Michelle Alexander Stands with the March for Justice

Quote from Michelle Alexander author of The New Jim Crow

I stand with the Alliance of Families for Justice, their allies and the marchers who are calling for an end to human rights violations in prisons and jails and the closure of Attica prison. The March for Justice challenges us to pay attention to who is incarcerated and how they are mistreated, and it contributes to the movement-building and consciousness raising that is necessary to end mass incarceration once and for all.


Heather Ann Thompson Endorses March for Justice.

Heather Ann Thompson, 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning author of Blood In the Water, endorses the March for Justice. She says:

"I stand with the Alliance of Families for Justice (AFJ) and the upcoming March for Justice. the horrific human rights violations that are confirmed to be happening right now in facilities such as Rikers and Attica, each of us has a moral, ethical and humanitarian responsibility to demand an end to the abuses happening to those who are incarcerated."


Alliance of Families for Justice plan march to Albany

Isaac Monterose and Tyler Williams
August 3, 2017
Reprinted from the Amsterdam News (link)

As the Alliance of Families for Justice approaches the upcoming date for the March for Justice on Aug. 26, three family members from the AFJ spoke with the Amsterdam News about their future participation and commitment for the March for Justice. The three family members preferred to remain anonymous for confidentiality purposes.

The March for Justice is a 19-day march that will travel from New York City to Albany. The participants can choose to walk part of the way or the entire route. For example, participants can choose to walk from New York City to Yonkers.

The Amsterdam News spoke with a daughter who has a mother and brother who are incarcerated for more than 10 years on separate bids. A second person is the spouse of a wife who is incarcerated for 17 years. A third person is the mother of a son incarcerated for 16 to 25 years.

The daughter said, “My personal view is this is a unique event, for several reasons. One being that it is an action that seeks to include the voices of incarcerated people whose human rights have been violated while serving their time. Second, the March for Justice provides opportunity and space for family members to raise their voices as well. When a person is sent to prison to serve time, their family members are served a bid as well.”

Asked about what inspired her to join the March for Justice, the daughter replied, “I come to this work as a family member directly affected by the destruction of mass incarceration. My mother rotated in and out of the system for well over 20 years of my life.

Because of this, my body lingered in the foster care system, until I aged out at 21 years old. Her mother, my maternal grandmother, served time at Bedford Hills, when I was a child. My brother is currently serving time at a New York state prison, a 14 year bid.”

The spouse said she is excited about the march. “My wife is in prison for 17 years,” she said. “The prison has abused her with impunity.” The spouse added that the incarcerated wife has been abused within the prison system while the system itself does not deal with any consequences.

The mother said her son was offered a plea deal of 16 to 25 years, but it was never formally documented. According to the mother, her son was “railroaded” in his trial. She said her son has been “a model prisoner,” but he was moved to the “nastiest” cell block in the prison, where incarcerated people smoke K-2 marijuana, and pepper-spray is regularly sprayed.

“Right now, I’m trying to get the support that I need to gear myself up for the fight,” she said.

According to the mother, the fumes affected her son’s speech so much that he had to go to the prison’s doctors.

She continued, “I just went to see him three weeks ago and to see him looking somewhat vulnerable. It’s working on me right now…it’s just awful. So I got to really work on with whoever I got to work with and if I need to do letters and petitions and whatever I need to do right now [then] I got to get all the support I can get to help my child in this particular situation.”

Aside from family members of incarcerated people, students, community leaders, members of faith-based organizations, organized labor, social workers, lawyers, teachers, service providers, policy makers, academics, athletes, elected officials from local municipalities, organizers, health professionals and celebrities will be attending the March for Justice, according to the AFJ press release.

According to Soffiyah Elijah, executive director and founder of AFJ, in a meeting July 27 at the National Black Theatre in Harlem, the New York State Nurses Association is endorsing the AFJ and will do health assessments if necessary. Sam North of the Peekskill chapter of the NAACP, who is the second vice president and chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, said that the Peekskill chapter of the NAACP will be at the march. However, they haven’t officially endorsed the march.

When asked about the chapter’s support of AFJ’s policy positions, North said that the NAACP is “very much in line” with many of AFJ’s prison reform policies. Also, he said that the Peekskill NAACP are interested in raising awareness about Samuel Harrell, who is an incarcerated person who was allegedly beaten to death by several corrections officers in the Fishkill Correctional Facility. An investigation into Harrell’s death is ongoing, but none of the officers involved have been charged.

