How can I make a difference this week?
By joining with others to strengthen community and respond to injustice in its many forms, each of us can put our Unitarian Universalist faith and its principles into action. Here are some ideas for this week, and every week.
A More Just Justice System in Thurston County. Last week, more than 120 people attended the screening of the film, “13th” and the discussion with Thurston County Public Defense staff. Many asked, “What can we do?” Former Thurston County Public Defense Director Daryl Rodrigues and other staff had several suggestions for action, and OUUC-based Justice Not Jails is the perfect organization with which to coordinate. Over the past few years, it has established relationships with the county sheriff, prosecutor, and other officials. Contact Steve Tilley for ways you can get involved.
IDEAS FOR ACTION
Urge the Thurston County Commissioners not to hire Daryl Rodrigues’ replacement in secret. When Daryl was interviewed, it included a panel that included judges, staff at the Defender’s office, and the Washington Public Defender’s Association. This could even include a member of the public so we know the person will not just be an administrative caretaker.
You can speak to the County Commissioners at the public comment period at 2 pm at their Tuesday meeting or write an email to any or all three of them at http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/bocc/
Longer-term Actions For Individuals and Groups:
- Office of Public Defense
- Urge creation of an independent board to oversee the work of Thurston County Public Defense. This board could provide an independent view of the office operations and engage with the community about defense in the criminal justice system.
- Research the American Bar Associations statement on political independence of defense in the criminal justice system.
- Compare the tenure and experience of attorneys in the Prosecutor’s office versus attorneys in Public Defense.
- Work to retain the current Public Defense budget and provide a means for the office to respond to increased case filings.
- Establish a fixed term of employment so the Public Defender’s work is not influenced by political interference.
- Investigate whether the Triage Center is working as intended. Are jail inmates being sent there for evaluation? Can clients make court appearances within the facility rather than being strapped to a gurney and rolled into court?
- Law and Justice Council
- Establish Public Defense as a formal member of the Law and Justice Council.
- Encourage the Law and Justice Council to engage the community on criminal justice issues.
- Encourage the Council to make progress on the initiatives they have identified.
- Keep non-violent offenders out of jail. Studies show that even a few hours in jail increases the risk of re-offending.
- Institute a diversion program for 18-24-year-olds. This has been funded by the County but not implemented due to lack of criteria from the Prosecutor.
- Urge more use of electronic home monitoring for non-violent defenders rather than keeping them in jail until their trial. Some are kept in jail to ensure that, if they are convicted, their credit for time served does not include time on home monitoring. This is not fair to defendants who are innocent until proven guilty.
- Bureau of Justice has statistics/report on how people who are jailed because they can’t make bail is counterproductive–it increases the percentage of people who re-offend.
- Support hiring police and jail employees with criminal justice and psychology education.
- Investigate why there has been a large increase in cases filed by the Prosecutor.
- Encourage a Community Conversation on the topic, “What is True Public Safety?” This could bring in a broad range of things: health care, mental health care, housing, treatment for substance abuse, changing the laws and changing the practices of law enforcement and the criminal injustice system.
- Coordinate among groups working on justice issues in Thurston County
- Create a working coalition of groups working on justice issues in Thurston County to share strategies and experience.
- Create a website to identify criminal justice reform needs that would increase true public safety while making the system more effective and humane.
Thursday, March 30, April 6, 13, and 20, 10-11:30 am, OUUC Islam and the Qur’an. Facilitated by the Reverend Carol McKinley, OUUC’s affiliated community minister and coordinator of its Faith in Action Ministry.
Universally revered as holy scripture revered by Muslims around the world, the Qur’an provides the guide to living fundamentally to the Muslim way of life. Thomas Cleary’s translation offers an introductory selection of readings that presents the essence of the Koran in an accessible way. Discussion of the life of Mohammed and the history of Islam will place this sacred text in context with the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity.
Text: The Essential Koran: The Heart of Islam, translated and presented by Thomas Cleary.
SAVE THE DATE
Monday, April 3, 2017, 7 pm, OUUC. Banning Refugees: 1939 and Today. A presentation by Interfaith Works
Executive Director, Danny Kadden
The Trump administration’s attempt to ban religious or national groups from entry into the US has triggered widespread debate, resistance and robust legal challenges.
Danny Kadden shares his family’s story as passengers aboard the ill-fated ship MS St. Louis, which sailed from Nazi Germany to Havana, Cuba in the spring of 1939 carrying over 900 Jewish refugees. For five weeks, they were spurned by every nation of the Western Hemisphere until forced to return to Europe, just four months before the outbreak of WWII.
Then, as now, the conscience and character of America was tested. This will be a timely opportunity to learn how the present resembles the past, and to discuss our concerns about immigration, xenophobia and democratic values.
Sunday, April 30, 1 pm, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1601 North St., Olympia 98501. IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROGRAMS. OUUC’s Faith in Action Ministry is co-sponsoring with Good Shepherd a program to learn more about ways to support groups working with immigrants and refugee settlement.
– Carol McKinley, Faith in Action Ministry