I had the privilege to attend the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM) bi-annual national conference in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. The FICPFM is a national movement composed of over 50 civil and human rights organizations. This movement is being led by policy/subject matter experts, organizers, thought-leaders, artists, healers and attorneys who are living with criminal conviction histories or family members of people with conviction histories. The FICPFM network has a profound commitment to transform society by transforming the US criminal justice system.
The discussions focused on common issues being addressed throughout the country, such as Banning the Box (Employment, Education and Housing Rights), Police and Prosecutorial Accountability, Bail Reform and Re-enfranchisement laws. It was exciting to see over a thousand directly impacted people from across the country in one space, exhibiting their passion and expertise in resolving issues stemming from systematic dehumanization, criminalization and mass incarceration of marginalized people.
The conference was strategically held in Orlando, considering Florida is 1 of 4 states whose constitution permanently disenfranchises people with past felony convictions.The highlight of the conference for me was on the last day when hundreds of conference attendees participated in door to door canvassing or phone/text banking. The goal was to educate and inform Orlando residents about a ballot initiative in their upcoming November election that could potentially amend their state constitution and restore voting rights to 1.4 million people.
Being a directly impacted person comes with many disadvantages in this society. We are excluded from qualified opportunities, discriminated against, locked out of professional occupations and systemically deprived of human rights. We are constantly told “if it wasn’t for your past conviction, I would be able to…” Most people with criminal convictions have paid their debt to society. We are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, husbands, wives, siblings, and friends. We are human beings who deserve the right to contribute to the healing and reformation process of our families and communities.
I am grateful to represent Community Renewal Society’s Restoring Rights & Justice Reform initiative. Our local/statewide efforts are now joined with a national network of people and organizations that advances legislative and judicial strategies, as well as public education campaigns designed to not only shift policy, but the very way people think about people who have been incarcerated.
Help us keep this momentum going by ending the unjust policy of money bail in Cook County that deprives legally innocent people of their liberty. Take Action Now: sign this petition to Cook County criminal justice stakeholders to support bond reform in Cook County.