Category Archives: Racism

Ending the Black Maternal Health Crisis Is a Moral Imperative

Ending the Black Maternal Health Crisis Is a Moral Imperative

Joan F. Neal
April 15, 2022

This week marks the five-year anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week in the United States. During Black Maternal Health Week, advocates and elected officials build community and draw awareness toward the maternal mortality epidemic that is sweeping our nation. At NETWORK, we believe that access to quality, affordable health care is a fundamental human right. It is our moral responsibility as Catholics to ensure accessible health care for all and eliminate racial and economic health disparities. As Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) who is the co-chair and co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus stated, “This work is deeply personal” during an interfaith event NETWORK helped to organize.

Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in February revealed that the Black maternal mortality crisis has only gotten worse. The data shows that the mortality rate for Black women rose by 26 percent in 2020—a rate three times greater than that of white women. In an interfaith event last month, Representative Alma Adams (NC-12) said, “Overlooking the pain of Black women in health care results from implicit bias and racism.” The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, especially for birthing people of color. This is unjust and sinful.

On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a historic call to action to improve lives and health outcomes for birthing people, especially people of color, across the country. The Biden-Harris administration made a series of announcements that will work toward health equity including extending Medicaid and CHIP coverage for a full year after pregnancy in 11 additional states, and proposing “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designations to make improvements in maternal health outcomes. These announcements, along with the 12 key bills in the Momnibus Act, are vital steps forward to invest in maternal health and dismantle systemic racism in our health care systems.

Black mothers should not fear for their lives or their infant’s life while giving birth. As Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) said during Wednesday’s Black Maternal Health Week event, “Birthing while Black should not be a death sentence.” NETWORK is proud to see the work done by the Biden-Harris administration to achieve healthcare equity for Black mothers, and continually supports the work of the Black Maternal Health Caucus to pass the Momnibus. With ongoing advocacy and a commitment to Build Anew, we can end the Black Maternal Mortality crisis in the United States. And we should do that.

Judge Jackson’s Nomination Soon to Move to the Senate Floor

Judge Jackson’s Nomination Soon to Move to the Senate Floor

Julia Morris
April 1, 2022

Next Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote  on whether to send the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination for the Supreme Court to the Senate floor. This will likely split the committee in a party line vote, but not necessarily derail the prospect for a final confirmation vote later next week. The particular day for confirmation depends on how much Republicans want to obstruct before leaving town.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) publicly expressed her support for nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. In her statement Sen. Collins expressed her concern with the manner in which these hearings have proceeded saying, “In my view, the role the Constitution clearly assigns to the Senate is to examine the experience, qualifications, and integrity of the nominee … [I]t is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual Senator or would rule exactly as an individual Senator would want.” Sen. Collins’ support means Vice President Kamala Harris will not have to break a 50-50 tie for the nomination.

At NETWORK, we urge the Senate to confirm her nomination with all deliberate speed. As our Executive Director Mary Novak stated:

“In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaims a new law of love known as the Beatitudes. He said: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. We the People are hungering for justice. We need our political and judicial systems to live up to the vision of ‘right relationship’ where every person’s sacred worth is respected. On behalf of NETWORK’s 100,000 members and supporters, I express our strong support for the swift and historic confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court.

“Judge Jackson’s service as a federal public defender, the first defender nominated since Justice Thurgood Marshall, means she experienced firsthand the way our criminal legal system works for some but not all of us. This unique experience will allow her to bring a commitment to equal justice for all, grounded in human dignity to the Court.”

Join us in celebrating this occasion. Call 888-897-9753 to urge both of your Senators to Confirm the Honorable, and extremely qualified, Ketanji Brown Jackson!

Equal Pay Day: Privilege Should Not Predict Pay

Equal Pay Day: Privilege Should Not Predict Pay 

Gina Kelley
March 15, 2022

This year Equal Pay Day is March 15th, symbolizing how far into the year women have to work to earn what men earned the year before [1]. Women are not a monolith, a woman’s race, assigned gender at birth, ability, or sexuality can widen the gap. Therefore we mark multiple ‘equal pay’ days throughout the year to raise awareness for the persistent gender and racial income gaps that have become the norm.  

