Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three Strikes legislation wrong direction for MA-- take action now!

From the ACLU: 
A lot is on the line and we need your help. Massachusetts lawmakers are under intense pressure to pass a "3 strikes and you're out" proposal that would make our already harsh sentencing laws even more punitive.
In November, each branch of the state legislature hurriedly passed legislation that would, among other provisions, expand "mandatory maximum" sentences for people with certain criminal histories who are convicted of new crimes.
That's right--mandatory maximum sentences.
Unless we take bold and steady steps, "3 strikes" would tie judges' hands and require them to impose the maximum possible sentence on any defendant with past felony convictions charged as a "habitual" offender--such as stealing something with a value over a $250 threshold.
It should never even be a possibility that a judge could be forced to lock somebody up for years for an offense like stealing an iPod or an expensive pair of shoes. On top of that, the law would push back any chance of parole, and in many cases strip it away entirely. That's not only wrong, but with a price tag of nearly $50,000 a year to taxpayers, we can't afford it.
Thank you,
The ACLU of Massachusetts Legislative Team
P.S. To learn more about this dangerous legislation, visit our website.
Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Women (who we love) arrested at Vermont Yankee while mourning cancer deaths

Nancy First, Ellen Graves, Frances Crowe and Hattie Nestel await booking in the Vernon, Vermont police station.
The day after our intrepid warriors were arrested, a federal jusge ruled against the state of Vermont an in favor of Entergy, allowing the plant to stay open-- possibly as long as the twenty year extension granted to it by the Nuclear regulatory Commission.  Vermont is the only state which has given itself the power to approve or disapprove the plant's permit extensions. The reasons are ironic.  Read more here.

Article and photo by Marcia Gagliardi. As they participated in a walking meditation in the Entergy Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant driveway to mourn cancer deaths caused by radioactive emissions, fourteen women of the Shut It Down Affinity Group were arrested Wednesday by Vernon police and Vermont state police when they refused to move.

All were transported to and booked at the Vernon police station where Chief Mary-Beth Hebert coordinated collection of data for later charges. At the power plant, Chief Hebert told the women they would be charged with unlawful trespass, but no citations were issued during the bookings and no arraignment dates were provided.

Hattie Nestel, the first to be booked, said the arresting officer handed her a citation for unlawful trespass with a February 14 arraignment date. However, after conferring with another Vernon police staffer, the officer asked Nestel to give back the citation. “He told me the state’s attorney had called and instructed Vernon police not to issue court dates, and citations would be mailed to us,” Nestel said. None of the women received written citations nor arraignment dates during the booking.

The arrest marked the fourteenth time since 2005 that women of the group have acted either at the nuclear power plant or Entergy headquarters in Brattleboro to shut down Vermont Yankee.

During Wednesday’s silent procession at Vermont Yankee before the arrests, the women participated in a walking meditation while remembering friends, family, and all who have died from or suffer from cancer caused by radioactive emissions. The participants wore black clothing and donned white death masks during the procession.

Mindful of possible slippery conditions from recent cold weather and icing, the women took particular care to guide the steps of their friends Nelia Sargent, who is legally blind and Frances Crowe, who recently experienced a fall down stairs. Temperatures hovered in the teens during the procession.

Participants included, from Vermont, Julia Bonafine, 43, of Shrewsbury and Nina Swaim, 73, of Sharon; from New Hampshire, Sargent, 56; from Massachusetts, Ellen Graves, 71, of West Springfield; Anneke Corbett, 69, of Florence; Cate Woolner, 61, of Northfield; Sandra Boston, 71, of Greenfield; Betsy Corner, 64, of Colrain; Paki Wieland, 68, Crowe, 92, Susan Lantz, 71, and Nancy First, 82, all of Northampton; Marcia Gagliardi, 64, and Nestel, 72, of Athol.

Supporters for the action were, from Massachusetts, Mary-Ann Palmieri of New Salem and Ellen Kaufmann of Greenfield.

The women issued a statement after the action:

“No corporation has the right to poison our air, water, environment, and the future of humanity. We come to Vermont Yankee today representing the harbingers of death that emanates from this reactor.

“We cry for the suffering and poisoning of the aquatic life in our Connecticut River and for all life that surrounds it and is polluted by it.

“We cry for our children, their children, and those many generations that will have to suffer from the poisons that are emitted from Vermont Yankee and the other 103 commercial reactors in the U.S.We call on the state to act responsibly and join us in shutting down Vermont Yankee NOW!

“We call on all persons who do not want to see their air, water, environment, and life killed by this nuclear reactor to join us in shutting it down by such citizens’ non-violent actions now.

“Don't wait-tomorrow may be too late!” Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What shall I do with this child?

