WESPAC Foundation is concerned about the criminal justice system. We work in solidarity with other groups and organizations in Westchester County to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws, to eliminate racial profiling, and to address the structural and institutional biases inherent in our criminal justice system. We stand to permanently remove the death penalty as a legal option for the state, and we seek to significantly reduce the prison populations by working towards a more benevolent economic system that guarantees meaningful jobs and training at a living wage to all people.
Protecting Civil Liberties and Public Safety in an Age of Terror
Monday, November 14th from 6pm to 8:30pm
Tudor Room at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
78 N Broadway, White Plains, NY 10603
A panel discussion to address public concern about potential terrorist activity and to review procedures that are in place intended to keep us safe while at the same time respecting the rule of law, constitutional rights and civil liberties. Panelists will explore why protecting civil rights domestically is important to fighting terrorism.
Mariko Hirose, senior staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, with a focus on statewide civil rights and civil liberties impact litigation and on cases involving free speech, privacy, government transparency and criminal justice.
Chief Inspector John Hodges with the Westchester County Police Department’s counter-terrorism unit will review recent steps taken in regional security coordination and intelligence gathering.
Pace Law Professor Thomas McDonnell is an expert in international human rights, the law of war, and the war on terrorism.
The panel will be moderated by Pace Law Professor David Dorfman.
This event is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by the Lower Hudson Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Pace Criminal Justice Institute, WESPAC, the Westchester Coalition against Islamophobia and the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform. For more information, please contact the Pace Criminal Justice Institute Director Lissa Griffin at [email protected]. Parking is available on campus for those attending this event.
Hundreds Come Out in Support of Police Accountability
By A. Surya Peterson
(Photos from this march available on WESPAC’s Facebook Page: Explore WESPAC)
Hundreds of people participated on Thursday, July 14th in a rally and march for justice in downtown White Plains, NY, organized by the White Plains Ministers Fellowship Council. Reverend Lee Trollinger, the President of the White Plains Ministers Fellowship Council, served as the lead organizer and invited clergy and community leaders from all over Westchester County to participate.
The march started at the Calvary Baptist Church at 6:30pm where clergy led the large gathering of people in prayer. Elected officials were among those present including the City of White Plains Mayor Roach, White Plains City Council members Nadine Hunt-Robinson and Milagros Lecuona, NYS Assembly member David Buchwald and NYS Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins. People held signs from the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform that read: “Black Lives Matter”; “#ThisStopsToday”; “Stop Police Impunity”. One large banner read: “White People for Black Lives”.
The first stop along the route was 135 South Lexington Avenue where WESPAC Director Nada Khader was invited to re-tell the story of the police killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr, in November 2011. Rev. Lynn Dunn, Minister for Christian Education and Spiritual Formation at the White Plains Presbyterian Church led the gathering in prayer. Kenny Lee, a retired White Plains Police Officer, played “Taps” in honor of the loving memory of former marine Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.
The marchers then stopped in front of the White Plains Department of Public Safety to hear from the White Plains Police Chief Anne FitzSimmons who recited the Saint Francis of Assisi prayer for peace and was also followed by Kenny Lee’s “Taps”. The group then made its way to Court Street where the White Plains Police Department had cordoned off the section of the road and prepared a show mobile for the clergy speakers.
Reverend Franklyn Richardson of the historic Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon addressed the crowd. Rev. Richardson is the Chairman of the National Action Network, an activist group founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton. He offered some suggestions for addressing the state of racialized policing today.
Imam Ali from Yonkers, a religious cleric of the Islamic tradition, shared his vision of a brighter America where we will all live in unity and respect for one another. He was followed by Reverend Kymberly McNair, the Minister of Community Education and Engagement at the Bedford Presbyterian Church, who shared with us the challenges in confronting institutional racism in our society.
Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr, the son of police slain Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., spoke about the need for police accountability and reform. He is a co-founder of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform of which members were very visible in the crowd. The demands of this coalition include working to:
Establish independent oversight structures with subpoena power in order to review the policies and practices of law enforcement agencies, investigate cases of police misconduct, and impose sanctions.
Implement clear and current protocols within all police departments addressing the use of force continuum, as well as proper handling of emotionally troubled individuals, with an emphasis on deescalating confrontations without resorting to violence.
Make the rules and regulations of all police agencies available to the public.
Review and reform the training program of the Westchester Police Academy, with particular focus on proper means to deescalate situations through non-violent methods.
Centralize in-service police training to encourage sharing of best practices and reduce financial costs.
Expand the use of Crisis Intervention Teams throughout Westchester County.
Increase police department efforts to recruit from a diverse officer applicant pool, so that departments more accurately reflect the communities they serve.
Reassess police department promotion policies in order to advance more African-American and Latino officers into positions of leadership.
Establish a special prosecutor to investigate and discipline police misconduct.
Create an independent entity to review the policies and practices of law enforcement agencies throughout the state and propose necessary reforms.
Require that all police interrogations be recorded.