May is AAPI Women’s Equal Pay Day, marking the 85 cents Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women earn for every dollar a white man does. June and July have LGBTQIA+ and Moms Equal Pay Days respectively. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is in September marking the 63 cents they earn in comparison to white male counterparts.  

Both Native and Latina equal paydays are in December with Native women earning 60 cents on the dollar and Latina women earning 57 cents. Meaning that Native and Latina women have to work over two years just to earn what a white man earns in one. 

Cents on the dollar can seem abstract. A recent study found that in 2021 the difference in median earnings nationally found that in U.S workers employed full-time last year women earned $10,000 less. This difference in median earnings varied by states with states and territories like Wyoming, Washington, D.C., and Utah having gendered wage disparities of more than $15,000.  

In an even bigger picture, some reports have estimated that women earn over 400,000 dollars less than their male counterparts do over the course of a 40-year period. The total wage differences between men and women on average is more than $799 billion every single year. 

These gender and racial discrepancies are harmful examples of the ways our society undervalues women and communities of color. There are multiple ways labor laws and employment practices create this loss of women’s wages.  

Blatant pay is discrimination is only one of the ways these inequities are formed. Job segregation is a subversive way that women are overrepresented in lower-paying (and often) service-providing industries due to assumptions about the types work different genders are best suited due to an imagined inherent gendered quality. However, compounding on top of job segregation is that across occupations women are most often employed at the lower end of the wage distribution. A powerful example of this is that women make up 52.8% of legal positions in the U.S but only 37.4% of lawyers are women—meaning that women disproportionately occupy lower-paying positions like legal assistants and paralegals.  

NETWORK continues to actively support policies that address economic inequalities. This includes major labor law reform like the Protecting the Right to Organize Act because we know that collective bargaining agreements and implementing standard wage policies are critical steps to closing these gaps for women and people of color. We also know that creating a national paid family and medical leave program is instrumental in making sure women are not punished for the caretaking responsibilities they disproportionately hold. We also support legislation that implements equitable employment practices like the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Schedules That Work Act, and the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights.  

This Equal Pay Day and this Women’s History Month we have to recognize that labor issues are women’s issues and these issues matter and demand prioritization. Women’s issues require our attention now more than ever and what women need is economic stability and just labor laws.  

 

1 All studies referenced compare women’s earnings to non-Hispanic white men—even if something more general like “male counterparts” is used. There are also harmful disparities between men of color and white men.  

From the Factory Floors to the Halls of Congress, the Call for Unionization is Growing

From the Factory Floors to the Halls of Congress, the Call for Unionization is Growing

Gina Kelley
March 2, 2022

After decades of inadequate labor laws and declining union membership, the labor movement is gaining traction. Initially titled “Striketober”, the swell of strikes and contract negotiations have finally reached Capitol Hill.

Sparked by the viral anonymous Instagram account “Dear White Staffers” which shares horror stories of working in Congress, the call for labor reform is in the halls of the Capitol. The account calls specific attention to the obstacles faced by people of color on the Hill. Congress has not escaped the pay and treatment disparities that harm people of color across the country.

Studies have shown that white staffers make about 8% more than Black staffers because Black staffers are rarely hired into high-level positions. The account has become a megaphone for what was previously one of the worst kept secrets in Washington: Working on the Hill often means low pay, poor treatment or harassment, and burnout.

The folks who answer the call of public service in the efforts of committing themselves to the common good. They choose this occupation with hopes and ambition of working hard and making a difference. Instead, the broken system inside the Capitol spits many of them back out into the private sector, where they can make more money on a normal schedule.

Staffers on both sides of the aisle call out the hypocrisy of their employment practices. Republican legislators wage war against subsidies but pay their employees so little they have no choice but to utilize food stamps and Medicare. In contrast, Democratic lawmakers promote progressive labor policies and call for a celebration of diversity in the workplace but fail to implement equitable pay and hiring practices in their own offices. It seems dissatisfaction is bipartisan. One report of 516 respondents found 47% of staffers struggle to pay bills, 68% are unhappy with their compensation, and 85% believe Congress is a toxic work environment.

Congress currently operates with each office and committee run individually. This means there are more than 535 “employers” on the Hill with no unified hiring practices, paid leave policies, salary structures, or human resource departments. Even with previous legislative attempts to modernize Congress as a workplace, bills like the Congressional Accountability Act have failed to create adequate systems to support a safe and healthy work environment.

