls.


  • By becoming informed:
  1. "The High Cost of Calling the Imprisoned," Timothy Williams, The New York Times, 30 March 2015.
  2. "PSC Commissioner Slams Prison Phone Company Payments," posted on, 18 May 2015.
  3. "Campbell Calls for Refund of Millions of Illegal Jail Telephone Fees," posted on the website of Foster Campbell, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner, 13 July 2015.
  4. "Inside the Shadowy Business of Prison Phone Calls," Eric Markowitz, orginally published in Prison Legal News, August 2015, and posted on the website of Prison Phone Justice ( Other related articles are posted on this site:
  • By taking action
  1. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper supporting prison phone call reforms. Include specific information you have gathered from your reading and research and/or from personal experience.
  2. Support politicians who call for prison reforms and who back up those calls with legislative action.
  3. Communicate to leaders of your community and of local law enforcement your support of fair pricing in prison phone calls.
  4. Send messages to the FCC to support further investigation and reform of  the largely unregulated industry of the prison phone system: 
  • Nation Inside website has a link for sending a message to the FCC to end predatory prison phone rates. You can get more information at the web site and learn about the supporters of The Nation Inside, "a platform that connects and supports people who are building a movement to systematically challenge mass incarceration in the United States." 
  • Color of also has a Take Action form that you can fill out to communicate to the FCC your support of fair pricing in prison phone calls:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Call to Action: Justice for Victor White

The Black Lives Matter movement is bringing national attention to the issue of police brutality that too frequently results in the death or injury of unarmed black men and women. While we care, of course, about equal justice for all, endemic racism, consciously or unconsciously manifested, greatly affects minority communities. The death of teenager Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, self-appointed judge and executioner, brought nationwide attention to what some people, especially minorities, already knew existed: a disproportionate meting out of unfair and unbalanced sentencing and racially-tinged brutality on minorities. Now local stories of suspicious deaths and arrests that once might not have caught anyone's attention beyond the town, county, or parish in which these incidences occur are finally making national news. One such story is that of Victor White III, a 22-year old man who was arrested in New Iberia, LA, in early March of last year, after police were called to a brawl in front of a convenience store. Mr. White was searched--twice!--and a small amount of illegal drugs (suspected marijuana) was discovered on his person. However, in those two searches, no weapons, no gun was found. The mystery is how he ended up, handcuffed, in the back of a police car, where the deputy who arrested him claims that he killed himself with a gun (a gun that managed to elude two searches and to put a hole in Victor's chest while he was handcuffed).

 You can read about the case in these articles:

"Victor White's unbelievable 'Houdini handcuff suicide," Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post, 2 September 2014.

"One year later, Victor White's family says they have yet to hear account of son's death in backseat of police unit," Daniel Bethencourt, The Advocate, 5 March 2015.

"Federal probe into death just too long," Will Chapman, The Daily Iberian, 5 August 2015.

"Before Sandra Bland, there was Victor White: Why this death in police custody should have you outraged," Sean Illing, Salon, 27 August 2015.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION by supporting Victor White's family's quest for answers and for justice, here:
Justice for Victor White

Week of Action events are also planned for October 12-18, 2015.
Information available here:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

New Activist Website --

Those interested in equality and justice will want to know about a new website that has been created "to invite a more nuanced look at the progress made" in the ten years since Hurricane Katrina. The website provides information that illustrates the inequality of that progress in New Orleans and invites the public and its leaders "to fully commit to a recovery and development that is more equitable and sustainable."

Check out the website here:

The ally organizations for this new website and focus are listed here:

You might be interested in attending an event (poster insert below) sponsored by Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children, an ally organization associated with the Katrina Truth website. More information about Katrina Truth and other events can be found in the website version of  an e-mail the organization recently sent out: