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Formerly Incarcerated People in 25 States Urge Lawmakers to Act on Justice Reform in National "Day of Empathy"


Second Annual Event Organized by #cut50 and Funded by the Justice Action Network Educates Lawmakers on Unique Problems Facing Incarcerated Women

35 Events Happening Simultaneously Across the Country; 15 of Them Focused on Women

Partners Include Sen. Cory Booker, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, #cut50 Co-founder Van Jones, American Conservative Union Foundation, SMU Dedman School of Law Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center, Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation + 100 partners nationwide

Washington, D.C. – Today, #cut50, a group that works to cut crime and incarceration in all 50 states by bringing together unlikely allies to reduce incarceration and keep communities safe, hosts a National Day of Empathy designed to bring people impacted by the criminal justice system face-to-face with lawmakers nationwide with a focus on incarcerated women and probation/parole reform.

Following their first successful Day of Empathy in 2017– which generated over 500 in person meetings and 4,000 phone calls with legislators across the country– the group is planning events with activists and legislators in 25 states across the country, everywhere from Arkansas and Arizona to California and New York.

“In order to reform our criminal justice system, we must first humanize and empathize with those who are impacted by it,"  said Van Jones, Co-founder of #cut50, President of The Dream Corps, and Host of The Van Jones Show on CNN. "Without empathy, we cannot achieve meaningful policy changes that keep our communities safe, our families whole, and our economy strong.”

The Day of Empathy is designed to build understanding among lawmakers by delivering a set of powerful, emotional experiences to accelerate the bipartisan drive to create more effective, efficient, and humane criminal justice system.

“There is a powerful movement taking shape nationwide, led by women who know firsthand what it’s like to live behind bars," said Topeka Sam, Director of Dignity for Incarcerated Women at #cut50. "On Day of Empathy, hundreds of impacted women will share their experiences about America’s prison system with people in people to change things. Incarcerated women deserve dignity. This movement is on track to dramatically change laws around the country.”

Partners in every state are finding their own way to participate. In California, formerly incarcerated men and women will meet with 35 state representatives at the Capitol immediately following an early morning rally in Sacramento. They will be calling on legislators to support reform to the state’s system of parole supervision as well as addressing conditions of confinement for women in California prisons. There will be a Public Safety Committee hearing on a new Parole Reform bill introduced that day.

In Arizona, 50 formerly incarcerated women and children of currently incarcerated women will host a press conference featuring #cut50 co-founder Jessica Jackson Sloan and State Rep. Athena Salman.  Afterwards, they will meet with 90 legislators and share powerful firsthand accounts of women’s prison conditions. The group will give lawmakers a laminated book of letters from women inside Arizona’s prisons.  After the legislation visits, there will be a Dignity Lunch on the Lawn, sponsored by Tesla, for the women and the legislators.

In Washington D.C., Sen. Cory Booker hosted a roundtable with formerly incarcerated women.

“There are thousands of people - mothers, fathers, children and community members - who have stories to tell," said Jessica Jackson Sloan, Co-founder and National Director of #cut50. "The Day of Empathy shines a light on people impacted by the criminal justice system to, uplift their voices, and win over hearts and minds towards the idea that transformation is possible.“

In 2017, #cut50 built and coordinated a national Empathy Network, composed of partners in 40 states. These grassroots partner organizations, primarily led by people who have been directly impacted by the justice system, act as "Empathy Ambassadors" to promote criminal justice reform at each local Day of Empathy events.

"Few groups can bring people together and actually get something done like Jessica, Van and the army of impacted citizens the #cut50 team has organized," said Holly Harris, Executive Director of the Justice Action Network, one of the funders of the effort. "The 'Dignity' movement is sweeping the country, and not a moment too soon. Women are the fastest growing segment of a prison system that's not designed for their needs, and unless lawmakers act, we will have yet another epidemic of incarceration on our hands. And voters won't stand for it: nine in ten voters across party lines support doing reforms for incarcerated women. And thanks to #cut50, lawmakers around the country are going to get that message loud and clear."