We work with Congressional offices to advance legislation that promotes the common good and we proudly support their efforts to unionize. In that commitment, we signed onto the Staffer’s letter to Congressional Leadership in support of their effort to unionize. Our commitment to equitable labor reform is a central part of our mission and is embodied in our efforts to pass key legislation like the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act and the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. We know that we cannot live out our faith and mission if we do not root ourselves in solidarity with workers and hear their lived experiences.

Despite statements of support from Democratic Leadership and the introduction of a Resolution by Representative Andy Levin, the future of a Congressional Union is unknown. What is clear is that the movement for workers’ rights is growing. From factory workers to television workers to congressional staffers the message is clear: Enough is enough.

Diane Nash: Civil Rights Leader of My Generation

Diane Nash: Civil Rights Leader of My Generation

Nita Clarke
February 25, 2022

As I watched the evening news with my parents and saw reports on the Civil Rights activities of the early 1960s, human rights activist Diane Nash was coordinating peaceful sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. The success of the sit-ins in Tennessee and North Carolina, along with her participation with the Freedom Riders, would bring Nash to the forefront of the student campaign of the Civil Rights Movement and her co-founding of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

As we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, we must continue their stride for equality because we have not reached that gateway yet. “Freedom, by definition, is people realizing that they are their own leaders,” Nash said. As a member of my generation, her story resonates with my own and challenges me still.

Diane Nash in Louisville, Kentucky, February 1963, Carl and Anne Braden Papers, WHS

As the product of a military family, living most of my childhood on military bases, I experienced overt racism only when visiting or traveling to my southern roots in Louisiana. Diane Nash was born in 1938 to a middle-class Catholic family and raised in Chicago. “Because I grew up in Chicago, I didn’t have an emotional relationship to segregation. I understood the facts and stories, but there was no an emotional relationship,” she later noted.

Nash chose to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. but after one year transferred to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she would experience the intensity of Jim Crow laws and the efforts of Black people to gain their equal rights. She was furious but used her anger against segregation to become a renowned activist.

While travelling to my tiny hometown of Opelousas, Louisiana, my family met with racism at motels, restaurants, and gas stations as we motored across country from Army Base to Army Base. My parents would trade off driving all night long to avoid having to search for a hotel that welcomed Black people. They also packed lunches in a cooler to avoid trying to find a restaurant that would serve us. When having to stop for gas, we were forced to either use the filthy restrooms for “coloreds” or stopped alongside of the highway while my father stood guard.

“Diane, you’ve gotten in with the wrong people!” Nash’s grandmother said to her about her affiliation with the Civil Rights Movement. But Nash was not only affiliated with the movement, she had become a leader. She encouraged the students in Nashville to protest the segregated lunch counters by sitting peacefully in seats, while being beaten, where paying white customers would usually sit.

The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), co-founded by Nash, was also founded in 1960 because of the student sit-ins and became the major channel of participation for the students in the Civil Rights Movement. Members of the SNCC worked closely with other major organizations such as the National Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Nashville became the first southern city to desegregate lunch counters in the United States.

Nash would meet and marry James Bevel, a Minister as well as a Civil Rights Activist, in 1961. They would have two children. In 1961, Nash was arrested for “contributing to the delinquency of minors,” because she led young people in the fight against segregation. She would be arrested many times including spending 30 days in jail in South Carolina and once while she was six months pregnant.

On May 1, 1961, 13 activists joined together to plan one of the most dangerous challenges to segregation; the Freedom Riders, a non-violent protest designed to end segregation on interstate buses and in bus terminals. The protesters began in Washington and traveled throughout the South on Greyhound and Trailway buses. When the buses were burned and the Freedom Riders beaten by white mobs, the Nashville Student Central Committee was alerted, and Diane Nash led the new group.

Because of the violence that the Freedom Riders were subjected to, Attorney General Robert Kennedy objected to the protests and had his assistant, John Seigenthaler, speak to Nash directly. Nash explained that the Freedom Riders were well aware of the dangers they faced and had even written their wills, in case they died on one of the rides, and given them to Nash.