Prohibit custodial arrests for violations – arrests where an officer has discretion to issue a summons or arrest an individual.
Close the loophole that treats possession of small amounts of marijuana differently depending on whether or not it is in public view – a citation versus a misdemeanor.
The next meeting of the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform will take place on Thursday, July 28th at the Thomas H. Slater Center located at 2 Fisher Court in White Plains, NY, at 6:30pm.
The Director of the Thomas H. Slater Center, Heather Miller, spoke about the importance of voting and registering to vote. She explained that the formerly incarcerated are allowed to vote in New York State and that part of making change is participating in the electoral process.
The last presentation was from Jirrell Abraham, a local poet and spoken word artist and member of the H.I.P.H.O.P. group Highly Important People Healing Our Planet. His performance is available on social media.
Several community organizations were present for the march including the Westchester Martin Luther King Institute for Nonviolence (the MLK Institute convenes the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform), the Urban League of Westchester, the Anti Racist Alliance of Westchester, the African American Men Of Westchester, the Theodore Young Community Center, the Loft LGBT Community Center, Mount Vernon Tenants Association, Westchester Disabled on the Move, WESPAC, Hope’s Door and several more. Families came out with children on their strollers and members of the Police Guardians Association were with us on motorcycles. We were just steps from where Westchester County Police accidentally killed Mount Vernon Detective Christopher Ridley in a scuffle outside of 85 Court Street in January of 2008.
The march and gathering represent a significant step towards improving police and community relations with greater accountability and transparency for all.
Harlem Walkers to March through Westchester County to Highlight Plight of the Wrongfully Convicted
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
For more information, please contact Neekee West at 646.684.1013
Over 90 people have registered to join family, friends and loved ones of the wrongfully convicted for an eight day march from Harlem to Albany starting on Mother’s Day, May 8th, 2016. 20 walkers are committed to walking for the whole eight days in order to highlight the plight of the wrongfully convicted and to demand specific legislative reforms found at http://justice4thewrongfullyincarcerated.org/what-we-demand/
Imani McCalla is a Journalism Major at SUNY Purchase and has been interning this semester at WESPAC. She recently attended the Westchester MLK Institute’s annual conference on Ending Violence, Building Hope and took the time to write an article about her experience.
“Rebuilding A Community And Reliving A Dream”
By Imani McCalla
Following years of civil unrest within black communities, Manhattanville College and staff joined Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for Nonviolence in their 17th annual Ending Violence, Building Hope community gathering this month to discuss tools for positive change.
Inspired by Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, the organization, since 1987, facilitates nonviolent action for social justice and promotes nonviolence as a way of life. (more…)
A group gathered the evening of Tuesday, January 26, 2016, focused on supporting parole for Herman Bell as well as for the First International Day of Action in Solidarity with Trans Prisoners.
We wrote birthday cards to former Black Panther Herman Bell (freehermanbell.org), who just turned 68 on January 14. We watched the moving 8 minute documentary about Herman by Freedom Archives https://vimeo.com/51465733 and discussed our personal experiences and feelings around the prison system.
We wrote to trans prisoners, affirming our solidarity and support, as part of the First International Day of Action in Solidarity with Trans Prisoners, which took place January 22.
We learned more about the case of Rev. Joy Powell http://freejoypowell.org/, a political prisoner held in Bedford Women’s Prison, located in Westchester County, New York.
It was a good night and we look forward to continuing the work locally on these issues. The night was sponsored by WESPAC Foundation and the Victory Bus Project and took place at WESPAC’s office in White Plains. #FreeEmAll
By Sendhil Mullainathan- professor of economics at Harvard
The deaths of African-Americans at the hands of the police in Ferguson, Mo., in Cleveland and on Staten Island have reignited a debate about race. Some argue that these events are isolated and that racism is a thing of the past. Others contend that they are merely the tip of the iceberg, highlighting that skin color still has a huge effect on how people are treated.
Arguments about race are often heated and anecdotal. As a social scientist, I naturally turn to empirical research for answers. As it turns out, an impressive body of research spanning decades addresses just these issues — and leads to some uncomfortable conclusions and makes us look at this debate from a different angle.
The central challenge of such research is isolating the effect of race from other factors. For example, we know African-Americans earn less income, on average, than whites. Maybe that is evidence that employers discriminate against them. But maybe not. We also know African-Americans tend to be stuck in neighborhoods with worse schools, and perhaps that — and not race directly — explains the wage gap. If so, perhaps policy should focus on place rather than race, as some argue.
But we can isolate the effect of race to some degree. A study I conducted in 2003 with Marianne Bertrand, an economist at the University of Chicago, illustrates how. We mailed thousands of résumés to employers with job openings and measured which ones were selected for callbacks for interviews. But before sending them, we randomly used stereotypically African-American names (such as “Jamal”) on some and stereotypically white names (like “Brendan”) on others.
The same résumé was roughly 50 percent more likely to result in callback for an interview if it had a “white” name. Because the résumés were statistically identical, any differences in outcomes could be attributed only to the factor we manipulated: the names.
