First Annual Conference of Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People, and Families Movement Draws 500 People from 30 States
Date:  09-19-2016

Activists convene to discuss policies, priorities and plans for ending mass incarceration
(Full disclosure: Managing Editor, Beatrice Codianni, Managing Editor of Reentry Central attended this groundbreaking event.)

From The Intercept

Tina Glasgow will never forget one letter she received from her son, Kenny, when he was in an Alabama prison. It was 1994, the year of the crime bill, and Democrats and Republicans were outdoing each other to prove how harshly they could punish people like him. Kenny had started getting arrested for drugs when he was 14. “After he sealed the envelope, he marked it and said, ‘Do not open this envelope until I come home,’” she said. “He didn’t come home until 2001.” When Glasgow and her son finally opened the letter, it contained a “vision,” a plan to “clean up what he messed up.” But it was more than that. Kenny wanted to help the people he’d left behind, to show them that they had value and a role to play in society.

Today, Kenny is known as Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, the man behind The Ordinary People’s Movement (TOPS), in Dothan, Alabama. It is “an oasis,” as described by the writer and Drug Policy Alliance activist asha bandele (sic); a place where community members and the formerly incarcerated come for housing and sustenance — not to mention the grassroots headquarters for “some of the most far-reaching drug policy and criminal justice changes in Alabama.” It’s because of Glasgow that state officials have been recently forced to follow the law where voting rights are concerned. For years, it was widely assumed that anyone convicted of a felony in Alabama lost the right to cast a ballot, at least until being released from prison. In reality, the law was narrower than that — only convictions “involving moral turpitude” could disqualify people from voting, yet the state didn’t bother to define which crimes fell into the category. Unbeknownst to them, thousands of incarcerated Alabamans still had the right to vote. “This is an issue that’s never come up before,” the state commissioner of corrections told the New York Times in a 2008 story on Glasgow. “I would think that if there were any latent feeling out there that they wanted to vote, they would have expressed it by now.”

Glasgow was one of roughly 500 people who convened in Oakland, California, last weekend for the first national conference of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People, and Families Movement Hailing from more than 30 states, it was a shared fact of life among participants that the change they need — including fundamental civil rights — will not simply be handed to them by people in power. They must fight for it themselves. This is the founding logic of FICPFM, led by a network of grassroots activists from across the country who have been beating back the tentacles of mass incarceration for years. With the national consciousness shifting around criminal justice reform — and the 1994 crime bill now acknowledged by the Clintons themselves to have gone too far — the FICPFM convention was a powerful testament to those who have been doing such work because their very lives depended on it, not because the political landscape suddenly allowed it. Read more here.