In 1963, after the bombing of the church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the death of four little girls, Diane Nash and her husband took on the issue of voting rights. Nash was also a member of the committee that promoted the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Today, at 83 years of age, Nash still advocates for fair housing in Chicago, where she works in real estate. All of these issues are still with and demand our urgent attention and participation today.

Nita Clarke is a Black Catholic writer who attends St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

‘White Too Long’ Details Why Christians Should Be Uncomfortable With History

‘White Too Long’ Details Why Christians Should Be Uncomfortable With History

Laura Peralta-Schulte
February 22, 2022

As I write from my home in Arlington, Virginia, newly elected Governor Glenn Youngkin has opened a “hotline” for parents of school-age children and teens to report teachers for teaching lessons that make students feel “uncomfortable.” Under the guise of stamping out “critical race theory” in public schools, Youngkin has radically politicized the classroom.

I wonder how my former high school teaching colleagues, who are required by law to teach about slavery, the use of violence to control slaves, and later freed Black persons, are faring. Do they worry that a student –- or their parents -– may be uncomfortable with lessons on the freedom riders or the beating of John Lewis at the Edmund Pettus Bridge?

Robert P. Jones’s book, “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity” provides valuable insight into what is happening in Virginia and other states. The attempt at erasing history, replacing it with a sanitized restoration of a “golden age” is all too familiar. While the role of white supremacy is well documented in political and economic historical analysis, less understood is the primary role religion played to maintain white power and white institutions. Whatever the new governor says, it really should lead to white discomfort.

Jones, a Southern, white Christian who founded the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), traces the historical record of white supremacy in white Christian churches from the beginning of the colonization of America and institutional slavery, through the use of Bible texts and racist structures moving through our founding period before and during the Civil War.

He details how politicians supporting slavery served as church leaders legitimizing their standing in the community. Churches were dependent on contributions from slaveholders who used their wealth to fund the construction of churches as well as seminaries to teach the next generation of church leaders.

After the defeat of the Confederacy, white Christianity adapted both its theology and structures enabling it to spread from the Southern Christian churches to become mainstream throughout white Christian and Catholic churches in the latter half of the 20th Century.

From the creation post-Civil War of individualist theology, which insists that Christianity has little to say about social injustice, shielding white consciences from the evils and continued legacy of slavery and segregation, to the use of religious and cultural symbols honoring leaders of the Confederacy in an attempt to whitewash slavery, white Christian leaders bare responsibility for “damage to those who live outside the white Christian canopy.”

Jones ultimately challenges white Christians to live into their call for justice both to redeem relationships with those who suffer oppression and to claim their own humanity.  His book is a must-read particularly for those of us who are white and who want to do the work of racial justice and racial healing. We need an unvarnished telling of the many ways white supremacy has infected white churches. May this book disturb us in order to imagine and work towards dismantling and healing of our collective past.

Hear more from Robert P. Jones at NETWORK’s upcoming event, “White Supremacy and American Christianity” April 9 at 12:30 PM Eastern. Register for the event here.

Mom Taught Me: To Love Your Neighbor Is To Suffer For Them

Mom Taught Me: To Love Your Neighbor Is To Suffer For Them

Deacon Art Miller
February 14, 2022

“I wanted to talk to you over dinner tonight. There’s something very important that your dad and I are going to require of you.”

This was not the normal dinner banter my family and I had at the dinner table back in 1957. My brothers and I – aged 9, 11, and 13 – normally fought over who would get the best piece of whatever we were having that night, playfully teasing one another as our 18-year-old sister Carol dismissed us with sisterly disdain.

Deacon Art Miller is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut.

After a glowering look from our father, Mom continued: “There’s a country in Africa, called South Africa that has a system of governing the people that is horrible and evil. It’s called apartheid. It means to separate. They require that their Negro citizens carry passes with them at all times. These passes are so they can make sure the Negro people don’t go anywhere they are not supposed to go. The Black people have no rights. They can’t vote. They are put in jail and are treated very poorly.”

My older brother Pete, whose friend and classmate at McCosh Elementary School was Emmett Till, was suddenly quiet.

He found his voice and whispered; “That sounds a lot like Mississippi.”

