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New Report: Former Prisoners Often Don’t Know They Can Vote

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BERKELEY – California permits former state prisoners to vote once they have completed their sentence or parole, but many formerly incarcerated Californians don’t know their rights, a new report from The Greenlining Institute has found. This is particularly important for African American and Latino communities, who make up about 70 percent of the state’s adult male prison population.

The report is based input from formerly incarcerated individuals gathered at small-group community input sessions conducted last year in Los Angeles and San Bernardino.

Nearly two thirds of participants reported having been confused at some point about their ability to vote after a criminal conviction. In particular, many believed they needed to go through some special process to restore their right to vote, which is not the case.

Greenlining also looked at implementation of AB 149, a state law intended to help inform the formerly incarcerated of their voting rights. One way that county probation departments can comply is by posting a link to the California Secretary of State’s Voting Rights Guide for Formerly Incarcerated Californians on their websites. Out of 58 California counties, 35 (60 percent) had such a link on their probation websites, while 23 counties (40 percent) did not. Greenlining’s analysis of web statistics provided by the Secretary of State’s office indicated that these links had resulted in few actual visits to the voting rights guide, suggesting that this method of informing former prisoners is insufficient.

“Formerly incarcerated Californians care about voting and have a lot at stake in our elections,” said report co-author Zainab Badi, Greenlining Institute Claiming Our Democracy fellow. “We should be encouraging them to participate in our democracy as they reintegrate into society, and we need a much more comprehensive system for getting them the information they need to exercise their rights.”


YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles Hosts 44th Annual MLK Brotherhood Breakfast

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Honorable Jackie Lacey Receives Brotherhood Award & Business Leader Marx Cazenave is Keynote Speaker

YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles today hosted its 44th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Brotherhood Breakfast at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. The non-profit organization honored Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey with the Brotherhood Award for her exemplary leadership in LA’s criminal justice system and continuous dedication to protecting and serving the community. Lacey was joined onstage by the ceremony’s Keynote Speaker Marx Cazenave, Co-Founder and Former CEO of Progress Investment Management Company. Addressing 600 guests, Cazenave delivered a compelling speech about his life journey and learning the importance of persistence, humility and service.

The LA Y’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Brotherhood Breakfast commemorates Dr. King's legacy and celebrates his vision of a just and inclusive world for all. Prominent LA business, civic and community leaders gather each year to pay tribute to individuals, selected by the Y, who uphold Dr. King’s values of equality, social justice and community service.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is the perfect time to salute Jackie Lacey for her extraordinary leadership in our community,” says Alan Hostrup, YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles President and CEO.

“Ms. Lacey’s personal conviction for fairness and equality has led to her impressive professional accomplishments, and we cannot be more thrilled to honor her with our Brotherhood Award. She encompasses everything Dr. King stood for and is a wonderful role model for our youth.”

Lacey’s notable career includes successfully prosecuting LA County’s first race-based hate crime murder, which earned her national recognition. She went on to become the 42nd District Attorney in 2012, making her the first woman and first African-American to serve as Los Angeles County District Attorney since the office was established in 1850. A true pioneer, Lacey’s work has focused on protecting public safety, addressing jail overcrowding, targeting high-tech criminals, safeguarding seniors from financial abuse, etc.

Her many achievements include the creation of sentencing courts for nonviolent offenders as well as leading the formation of LA County’s Criminal Justice Mental Health Project. In addition, Lacey dedicated years to educating students at a Boyle Heights elementary school about the criminal justice system – an act which mirrors the Y’s work to educate and nurture our community’s youth. “My favorite part of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is where Dr. King says ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character’,” said Jackie Lacey upon accepting her Brotherhood Award. “We have come a long way, and must continue working together to ensure a brighter future for our children.”

The LA Y’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Brotherhood Breakfast celebrates and perpetuates the ideal that lasting social change can only be achieved once everyone works together. Dr. King was a member of the Butler Street YMCA in Atlanta, Georgia, and in his honor, this special event gathers LA’s top leaders to help reenergize their commitment to build a stronger and greater city.


New Campaign Shows How California Climate Change Laws Help Disadvantaged Communities

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BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA – Today The Greenlining Institute launched a new campaign to highlight how California’s climate change and clean energy laws bring jobs and consumer savings to communities of color and low-income neighborhoods across California even as they fight smog and promote health. Centerpiece of the new campaign is a just-launched website, UpLiftCA.org, with the tagline, “Our Air. Our Jobs. Our Neighborhoods.”

At the heart of UpLiftCA.org are stories of real Californians already benefitting from the state’s exploding clean energy economy – people like 21-year-old Denny Sisaknoi of Fresno, who escaped a slide into crime and gang involvement (his brother has been in prison since age 15) and built a new life and career as a solar installer, and the Ramirezes, a low-income Madera family that recently got solar power. The story bank will grow over the coming months, and a Spanish language version of the site will launch in January.

“The oil industry and its front groups have shamelessly tried to mislead communities of color about California’s laws to fight global warming, masquerading as consumer advocates when all they want is to protect their own profits,” said Greenlining Institute Executive Director Orson Aguilar. “We’re going to make sure our communities hear the truth.”

Thanks to AB 32, California’s climate change and clean energy law, and followup legislation called SB 535, one quarter of the money raised by sales of carbon permits under California’s cap-and-trade program must go to projects that benefit highly polluted and economically challenged communities.