If I don't just sit down and write this, without worrying about telling the tale in the right order, or remembering all the other things I was supposed to write about, etc., it won't get written, so here goes:

On Friday, a young, 20 year old woman calls us from the Liberty St. welfare office-- she is three months pregnant and homeless and welfare won't help her-- can we?  She's sitting there with two suitcases and no bus money, so Ruben drives down, picks her up and brings her back to the office.

The story comes out: welfare won't help her because she was in a family shelter in September and left, and welfare (actually, the Dept. of Housing and Community Development) has a rule: no help available within one year of leaving shelter.

"Why did you leave?" I ask.

"Because when I went to the shelter, I was in the process of arranging temporary custody for my three year old son, and it happened faster than I thought, so once I didn't have him with me anymore, I wasn't eligible for shelter, and I had to leave."

Seems like Friday is always the day we have situations like this-- agency folks already looking toward the weekend-- a three day weekend, in this case-- and not reachable by phone-- not that a situation like hers is going to get resolved in a single working day anyway: the wheels of bureaucracy move very slowly.  We make a lot of phone calls, nothing pays off; I'm getting ready to prepare her physically and psychologically for a night in the women's shelter at Worthington St. when Pat Murray from Nehemiah House calls me back-- they'll take her for the weekend.  But while I'm talking to Pat, she calls her sister's boyfriend, who offered to pay for her to stay in a motel for a week, long enough, she hoped, for us to find her some real help.

I triy to talk her into staying at Nehemiah House, and using her week in a motel after that, but she's tired (and so am I) and just wants to be somewhere where she doesn't have to deal with any more strangers.  So we wait for the money to be wired, and then I drive her to this fleabag motel. (And when I get home, a woman has responded to my Facebook post with an offer!  Thank you!)

While all this is being negotiated, I get to hear a little more of her story.

"Where is your son now?" I ask.

"One of my foster moms took him for me."

"Did you grow up in foster care?"

 "Since I was seven."

"Do you have any family in the area?  Your mom?" (Because you'd be surprised how many kids who grow up in foster care wind up back with their birth parents.)

"No, my mom died when I was seven."

 "That's terrible.  What did she die of?"

 "Kidney failure.  She'd been in and out of jail, and she wasn't getting good care, and when she finally got out, and got on dialysis, she was pretty far gone-- she actually died pretty soon after."

"Any other family?"

"Just a sister-- but she's living with somebody else, and I can't go there."

"Let me ask you a question that's going to sound pretty rude-- have you considered an abortion?"

"I thought about it," she says, "but now I'm three and a half months along, and it's too late."

"Not really," I say, my voice trailing off.

"It just doesn't seem right, the baby's developing and everything."

I have yet to meet a girl who grew up in foster care (although I'm sure there are some) who will even consider an abortion when she gets pregnant.  Those girls know abandonment only too well, and having an abortion feels like self-murder.  I let it go, and drop her at the motel.

Tuesday morning, 10:30, and she calls me.

"I have to be out of here in half an hour, and I have no bus money."

"So the week turned out just to be a weekend?"


Ruben goes and picks her up, and it's back to the office, more phone calls,  you name it, we try it.  While we're making these calls, I hear her on the other line, arguing with someone.

"But I don't want to have an abortion.....Hey, that's not fair to say, it's not just as easy to have an abortion as it is to-- what did you call it?-- open my legs and get pregnant....No, he's 18 years old and doesn't even have a job....Can't I just come there for a while?"

Overhearing her gives me an idea, and this antiquated phrase comes into my mind...a Home for Unwed Mothers!  I try to reach Brightside, but get an answering machine.

"Ellen, what's that Catholic organization  that used to have those billboards that say, "Pregnant?  Worried?  You are not alone!'"

"Birthright," she says.  So I google Birthright and find a place in Worcester called the Visitation House, and while my young friend is still on the phone, I call them and explain the situation.

"She's homeless and some people are pressuring her to have an abortion, and she doesn't want one."

The woman on intake takes me very seriously, gets my number, the girl's number, and promises to try to have an answer tonight-- and if not tonight, tomorrow.  Meanwhile, it'll have to be Worthington St. Shelter for the night. (I have two homeless people staying with me right now, and not even enough blankets left to make up a bedroll.)

As I'm driving her to Worthington St., I ask her who was talking to her about having an abortion.

"My godmother," she says.  "She's in North Carolina, and I was asking her if I could stay with her, but she says not unless I have an abortion.  But I'm telling her, Who knows what my life will be like in six or seven months?  I could have an apartment, a job.....and she says, Well, what about the son you already have?  And I say, It's not like I just gave him up easily, I stuck it out for three years, and I do want to get him back....I did it for him.