July 29, Elijah, along with Angel Solis, a Columbia University student and AFJ volunteer, were interviewed by Kevin Barron, the host of Black Rising Radio, about the upcoming March for Justice. “The focus of the March for Justice is to expose the human rights abuses that happen every day in the prisons and jails across New York State and to call the elimination of them and the shutdown of Attica prison,” said Elijah.

When asked about how mass incarceration affects families, Solis told Barron that families are dying, not just biologically but dying in the sense of the relationship. “What happens to the prisoners that ultimately, while we’re holding on at the very ledges of despair, it comes to a point where you see no one up there with an extended hand?” said Solis. “You just end up letting go and when you fall into that darkness in prison, you end up becoming like even worse of a person to some extent because you just stop caring.”

Solis added, “Prison is not the hardest thing. The hardest thing is not being behind bars or serving time. It’s losing one’s ties to one’s society in the form of family and friends.”

Tiffany McFadden, a New York writer who is a volunteer with Alliance of Families for Justice, wrote on the AFJ website, “Courts won’t allow the capping of phone rates in prisons, even though it would be the humane way to treat the incarcerated. The courts should then help incarcerated families and communities.”

McFadden was responding to a June 17 editorial in The Washington Post about a federal appeals court decision denying the Federal Communications Commission the ability to cap prison phone rates within states. According to The Washington Post, the real losers are incarcerated people and their families.

This article reprinted from the Amsterdam News: 

March for Justice

Tyler Williams
Amsterdam News (reprint of original article)

July 27, 2017

August 26, the Alliance of Families for Justice will lead a 19-day march to bring to the attention of the New York State Legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the general public the human rights abuses in New York prisons and jails such as Rikers and Attica, according to the AFJ website.

Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of AFJ, organized this march with board members of the AFJ and volunteers. According to the AFJ press release, “The marchers will walk approximately 10 miles a day, culminating 19 days later in a major rally and news conference in Albany on Sept. 13, 2017, the anniversary of the 1971 Attica uprising.”

According to the History Channel website, on Sept. 13, 1971, a four-day rebellion of more than 1,200 inmates at the Attica State Correctional Facility in upstate New York ended most horrifically after Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ordered approximately 600 state troopers to storm the prison. The rebellion was the reaction of the inmates to the poor living conditions in the prison. The inmates were frustrated with the chronic overcrowding, censorship of letters and being limited to one shower per week and one roll of toilet paper per month. The Attica uprising was the worst prison riot in United States history.

“Attica, like Rikers Island, has a long and troubling legacy of human rights abuses,” said Elijah according to the AFJ press release. “However, Attica and Rikers are not the only problem facilities. Human rights abuses are a systemic problem inside New York’s prisons and jails, and the March for Justice is designed to educate and mobilize people to bring an end to them. Solitary confinement, women-specific concerns, jail expansion, bail reform and treatment of people with mental health needs are just some of the issues we will address.”

Black Rising Radio host Kevin Barron, who is a volunteer with the AFJ, spoke with the Amsterdam News about the upcoming march. When asked about the significance of the march, Barron said that it is to call more attention to human rights abuses in prisons. “There are a lot of people who don’t know what’s going on, so we want to keep it at the forefront and limelight,” said Barron.

The issue of food, water, and shelter arises for the 19-day march. To solve this problem, nursing organizations and other service providers will provide food and water, and churches and community centers will allow overnight stays, according to Barron.

According to Elijah, adequate education and bail reform are some of the subjects that the march will cover for the incarcerated individuals. “The march will be at a leisurely pace,” said Elijah.

According to the executive summary provided by the AFJ, the participants who are expected to attend the march are students, faith leaders, organized labor, social workers, lawyers and paralegals, teachers, policy makers, formerly incarcerated people, academics, athletes, elected officials, community organizers, health professionals, celebrities, activists and researchers.

According to the press release, actor and activist Danny Glover said, “As a founding board member of AFJ, I am proud to participate and lend my support in every way possible to the March for Justice. The scourge of mass incarceration and the criminal injustice system on the poor, Black and Brown communities throughout New York State and the country must be exposed and eliminated.”

Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy,” according to the press release, stated, “I stand with Alliance of Families for Justice and the upcoming March for Justice. Given the horrific human rights violations that are confirmed to be happening right now in facilities such Rikers and Attica, each of us has a moral, ethical and humanitarian responsibility to demand an end to the abuses happening to prisoners.”