Mom responded; “Yes, it does. That’s one of the reasons we in this family, are going to protest, like they are doing in the South. There’s a company here in America that’s helping the South African government create these passes. The name of the company is Polaroid. They make a camera that makes a picture instantly. So the government of South Africa is buying these cameras to make it easier to create those dreadful passes. So we are not going to allow anyone to bring a Polaroid camera into our home. We will not buy one, and we don’t want anyone to take your picture with one. Do you understand?”

We all quickly agreed with the family mandate.

Mom was rarely so severe. She was an elegant woman, profoundly intelligent and deliberate, but always gentle in her approach to our learning. We knew she was very, very serious. Even Dad was quiet, almost bowing his head in deference to her passion.

I looked up to see a most remarkable thing, rare for a man who was as impassionate as she was passionate. He reached out and touched her hand, very gently. Almost startled by the gesture, Mom smiled at him. He returned the smile and removed his hand from hers. With that it was done. Polaroid Corporation had lost a customer.

That company would never know that a Black family in a little third floor apartment on the south side of Chicago had taken a stand against a horrid injustice. The South African government, more than 8,000 miles away, had no idea nor could it care that this little family had stood up against its ungodly tyranny. But we did. We knew.

That night I learned what social justice truly meant. We learned there was a new and important way to love your neighbor, even if you didn’t know them. Even if you had never met them, they were still your neighbor. We learned on that long ago night that to love your neighbor was to suffer for them.

This idea of deep love was embodied by our mother. She was a friend to Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett’s mother. We prayed for her and Emmett when all the terrible things happened. The women in the neighborhood had brought food and comfort to Ms. Mobley during those days of torment.

Mom particularly embraced our Catholic faith as a safe harbor during that time, where she found the comfort only God can provide. In every difficult moment we faced, her faith got us through. We, that small family from the south side of Chicago, learned well the tenets of our faith, that faith is never restricted to the Sunday morning Mass.

Our faith is not static but transportable. We are to apply our faith to the moments we live outside the building we call church. For we are the church, we are where the deposit of faith is to be made manifest. We are the church that lives in the world which breaks down anger and injects love, which enables generosity to overcome selfishness, which causes humility to be more important than pride.

The church lives as long as our faith lives.

Deacon Art Miller is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Hartford and former head of the archdiocese’s Office for Black Catholic Ministries, which has since closed.

Learn About the Three Sentencing Reform Bills Moving Through the Senate

Learn About the Three Sentencing Reform Bills Moving Through the Senate

Min. Christian S. Watkins
February 11, 2022

Members of the US Senate are currently considering a package of three sentencing reform bills already approved on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate passage of The First Step Implementation Act (S. 1014), the Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act (S. 601), and the Covid-19 Safer Detention Act (S. 312) would make meaningful if incremental, progress toward a more just criminal legal system. Sentencing of those who have been found guilty of wrong-doing must be based on values that honor human dignity, sanctity, and the allowance for redemption. However, our system for sentencing those convicted of crimes has for too long borne no relation to these values, resulting in prisons that are heavily populated by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.

Over the last 30 years, the United States has come to rely on its criminal justice system and lengthy prison terms more than any other nation.  With just 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. holds nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners, including one-third of all women incarcerated worldwide.

The ACLU has reported [1] that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 2019, approximately 2.1 million people were in adult correctional jails and prisons around the United States. Many thousands of people, disproportionately people of color, are cycled in and out of state jails or prisons every day.

Extreme sentencing laws and practices are keeping people in prisons for far longer than ever before. The result is that more people are spending more of their lives in prison than at any point in U.S. history. Over-reliance on incarceration is fiscally unsustainable and has imposed a burdensome human toll and a disparate impact on African American and Latino persons and communities.

The federal prison population has increased nearly 800% since 1980 and more than doubled since 1994, with spending up 1700% during that time, and federal prisons are currently operating at 131% of capacity. This is due to a significant degree to the proliferation of mandatory minimum sentences.  Nearly half of all federal prisoners are serving sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. [2]

There is consensus across the political spectrum that our criminal justice system is out of balance and in need of significant reform. Many states have enacted bipartisan “smart-on-crime” reforms that achieve significant cost savings and reduce crime. Now, it is time for these reforms to be made at the federal level.

