June 2016 Newsletter: Montgomery Momentum, New Staff and Grants!
Since we last wrote about the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, we have been busy working to make sure that the decision is made meaningful for the some 300 people and their families whose cases are affected here in Philadelphia.
In partnership with the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation (ACCR) and ARC, Inc., we hosted a sold out 2-day training for 50 people on how to do mitigation, or life history investigations for resentencing hearings, for which we brought local and national experts to train the participating social work and law graduate students, practicing social workers and attorneys, journalists and others in attendance. With ACCR, we also put on a workshop at Graterford prison with 50 juvenile lifers to begin preparing them for the mitigation work in their cases. We have another training scheduled in June for new volunteers on mitigation. We have taken on our first clients eligible for resentencing and parole under Montgomery, and look forward to reporting good news on those cases soon.
We have continued serving youth currently facing charges in the adult criminal justice system, thanks in part to our partnership with the Youth Advocacy Project at Penn. YSRP will continue serving youth clients while also expanding our programming to help implement the Montgomery decision here in Philadelphia and beyond.
We are also excited to welcome new members and new foundation partners to our team. Please read about them below!
As we shared last time, all of this important work is very resource intensive. Which means, we need your help! Please consider signing up to be a sustainer (even $5/month helps), or making a donation and helping make sure that the promise of Montgomery is fulfilled, and that we can help ensure justice and fairness for so many individuals and families who have been waiting for it for far too long.
Lauren Fine and Joanna Visser Adjoian
YSRP Co-Directors and Co-Founders
By now, you likely have seen at least one of the videos sharing YSRP's mission and story. You may have wondered how a small organization like ours could afford such high production quality. The answer is that our dear friend and supporter, WIll Drinker, has generously donated countless hours of filming and editing to help us tell our, and more importantly our clients' stories.
Will is an award winning filmmaker whose work has appeared on television, the web, and film festival screens around the world.
Words can't express our gratitude to Will for his vision, talent and generosity. Please check out the other important causes he has helped to promote on his website, here!
YSRP at Temple Law: Thank You Justice Lab!
YSRP just wrapped up a great semester as an inaugural client of Temple Law School's new clinic, Justice Lab (read more here). This semester, three fantastic 2nd year law students, Sela Cowger, Kelsey Grimes and Wesley Stevenson, under the supervision of Professor Colleen Shanahan, sought a moratorium on the City of Philadelphia's practice of imposing children's incarceration costs on working parents. When parents do not pay, typically because they are unaware of the costs or are unable to do so, the City garnishes wages, withdraws funds from bank accounts, or garnishes federal tax refunds. The team did extensive legal research, interviewed Philadelphia civil, juvenile and criminal legal services attorneys and staff, parents who had been the objects of these civil suits, and the attorney who handles these collections for the City. They also met with key stakeholders in Mayor Kenney's administration and at the Department of Human Services. Thanks to the Justice Lab's great work, we hope to be able to announce concrete changes to this practice very soon.
YSRP Co-Hosted Film Screening: THE RETURN
On May 12, along with City of Philadelphia, the City Council of Philadelphia, Council President Darrell L. Clarke, the Pennsylvania Prison Society and the Goldring Reentry Initiative, YSRP hosted a pre-broadcast screening of THE RETURN. This event was part of THE RETURN PROJECT's State(s) of Reform 10-city Tour, which teamed with local advocates, elected officials, and providers to bring a preview screening of THE RETURN to select communities across the U.S. in advance of the broadcast premiere on PBS’s award-winning POV, which happened on May 23. The screening was attended by approximately 150 people, including many returning citizens who shared their perspectives with our esteemed panel (featuring, L to R: Chaplain Phyllis Taylor, RN, of I'm F.R.E.E., THE RETURN filmmaker Katie Galloway, Ceciley Bradford-Jones, Executive Director of the Center for Employment Opportunities in Philadelphia, Sharon Dietrich, Litigation Director and Managing Attorney of the Employment Unit at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, and Kevin Bilal Chatman, whose incredible story is featured in the film). In case you missed the screening, and for more information, check out THE RETURN PROJECT here!
Thank You to our Newest Funder, Claneil!
YSRP is humbled and honored to join the Emerging Leaders Fund community,
thanks to our incredible advisors and supporters,
who nominated us and made this opportunity possible.
Co-Directors Lauren and Joanna were named recipients of the 2016 Emerging Leaders Fund of the Claneil Foundation. The Emerging Leaders Fund is designed to support the critical role that emerging leaders play in creating positive change. To provide critical support for these leaders and their organizations, the Foundation awards a four-year general operating grant to each recipient’s organization. Each grantee organization also has access to professional development funds to support its designated leader(s). Recipients are selected based on their creative vision, leadership capacity, potential for impact, and commitment to innovation and learning in one or more of the Foundation’s interest areas. This grant program is focused primarily on early stage organizations located in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states.
YSRP Welcomes New Staff: Annie Ruhnke!
Annie Ruhnke is a mitigation specialist with specialized training in trauma and mental health issues. After obtaining her Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice at The George Washington University, Ms. Ruhnke joined the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Delaware, where she conducted life history investigations across the country. Ms. Ruhnke has worked on post conviction death penalty cases at both the state and federal level and has presented at national trainings on topics surrounding mitigation investigations in capital cases. In addition to developing social histories, Ms. Ruhnke is especially interested in restorative justice and redemption.
Support YSRP Using Amazon Smile!
Tell Amazon to donate a percentage of your online purchases to YSRP by shopping with our Amazon Smile link. Designate the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project Inc (YSRP) to receive a donation for each purchase you make. Sign uphere.
You, too, can help improve life outcomes for court-involved youth.