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May 14, 2020

Story by Sarah Stillman

Image by Adrian Avila

Community groups have pointed out the social costs of the prison system for decades. Now the pandemic has exposed its public-health risks.

On March 14th, Roslyn Crouch, a mother of twelve, left her house in New Orleans to stock up on toilet paper and canned goods, and didn’t return. Crouch, who is forty-two, with slender braids down to her knees, had been feeling anxious about the spread of the coronavirus. READ HERE.

May 14, 2020

Story by Victoria Law

Photo by Fox Rich

The family of Gloria Williams, who has served 50 years in prison, is now pressing Governor John Bel Edwards to commute her sentence 10 months after a parole board recommended she be freed.  


Gloria Williams, Louisiana’s longest-serving incarcerated woman, has been transferred from a hospital back to prison, where she remains on supplemental oxygen while recovering from COVID-19, her family told The Appeal.  READ MORE.

April 10, 2020

Story by Robert Salonga

Photo by De-Bug

To keep operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, county courts up and down the state have rapidly instituted or increased video and phone conferencing to stand in for proceedings like criminal arraignments and pretrial hearings.

But First Amendment and civil-rights groups say a lack of third-party access to those remote hearings, combined with the closure of courthouses due to infection concerns, has walled off much of the public from observing. READ MORE.

March 10, 2020

Story by Fred Davenport

Video by WVTM 13 News

Following the case of Nathaniel Woods, more people are wanting to become aware of how to take action in cases like his and others alike. Individuals with the Alabama Justice Initiative met Tuesday night in Birmingham. They're teaching people about participatory defense within the court system. The weekly sessions start at 6:30 p.m. at the Beloved Church in the Avondale community.  WATCH HERE

January 27, 2020

Story by Jessica Press

Photo by YASP 

For many teens, turning 18 is a milestone marked by celebration, a rite of passage that comes with a sense of independence, freedom and excitement about the future.

On William Bentley’s 18th birthday, he woke up in the juvenile unit of a Philadelphia prison and was told he’d be moving to an all-adult unit, where he’d continue to be held until he could put up his bail.  READ MORE.

January 03, 2020

Opinion by William Bentley

Photo by The Philadelphia Inquirer

In December 2018, I was sitting in a jail cell, staring at four walls, a table, and a window a few inches wide. I would lie awake for hours, waiting for the door to open. When it did, I’d get hot water to make oatmeal for breakfast. At the time, I was 18 years old. I did this routine for a year. The district attorney offered me a deal: 7½ to 15 years in adult state prison.   READ MORE.

October 29, 2019

Photos by: Imani Mfalme, Angela Dennis, Raymond Da-boi, Michael Goins

On Monday, October 28th, Until Freedom and partners across the country honored the life of Atatiana Jefferson and the countless black women who have been killed at the hands of police. Our movement family Community Defense of East Tennessee joined together with partners SONG Knoxville and the Highlander Center to hold space in Knoxville, TN for this national day of action. Today and everyday, Black women are worthy of our outrage and are worthy of a country that values their lives. We will never stop fighting for and with Black women.  READ MORE.

October 15, 2019

Story by Jhody Polk

Photo by Open Society Foundation

My name is Jhody (the “h” is silent, and yes it is pronounced Jody). This is an unlikely name in my family, and I have hated my name over half my life.

I am my mother’s first born and only girl. It is a tradition in my family that her eldest sister, my aunt Idah, names the kids. My mother, who had gotten pregnant in the 12th grade, deviated from that tradition.  READ MORE.

September 25, 2019

Story by Amika Mota

Art by Adrian Avila

 In my seven years in California state penitentiaries, I spent a lot of time in the law library working on my own case. Over the years I had become known on the yard as a jailhouse lawyer, and women wanted me to read through their cases for them. I had no legal background or education, just the ability to research and communicate an understanding of legal language.  


That was how I met Cassandra at the Central California Women’s Facility, in January of 2011. Her play mom Cindy introduced us in the chow hall.  READ MORE.

September 25, 2019

Story and Photo by Andrea Cipriano

Effective change in the criminal justice system requires focusing on “North Stars” that can point the way towards a more fundamental transformation of communities and institutions, a conference at John Jay College was told Tuesday.

“Reforms and transformation need to happen at every point in the system, but also way beyond the system,” Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said at the Smart on Crime Innovations ConferenceREAD MORE.

September 16, 2019


Community organizer Raj Jayadev wants to transform the US court system through "participatory defense" -- a growing movement that empowers families and community members to impact their loved ones' court cases. He shares the remarkable results of their work -- including more than 4,000 years of "time saved" from incarceration -- and shows how this new model could shift the landscape of power in the courts.  WATCH HERE.

August 07, 2019

Story by Holly McDede

Photo by Silicon Valley De-Bug

A San Jose based group called Silicon Valley De-bug is on a mission to get family members into the courtroom as advocates. That organizing strategy is now spreading to “participatory defense” hubs around the country.

Yolanda Ledesma, an organizer with Silicon Valley De-bug tells us more about it. LISTEN HERE.

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