Other studies have also examined race and employment. In a 2009 study, Devah Pager, Bruce Western and Bart Bonikowski, all now sociologists at Harvard, sent actual people to apply for low-wage jobs. They were given identical résumés and similar interview training. Their sobering finding was that African-American applicants with no criminal record were offered jobs at a rate as low as white applicants who had criminal records.
These kinds of methods have been used in a variety of research, especially in the last 20 years. Here are just some of the general findings:
■ When doctors were shown patient histories and asked to make judgments about heart disease, they were much less likely to recommend cardiac catheterization (a helpful procedure) to black patients — even when their medical files were statistically identical to those of white patients.
■ When whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car, blacks were offered initial prices roughly $700 higher, and they received far smaller concessions.
■ Several studies found that sending emails with stereotypically black names in response to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist elicited fewer responses than sending ones with white names. A regularly repeated study by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development sent African-Americans and whites to look at apartments and found that African-Americans were shown fewer apartments to rent and houses for sale.
■ White state legislators were found to be less likely to respond to constituents with African-American names. This was true of legislators in both political parties.
■ Emails sent to faculty members at universities, asking to talk about research opportunities, were more likely to get a reply if a stereotypically white name was used.
■ Even eBay auctions were not immune. When iPods were auctioned on eBay, researchers randomly varied the skin color on the hand holding the iPod. A white hand holding the iPod received 21 percent more offers than a black hand.
The criminal justice system — the focus of current debates — is harder to examine this way. One study, though, found a clever method. The pools of people from which jurors are chosen are effectively random. Analyzing this natural experiment revealed that an all-white jury was 16 percentage points more likely to convict a black defendant than a white one, but when a jury had one black member, it convicted both at the same rate.
I could go on, but hopefully the sheer breadth of these findings impresses you, as it did me.
There are some counterexamples: Data show that some places, like elite colleges, most likely do favor minority applicants. But this evidence underlies that a helping hand in one area does not preclude harmful shoves in many other areas, including ignored résumés, unhelpful faculty members and reluctant landlords.
But this widespread discrimination is not necessarily a sign of widespread conscious prejudice.
When our own résumé study came out, many human-resources managers told us they were stunned. They prized creating diversity in their companies, yet here was evidence that they were doing anything but. How was that possible?
To use the language of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, we think both fast and slow. When deciding what iPod to buy or which résumé to pursue, we weigh a few factors deliberately (“slow”). But for hundreds of other factors, we must rely on intuitive judgment — and we weigh these unconsciously (“fast”).
Even if, in our slow thinking, we work to avoid discrimination, it can easily creep into our fast thinking. Our snap judgments rely on all the associations we have — from fictional television shows to news reports. They use stereotypes, both the accurate and the inaccurate, both those we would want to use and ones we find repulsive.
We can’t articulate why one seller’s iPod photograph looks better; dozens of factors shape this snap judgment — and we might often be distraught to realize some of them. If we could make a slower, deliberate judgment we would use some of these factors (such as the quality of the photo), but ignore others (such as the color of the hand holding the iPod). But many factors escape our consciousness.
This kind of discrimination — crisply articulated in a 1995 article by the psychologists Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard and Anthony Greenwald of the University of Washington — has been studied by dozens of researchers who have documented implicit bias outside of our awareness.
The key to “fast thinking” discrimination is that we all share it. Good intentions do not guarantee immunity. One study published in 2007 asked subjects in a video-game simulation to shoot at people who were holding a gun. (Some were criminals; some were innocent bystanders.) African-Americans were shot at a higher rate, even those who were not holding guns.
Ugly pockets of conscious bigotry remain in this country, but most discrimination is more insidious. The urge to find and call out the bigot is powerful, and doing so is satisfying. But it is also a way to let ourselves off the hook. Rather than point fingers outward, we should look inward — and examine how, despite best intentions, we discriminate in ways big and small.
Sendhil Mullainathan is a professor of economics at Harvard. Follow him on Twitter at @m_sendhil.
Fair Trade gift items available in WESPAC office We have a few beautiful fair trade items available in the office. I am able to ship items to you if you would prefer: Triangular hand painted ceramic bowl - $20 (6 remaining) Large hand painted yellow bowl - $40 Hand embroidery is from refugee women in Lebanon: Shawls (one turquoise and one multicolor) - $55 Cushion covers - $25, $40 for the cover with more embroidery Cosmetic bag - $20 2019 Political Prisoner Calendar - $15
OMG: I did not hear his speech until now. The best response to CNN’s firing of Marc Lamont Hill would be for all of us to share his actual words as widely as possible around the planet. Robert Kesten: you can start Monday’s town hall with this. It is all about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, how they must apply to ALL people. Please take the time to watch: ... See MoreSee Less
Marc Lamont Hill is a scholar, activist, and media personality. On 29 November 2018, Hill gave a speech at the United Nations as part of the United Nation's International Day of Solidarity with the Pa...