 

Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act of 2021 (S.79)

Introduced by Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) on January 28, 2021, this bipartisan legislation that seeks to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, established in 1986 when Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act–a major contributor to mass incarceration–and apply retroactively to those already convicted or sentenced. Congress set a 100:1 disparity, sentencing crack cocaine offenses at a higher level even though the drugs are nearly identical chemically and comparable in physiological and psychoactive effects. Although it did not address the disparity fully, Congress passed the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity to 18:1 for pending and future cases only. The change was not made retroactive until the bipartisan First Step Act of 2018.

Prospective Impact: The Sentencing Commission [3] estimates that approximately 827 offenders each year would benefit from this section of the bill.2 The current average sentence for those offenders is 74 months. The estimated new sentence for those offenders would be 43 months.

Retroactive Impact: Approximately 7,787 offenders in BOP custody would be eligible to seek a modification of their sentence based on this section of the bill. The Commission estimates that up to 7,644 offenders would receive a reduction in their sentence. [3] The current average sentence for these offenders is 173 months. The estimated new sentence for these offenders would be 100 months

 

First Step Implementation Act of 2021 (S. 1014)

Introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) on March 25, 2021, this bill would further the goals of the First Step Act of 2018 (FSA) by correcting unfairness that has resulted in implementation and interpretation errors that contravene the spirit of the FSA by:

  • Allowing courts to apply the FSA’s sentencing reform provisions to reduce sentences imposed prior to the enactment of the FSA;
  • Broadening the safety valve provision to allow courts to sentence below a mandatory minimum for nonviolent controlled substance offenses if the court finds the defendant’s criminal history over-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal record and the likelihood of recidivism;
  • Allowing courts to reduce sentences imposed on juvenile offenders who have served more than 20 years;
  • Providing for the sealing or expungement of records of nonviolent juvenile offenses; and,
  • Requiring the Attorney General to establish procedures ensuring that only accurate criminal records are shared for employment-related purposes.

 

Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act of 2021 (S. 601)

Introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) on March 4, 2021, this bill would end the perverse practice under which federal courts consider acquitted or dismissed charges as aggravating factors when imposing sentences for convictions. It would do so by:

  • Amending 18 U.S.C. § 3661 to preclude a court of the United States from considering, except for purposes of mitigating a sentence, acquitted conduct at sentencing, and
  • Defining “acquitted conduct” to include acts for which a person was criminally charged and adjudicated not guilty after trial in a Federal, State, Tribal, or Juvenile court, or acts underlying a criminal charge or juvenile information dismissed upon a motion for acquittal.

 

Covid-19 Safer Detention Act of 2021 (S. 312)

Introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) on February 12, 2021, this bill would clarify and expand the eligibility for the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program (introduced by the FSA), including explicitly naming COVID-19 vulnerability as a basis for compassionate release under this program. It would do so by:

  • Clarifying that the percentage of time served required for the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program should be calculated based on an inmate’s sentence, including reductions for good time credits (H.R. 4018, which passed the House by voice vote last Congress);
  • Expanding the eligibility criteria for the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program to include nonviolent offenders who have served at least two-thirds of their term of imprisonment;
  • Clarifying that elderly nonviolent D.C. Code offenders in BOP custody are eligible for the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program and that federal prisoners sentenced before November 1, 1987 are eligible for compassionate release;
  • Subjecting elderly home detention eligibility decisions to judicial review (based on the First Step Act’s compassionate release provision); and
  • Providing that, during the period of the pandemic, COVID-19 vulnerability is a basis for compassionate release and shortening the period prisoners must wait for judicial review for elderly home detention and compassionate release from 30 to 10 days.

There are too many people in prison serving unnecessarily long sentences.  These people are not a threat to the public and serving inhumanely long sentences actually reduces their chances of becoming productive law-abiding citizens.  We must support shorter sentences when appropriate.  These bills are not only appropriate, but also imperative.

Events of the past few years have illuminated the systemic inequalities in our country’s criminal legal system. At NETWORK, we cannot continue to tolerate racial profiling, police brutality, the loss of another generation to mass incarceration, or the perpetuation of poverty. As we Build Anew, we affirm the truth that every person is entitled to dignity and equal justice under law. It is time for Congress to act and take a firm stance against institutional racism embedded within the criminal legal system bypassing the First Step Implementation Act, the Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act, and the Covid-19 Safer Detention Act.