Learn more at DayOfEmpathy.org

Follow the social media stream at https://www.juicer.io/dayofempathy

Follow #cut50 on Twitter at twitter.com/cut_50


The following cities and groups are participating in the Day of Dignity for incarcerated women events are happening:

  • Alabama- Project Restart Reentry, Offender Alumni Association, Community Care Development Network


  • Alaska- Haven House


  • Arizona- Reinventing Reentry, Arizona ACLU, AZ Justice Alliance, Zonta Club of Phoenix East Valley


  • Arkansas- Central Arkansas Reentry Coalition, Racial & Cultural Diversity Commission, DeCarcerate, Arkansas, Citizens Congress Arkansas,  Urban League, Little Rock Alumni Chapter Delta Sigma Theta, Central Arkansas Alumni Chapter Delta Sigma Theta, Arkansas State University-Young Professional (Students), Young Professional Urban League-Philander Smith College, Returning Citizens & Family members, Rufus K. Young Christian Church, Little Rock Ministerial Alliance


  • California- Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Young Women's Freedom Center, ACLU, Californians for Safety & Justice, USC School of Law, Root & Rebound, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Ella Baker Center, LA Chamber of Commerce, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, Project Rebound, SFSU, Initiate Justice, National Youth Law Center, Human Rights Watch


  • Connecticut- New Freedom Fighters, Gov. Malloy’s Office of Policy and Planning, Criminal Justice division; Smart Justice - ACLU, and UCONN Students Against Mass Incarceration


  • Florida- Florida Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, Equality Florida, Operation New Hope, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Make the Homeless Smile, Black Women's Assembly


  • Georgia- Restore Her, We Are It, New Life Second Chance Outreach, Reverse the Cycle of Incarceration, Save My Edges, Feminist Women's Health Center, SPARK Reproductive Justice, The National Incarceration Association


  • Hawaii- Hawaii Justice Coalition, Americans For Democratic Action, Amnesty International Hawai’i, Community Alliance on Prisons, Drug Policy Forum of Hawai`i, Hawai`i Friends of Restorative Justice, Ka Lei Maile Ali`i Hawaiian Civic Club, Life of the Land, Nat'l Assn of Mental Illness Hawai'i, PHOCUSED ~Protecting Hawaii’s Ohana, Children, Under-Served and Disabled, Progressive Democrats Hawai`i, First L.A.P. (Life After Prison), First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, The CHOW Project, Wesley United Methodist Church of Kahala, World Can't Wait-Hawai`i, The Social Justice Council and Young Progressives Demanding Action


  •  Illinois- Sister Survivor Network, The Decarceration Collective


  •  Kansas- Village Initiative Inc.  


  • Kentucky- Shelton McElroy, Office for Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods, New Legacy, ACLU KY, New Roots, Women’s Healing Place, Men’s Healing Place, Special Art Project, Cities United


  •  Louisiana- Operation Restoration, Vote Nola, Promise of Justice Initiative


  •  Maryland- Maryland Justice Project, Safe Cities Baltimore


  •  Michigan- Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, Nation Outside


  •  New York- Ladies of Hope Ministries (NYC); New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents (Albany)


  •  Tennessee- Nashville Peacekeepers


  • Texas- Girls Embracing Mothers, SMU Dedman School of Law Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center, Faith in Texas - LIVE FREE DFW, First Unitarian Church of Dallas, Women Organizing Women Democrats - Dallas, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition


  •  Maine- Maine Inside Out


  •  New Jersey- New Jersey Institute for Social Justice


  •  Oregon- Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation


  •  Utah- Utah Prisoner Advocate Network


  •  Vermont- Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform


  •  Virginia- Virginia Organizing, Kemba Smith


  •  Wisconsin– Right on Crime Wisconsin, Wisdom + EXPO

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