For the current fiscal year that amounts to $272 million for priorities such as clean energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, urban forestry and affordable housing near public transit.

“California is doing something incredibly forward-thinking,” said Leonard Robinson, chair of the California Black Chamber of Commerce Energy and Environment Committee and former chief deputy director of the Cal/EPA Department of Toxic Substances in the Schwarzenegger administration.

“Part of the fees that companies are charged for putting greenhouse gases into the air are being invested in California’s most vulnerable and underserved communities to improve health and create local jobs. These jobs are real – California added over 3,500 solar power jobs last year alone.”

More jobs will be coming soon as funding begins to flow. Just before Thanksgiving, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) announced a series of grants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from solid waste disposal, projects that will bring new jobs and cleaner air to places like Perris, Oakland, Tulare and Fresno.

In addition to real-world stories of clean energy policy in action, UpLiftCA.org features clear, plain-English explanations of how the laws work and how they will cut smog, protect health and generate jobs as they fight global warming. It also includes practical information for individuals and business owners seeking assistance and information regarding energy efficiency, low-cost solar power, rebates for plug-in electric vehicles, and much more.

“For too many decades, low income neighborhoods and communities of color were used as toxic dumping grounds,” said Greenlining Environmental Equity Director Vien Truong. “This is a huge chance to right a historical wrong and bring real benefits to our communities, and community advocates are working closely with the state to make sure these benefits are real and get to where they need to go.”


California Congregations Celebrate Passage of Proposition 47

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People of faith encouraged support of redemptive social justice policies

PICO California issued the following statement in response to the historical passage of Proposition 47: “The passage of Proposition 47 by California voters provides a hopeful sign that we can reverse the trend of mass incarceration that is plaguing our nation,” states Corey Timpson, PICO California Director.

By passing proposition 47, California is the first state in the nation to end felony sentencing for a select group of non-serious and nonviolent crimes. In doing so, California will permanently reduce incarceration and shift over $100 million in the first year from state corrections to K-12 school programs, victim services, as well as mental health support and drug treatment.

PICO California, a statewide network of 19 local community organizations, worked in partnership with Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools and California Calls to build a powerful grassroots civic engagement program focused on exercising the voting power of new and infrequent voters to end mass incarceration by passing Proposition 47.

PICO California groups across the state contacted more than 200,000 voters and identified and worked to turn out 104,000 Yes on 47 voters via statewide phone banking and local canvassing efforts. In all, PICO groups contributed more than 6,000 volunteer shifts and invested approximately 18,000 hours of time in this unprecedented grassroots campaign.

PICO California clergy from across the state have also weighed in on the historic passing Prop 47:
“Today, Californians expressed their voice with the humanization of all people being worthy of redemption. This victory of Proposition 47 begins our necessary journey of reforming our criminal justice system in a way that is fiscally responsible and represents our moral values. While there is more work to be done, we celebrate this important milestone,” said Rev. Ben McBride, Director City Team Ministries.

“With tonight’s victory, the fear mongering forces against proposition 47 have failed. It's time they join fellow Californians and help us move justice forward. The truth prevailed tonight and we gladly welcome this victory because it has the potential to greatly improve the lives of currently and formerly incarcerated individuals,” said Imam Shakeel Syed is the Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council.

African-American and Latino men and women are disproportionately caught in the web of incarceration and its aftermath.  The passage of Prop 47 indicates that the majority of Californians also recognize racialized sentencing and prosecution disparities and instead wish to invest in programs and strategies that support individuals and enable them to stay connected to their families and support systems.  As a faith based organization, PICO California believes prison reform is the only moral choice that is consistent with our values.


Enrollment for Health Coverage with Covered California Starts Nov. 15

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Greenlining Institute Urges Californians to Learn About Their Options as Covered California Builds on Last Year’s Success

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA – Following a successful launch which brought affordable health coverage to 1.1 million Californians, Covered California – the health insurance marketplace created by federal health care reform – is about to begin its second open enrollment period, beginning Nov. 15 and running until Feb. 15.

“Health care reform has been a major step forward for communities of color in California, but many still have not taken advantage of the new options that are available,” said Greenlining Institute Health Policy Fellow Anthony Galace. “We’re happy to report that Covered California has made improvements this year that should make shopping for coverage easier.”

Among other things, Covered California has:

  • Improved the customer experience by collaborating with community-based organizations to help with outreach and enrollment. There are more than 6,400 Certified Enrollment Counselors and more than 12,000 Certified Insurance Agents to help consumers choose and enroll in the best coverage option.
  • Added over 250 additional bilingual staff in its service centers in order to better serve Californians whose English is limited. The need for improved language assistance was a major issue highlighted by Greenlining last June in its analysis of Covered California’s first year.
  • Provided $16.9 million to 135 community organizations that will help people enroll and also provide post-enrollment and retention assistance, providing a more streamlined “one stop shop” for California residents who need assistance with their health coverage.
  • Added dental coverage for children to all 2015 Covered California plans.

Galace noted that renewal for the 1.1 million Californians enrolled last year has already begun. “Those who like their current plan can keep it without doing anything,” he explained, “but since some prices have changed , it’s a good idea to check your options.”

The Greenlining Institute has assembled important information for Californians seeking health coverage at http://greenlining.org/issues-impact/bridges-to-health/affordable-care-act-information-for-californians/


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BVN National News Wire