CI: Breathing Room

October 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Eco-Justice, Economic Development, Education, Housing, Immigration, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, Voting Rights

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Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Breathing Room
by nancy a heitzeg

This week, as every, there is plenty to report in Criminal InJustice.

Devastating new accounts of California Solitary Confinement — including new updates in the Prisoner Hunger Strike and an interview with Tessa Murphy from Angola 3 News.

The opening of the Black/Inside exhibit created by our comrades in Chicago, Prison Culture.

A new update from Prisoners of the Census on model legislation to eliminate prison-based gerry-mandering.

We will get back to all that soon.

Today we are distracted by Election 2012.

Since the very first post of 2012 — The Year of the Vote — to last week’s piece by Kay Whitlock, Criminalizing the Vote, CI has had an eye on November 6.

Certainly, we have been concerned about the plethora of voter suppression efforts — legal and otherwise, but today CI is asking, simply, for breathing room..

Larger political climates create or constrict possibilities for social movements. Will there be space to push forward or will the only possibilities be survival mode??

Certainly this is true around any number of issues, but the challenges of confronting the prison industrial complex make it especially so. Both Democrats and Republicans are caught up in “law and order” rhetoric, but the one offers only darkness, the other some daylight.

Remember The National Criminal Justice Commission Act, S. 714 of 2009??

The bill would establish the National Criminal Justice Commission to undertake a comprehensive review of all areas of the criminal justice system, including federal, state, local, and tribal governments’ criminal justice costs, practices, and policies.

The National Criminal Justice Commission Act directs the Commission to:

  • make findings regarding its review and recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice;
  •   conduct public hearings in various locations around the United States;
  •   consult with federal, state, local, and tribal government and nongovernmental leaders and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including the U.S. Sentencing Commission; and
  • submit a final report, within 18 months after its formation, to Congress, the President, and state, local, and tribal governments, and make such report available to the public.


Remember the the Democracy Restoration Act??

The Democracy Restoration Act (DRA) is federal legislation that seeks to restore voting rights in federal elections to the nearly 4 million disenfranchised Americans who have been released from prison and are living in the community. The bill was introduced by Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Representative John Conyers (D-MI) as H.R 3335 and S. 1516 on July 24th, 2009.

What this bill will change:

  • Restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4 million Americans who are out of prison and living in the community.
  • Ensure that people on probation never lose their right to vote in federal elections.
  • Notify people about their right to vote in federal elections when they are leaving prison, sentenced to probation, or convicted of a misdemeanor.


Both bills represented — for the first time in decades — some meaningful chance to address the impact of mass incarceration.

So where are they??

Lost in a tempest of white Tea Party rage and obstruction.

More of this mess and we will be forced to face escalating efforts at privatization/profiteering from criminal injustice.. More ALEC.

We will be criminalized and re-criminalized in ways we have not yet imagined.

We will be forced to re-fight the Civil War — with horses and bayonets — re-litigate voting rights, reproductive rights, civil rights,  basic human rights.

Of course, We will Never Stop Fighting. The people are too resilient and in the end, we will win. But these victories have been won already — too many have given their lives to just go back.

So GOTV — and I’m not too proud to beg either – Vote a straight Democratic ticket.

Give us some breathing room.

We need to move Forward again.

Seeta moderator 3 Like

Thanks for this Nancy. Breathing room is right. This election cycle has ignored so many key issues facing our country. To quote Lawrence O'Donnell, the media lacks the intellectual capacity and interest to address these core foundational issues.

RubySJones 4 Like

My avatar is gone. sniff sniff

RubySJones 4 Like

Hello all, 


Some heartening news:


I just became a member of the "NY Data Team". There was an hour training online. Now, this is  the part that will make you happy--- THERE WERE 280 PEOPLE IN THAT TRAINING!!! There were many more people than they expected.  YAY!! YAY!! YAY!! 

Domino14 4 Like

Great post  -  I would vote if I could.. and it would definately be democrat!



nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg 4 Like

my gratitude to all who work so tirelessly ato end criminal injustice


You know who you are

KayWhitlock 4 Like

Amen to breathing room.  Thanks, Nancy, and thanks to all the individuals and groups linked to in this post who fight daily, against huge odds, for human rights.


And thank you, Nancy and Seeta, for Election Watch information. 


  1. […] – to argue for abolition- and to also say, in the very same moment, that every inch of breathing room matters. To say that it matters who is the President, who sits on the Supreme Court, and who is the […]

  2. […] This is to say too, even to those who eschew electoral politics, keep a close eye on those nine robed judges and to the possibility of who may appoint them. It matters; their decisions shape the space for movements for decades, for generations not yet born, and mean the difference between raw repression and a small bit of breathing room. […]