According to the AFJ website, a meeting will take place Thursday, July 27, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the National Black Theatre, 2031 Fifth Ave. (between 125th and 126th streets) in Harlem. Elijah said that this meeting will be a “prep session” for the March for Justice.

“Mass incarceration and mass criminalization are issues that collectively, we can change,” said Elijah in the press release. “That is why throughout the March for Justice, we will be educating people and registering them to vote. Every step counts!”

The tentative schedule and locations for the march, from the AFJ website, are listed below.

Day 1, Saturday, Aug. 26: New York City

Day 2, Sunday, Aug. 27: Yonkers

Day 3, Monday, Aug. 28: Tarrytown

Day 4, Tuesday, Aug. 29: Croton-on-Hudson

Day 5, Wednesday, Aug. 30: Peekskill

Day 6, Thursday, Aug. 31: Garrison

Day 7, Friday, Sept. 1: Beacon

Day 8, Saturday, Sept. 2: Wappingers Falls

Day 9, Sunday, Sept. 3: Poughkeepsie

Day 10, Monday, Sept. 4: Esopus

Day 11, Tuesday, Sept. 5: Port Ewen

Day 12, Wednesday, Sept. 6: Saugerties

Day 13, Thursday, Sept. 7: Catskill

Day 14, Friday, Sept. 8: Coxsackie

Day 15, Saturday, Sept. 9: Coxsackie

Day 16, Sunday, Sept. 10: Ravena

Day 17, Monday, Sept. 11: Glenmont

Day 18, Tuesday, Sept. 12: Glenmont

Day 19, Wednesday, Sept. 13: Albany

For more information, visit www.afj-ny.org.

Capping prison phone rates helps keep families connected

Letters to the Editor - Opinion - The Washington Post
June 19, 2017
Tiffany McFadden

Regarding the June 17 editorial “The line goes dead for inmates”:

Courts won’t allow the capping of phone rates in prisons even though it would be the humane way to treat the incarcerated. The courts should then help inmates’ families and communities.

I spent 17 years of my life as a ward of New York state’s foster care system while my mother, struggling with heroin addiction, was incarcerated. There were times in my life when I went as long as two years without hearing her voice. I literally couldn’t afford to. Neither can so many families with incarcerated loved ones.

Roadblocks to keeping these families connected don’t stop with the telephone. New York state may have limited phone rates, but it then rescinded the free bus service families used to visit loved ones in prison. By the time food, lost wages and hotel and bus fare are taken into account, it can cost hundreds of dollars for a child to spend a day with his or her parent in prison.

Families must be part of the rehabilitation process. When they’re separated, the incarcerated lose their strongest support network and family members are punished, too.

Tiffany McFadden, New York
he writer is a volunteer with Alliance of Families for Justice.


March for Justice: From New York City to Albany!

The March for Justice is an undertaking by the Alliance of Families for Justice–NY (AFJ-NY) to bring to the attention of the New York State Legislative body, Governor, and the general public, human rights abuses in New York State prisons and jails.  Below are some of the prominent key issues the March will address:

    • Raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility

    • Family Visitation to Prisons

    • Meaningful reform of the use of solitary confinement

    • Close Attica and eliminate human rights abuse in prisons and jails

    • Meaningful reform of parole

    • Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) Campaign

The March will start in New York on Saturday, August 26, 2017, and culminate in a  major press conference and rally in Albany on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 -- the anniversary of the 1971 Attica uprising and massacre*.   A core team of marchers will complete the entire route joined daily by others who want to contribute their efforts to this March as a demonstration of support for the cause. Read the March for Justice Executive Summary

Join organizing meetings. Email us for the time of meetings at info@afj-ny.org. Download proposed route and times of march (PDF). The route is being worked out still and we would love to hear from you if you want to host an event and/or marchers at your organization during the march; please contact us to discuss this at info@afj-ny.org. 




In defense of families: Soffiyah Elijah speaks out

Photos: Courtesy of Kiana Barron

Photos: Courtesy of Kiana Barron

Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of Alliance of Families for Justice, led a discussion exploring the survival skills families with incarcerated loved ones have employed not only in navigating hostile systems, but also in acting with determination to resist, organize, and fight for change.

With panelists Kevin Barron, Tiffany McFadden, Angel Solis, and Jackie Winbush, Volunteers, Alliance of Families for Justice. 

Part of the series "States of Denial: The Illegal Incarceration of Women, Children, and People of Color," presented by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

See video of the event

Empower Soffiyah and AFJ to continue to speak on behalf of families impacted by the criminal justice system by marching with us online. Click here.