[1] Sentencing Reform | American Civil Liberties Union (aclu.org)

[2] Federal Sentencing Reform (americanbar.org)

[3] Prison and Sentencing Impact Assessment for the EQUAL Act of 2021 (ussc.gov)

The Time is Now

The Time is Now

Min. Christian Watkins
January 4, 2022

As we approach the one year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, it is troubling to see that the quick passage of H.R.1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in the House was followed by months of Republican obstruction in the Senate.

Despite month after month of aggressive and concerted attacks on voting rights and election administration by Republican state legislatures, the Senate has failed to respond by addressing the filibuster rule—the only remaining block to enacting critical protections.

The Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act represent NETWORK’s top priorities: to protect our democratic institutions and to advance a transformative, once-in-a-generation investment in families and communities. The Build Back Better Act along with reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis VRAA support families and protect the voices of those who have been systemically left behind in our economy and our democracy, particularly in the poor working class and in communities of color.

We urge Congress to take up continued negotiations on the Build Back Better bill and to take steps to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis VRAA immediately upon your return.

Founded by Catholic Sisters, we continue their legacy today by building a just society that ensures our people have what they need to live dignified lives. We know that a functioning democracy also reduces inequality, gives the most vulnerable a voice, and protects the God-given dignity of every voter.

Our nation—and the Senate—cannot successfully move into 2022 without a candid assessment of the legislative disappointment at the close of 2021. The failure of the Senate to pass protections for our democracy and voting rights was a worst-case scenario for advocates wanting meaningful solutions to the problems confronting us.

The threats to our democracy are real and present and, without needed protections, could mean that the January 6th insurrection was a precursor to worse attacks to come. We must invest in a better future for everyone and ensure that the foundation of our democratic institutions remains sound.

The time to act is now. NETWORK urges Congress to seize this pivotal opportunity to enact transformative legislation on behalf of working families and our democratic institutions across the United States. If not, we will squander this chance to build a stronger and more equitable nation where prosperity and power are shared, rather than hoarded by special interests and the privileged few. We call on you to act faithfully and with speed to pass these critical bills.

Advent 2021: The Struggle for Racial Justice

Advent 2021: The Struggle for Racial Justice

Joan Neal
November 27, 2021

The 1st Sunday of Advent symbolizes Hope with the “Prophet’s Candle” reminding us of the prophetic ministries, especially Isaiah, that foretold of Jesus’ birth. In this year’s Advent reflection series from NETWORK, Joan Neal, our Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer, reflects on the implications that the coming of Jesus at Christmas has for racial justice in our world today:

God is with Us in the Struggle for Racial Justice

Advent is a time when so many Christians prepare to welcome Jesus at Christmas. But what does that mean lived out in the U.S. today? And what demands does it make of us who believe? Remember, Jesus was a person of color and member of a religious and ethnic group that lived in the shadow of the most powerful empire in the history of the world up to that time.

“He knew what it was to be oppressed in this system,” says writer, activist, and NETWORK board member Leslye Colvin. “He knew the history of his people and how his people had been in bondage, and all the ups and down of their journey.”

From the moment he is born, Jesus is a target of state powers that seek his violent and unjust death. They ultimately succeeded, abetted by religious leaders of the time, in publicly putting him to death in his 30s. There are still people who are unjustly targeted today. Despite making up only 13% of the population, Black people comprise 38% of the U.S. prison population and over a third of defendants executed in the U.S. in the last 45 years. Among unarmed victims, police kill three times as many Black people as white people. Also, Black and other people of color face persistent and pernicious efforts to exclude our voices from the political process through restrictive new voting laws that 17 states have enacted in just the past year. Unjust racial targeting is alive and well today.

In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus urges us, “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent.” These words resonate, not just with Black people and other people of color, but with the struggle of all who hunger and thirst for racial justice. None of us can afford to turn a blind eye or to ignore the growing racism and racial violence in our country. We have seen the cost of falling asleep will be catastrophic for the entire country.

Advent calls us all, especially people of faith, to stay awake! To be willing, as Jesus was, to see and confront morally unfair structures and to stand for justice no matter the cost. To truly make a place for Jesus in our hearts and our country, we must realize and embrace our common humanity and God-given dignity. We must summon the strength to live in solidarity rather than in separation. Trusting that God is always with us, we must be prophets and practitioners of this change today.

Take Action