"besides," she says, "it's kinda her fault I'm in this situation.  She's my godmother and she promised my mother she'd take care of me, but she beat me all the time, and DSS took me away from her."

There's really not much more to say for tonight.  I bring her to Worthington St., and I can tell she's scared, but I'll see her again tomorrow.

So my mind is swimming with all the points of intervention that could have made a difference in her life, even though we have to deal with the one intervention that may be within our power-- finding her a safe place to be.  Birth control....a mother who wasn't an addict...treatment for her mother instead of prison...a better foster care system...a change in DHCD rules...parenting homes.....Money! 

I think of myself, pregnant and nineteen, so sure I could pull it off, so unaware of all the trauma that lay ahead for me and my daughter....If you believe in prayer, and you have any to spare, please say them for my friend. Print Friendly and PDF

Double Your Money?

We have a tremendous opportunity for you to help Arise!
Someone once said that the best way to double your money is to fold it half!  All joking aside, a Google search for Double your Money brings up over 370,000,000 results! Many of these links are for scams promising double returns if you just send them your money. In reality, it seems like everyone is looking for a way to make their money go twice as far. Buy one, get one free sales have exploded around the country – couponing has become an obsession!
Here are Arise, we have an opportunity to double our money in a meaningful way. Recently, a local foundation has issued us a challenge grant. If we raise $1000 between now and April 1st, the foundation will match It with a donation of $1000 of their own!  This is a sure way to double your money and have twice the impact in our community! 
Have you been interested in donating to Arise, but doubted that your single donation would make much of a difference? Donating to help with this challenge is a simple and great way to partner with us to double the impact of your donation!  
I want to thank the donors who have already given! We already have $100 towards the goal of $1000. Will you join us and them in meeting this challenge?
Donate now via our blog’s Donate button (Just to the right of this post J) Or mail us your donation today @ 467 State Street, P.O.Box 5423, Springfield, MA 01101.  Simple put “Challenge” in the memo line J
Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Join us on twitter :-)

Are you a social media connected person? Have a blog, a twitter, a facebook and maybe even an old Tumblr or myspace laying around? Come join Arise on Twitter!!!!/AriseSocialJust

We're also on Facebook as both a group and an organization - join us to find out all the latest information and keep up to date on all the latest happenings here at Arise! 

If you are interested in having your work published on the blog? Join us for our Members Speak feature :-) Member's Speak is a monthly column where we post what you have to say! 
Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, January 2, 2012

25 Years and Counting :-)

25 years ago it was 1987. Reagan was president, Governor Dukakis and John Kerry were Gov and Lt. Gov , Richard Neal was Major of Springfield, Unemployment was at 3.5%, and the Monarch Life Insurance Company was beginning to build Monarch Place, the new 400ft skyscraper.  Despite these statistics, cracks were beginning to appear in this fa├žade of prosperity.  Springfield’s crime rate was increasing and its white population was fleeing to the suburbs.  Over 400,000 Massachusetts citizens received some form of welfare aid. A family of three, who received maximum welfare benefits, was expected to make ends meet with just $549 a month, just over half of what they needed to actually survive; Over 1000 families were homeless each month.  The wealth gap was growing and those in poverty were beginning to grow restless.

              It was into this environment, just two year earlier, that four women on welfare met around a kitchen table do see what they could about the injustices they experienced in the welfare system.  As they began to build political power, helping with the Up and Out of Poverty Campaign, other members of the community began to join these women.  As the Arise Community grew, the organization grew with it. In 1987, Arise applied for and received non-profit status and rented our first office in Springfield.  Even though the founders eventually did find low wage work, they found themselves dealing with the same prejudices and oppression they faced as mothers on welfare.

Although Springfield and Arise have gone through many changes, their fundamental traits have not changed. Although Springfield is a slightly more diverse city with many cultural and ethnic traditions, big business and wealth still try to dominate.  Minorities and the under privileged are still marginalized, ignored, and oppressed. After 25 years, Arise is still dedicated to fighting for the voiceless, helping people find their voice and working for city and culture wide change.  Today, our issues have expanded to include issues that affect not only low-income people but all people. Our member driven committees cover racism, economic justice, justice for criminals, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, environmental justice, and anti-war/pro-peace actions. We have seen amazing progress on many fronts, but there is still much to be done.

Over the coming year, in addition to our regular efforts, Arise will be hosting a series of special events, blog posts, open mic nights, film nights, and other great events to celebrate the last 25 years and look forward to the next 25 years.  You’ll hear from founding members, older members and some current members. It will all culminate this October with our 25th Anniversary Gala!

           We will be posting details both here, on Facebook and on Twitter, so please stay tuned and plan to join us in both celebration and in rededication to meaningful and lasting change! 
Print Friendly and PDF