Newsletter

IndyCAN E-newsletter, June 2015 issue

 

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Headlines

  • JOBS NOT JAILS: IndyCAN stops jail expansion — A blessing for the next generation
  • YEAR OF ENCOUNTER: Let's talk about equity: IndyCAN joins PICO to launch ‘Year of Encounter’ in anticipation of pope's U.S. visit
  • A SEASON OF ENCOUNTER: Sacred Conversations on Race & Faith
  • PARK WILL STAY: St. Anthony gains commitment from city to keep Max Bahr Park
  • VOTER ENGAGEMENT: IndyCAN closes the turnout gap in November election: Voter Engagement Program encourages voting on values
  • A MUST-READ: 'If We Can Win Here': Book features IndyCAN
  • CALENDAR: Events and key trainings

 Jobs Not Jails Recap

IndyCAN stops jail expansion — a blessing for the next generation

After an extensive campaign waged by IndyCAN leaders to stop Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's proposed $1.5-billion criminal justice center, the City-County Council stopped the proposal in its deep and (we believe) misdirected tracks.

While some agreed that a new facility was necessary, local faith leaders stood by their belief that Indy jails are being misused: warehousing the poor and those suffering from addiction and mental illness, and intensifying over-criminalization of African-American and Latinos.

The proposed facility would have locked Indianapolis into a 35-year commitment toward a continued cycle of mass incarceration.

fact box about prison growth"In essence, city officials are asking for a bigger box, instead of determining how to reduce the need for one,"wrote Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Tobin, Methodist Bishop Michael Coyne and other leaders in a letter to the editor published in the Indianapolis Star in April.

A long time coming

For several months, IndyCAN urged councilors to reject the justice center proposal and called on Mayor Ballard and Sheriff John Layton to devise a plan that includes programs and policies to invest in jobs and treatment, and consider a set of diversion strategies that will end Indy’s over-reliance on incarceration.

Councilors received more than 1,300 letters and calls from IndyCAN faith leaders, who stayed the course, packing council chambers each time the project up for consideration. They cheered when the rules committee voted 6 to 2 not to advance the project.

Summit on the Sin of Mass Incarceration

A pivotal moment a week before the final vote: More than 300 people whose lives would be impacted by a bigger jail gathered at  Citadel of Faith Church of God in Christ for the ‘Summit on the Sin of Mass Incarceration’. Two city-county councilors, Republican Ben Hunter and Democrat Vop Osili, responded to the community by pledging to oppose the criminal justice center in its current form and work with IndyCAN to stop the misuse of jails. They committed to joining them to advocate for investments in jobs, treatment and proven jail-diversion programs that get to the root of the problem.

Redemption voter campaign

In the 8 weeks leading up to the 2014 midterm elections, IndyCAN talked to more than 12,000 "redemption voters" who pledged to hold elected officials accountable to focus the justice center on jobs and treatment, rather than incarceration.

"All people are redeemable, and the jail system is just used to house people – not redeem or rehabilitate," says Rev. Sharon Trotter of Promised Land Christian Community Church. Her grandson is bipolar and schizophrenic. "He routinely goes off his meds and has been arrested seven or eight times. They lock him up for a week or two and then let him out. It's a revolving door."

Hoosier inmates - mental illnessIndyCAN congregations are united around the belief that everyone is redeemable and deserves a place in our community. Our community will not stand by as Indy leads the nation in jail misuse. According to Sheriff Layton, 40 percent of inmates have a mental health diagnosis, and 85 percent struggle with substance use. Of the 2,200 people in jail only 70 are actually convicted of a crime; the rest are torn from their families awaiting trial for drug-related, traffic or other petty crimes. Our jails have become modern-day debtor’s prisons.

Hoosier inmates - substance useSharon's grandson is like many.

"I'll admit that he does commit crime, but it's really simple things, and they usually dismiss the charges. He's mentally ill. He doesn't need to be in jail. He needs help."

He's only come close to getting help once; a judge commanded him to seek treatment at a mental health facility. But the prosecutor dropped the charges, and the judge didn't have reason to demand the treatment. Sharon cried, begging the judge to help him.

His mother, Sharon's daughter, died a year and a half ago, and he believes medicine killed his mom, says Sharon. "The schizophrenic mind doesn't like medicine." So he stops taking it.

Like Sharon's grandson, many of the people who are incarcerated suffer from mental illness – and it's that illness that is at the root of their crimes. Other problems have a similar effect, including homelessness and poverty. Studies have shown that low-level, non-violent offenders would be better served by rehabilitation and jobs. In fact, data link fewer prisoners with less crime; violent crime fell 30 percent in the three states that lead the nation in reducing incarceration. Additional research shows that returning citizens who earn $5,000 in the first three months after release are 24- to 39-percent less likely to be re-incarcerated.

Redemption, not retribution.

Jobs, not jails.

For Sharon's grandson, it's only a matter of time before that revolving door spins again.

"If they had an engagement center right where people are booked, he could get help," she says. "But for those who need help, right now, the jail can't give it to them. How do they deal with them? What do they do? They lock them up."

IndyCAN leaders are united to end mass incarceration and criminalization of people of color in our state. While the criminal justice center in its current proposed state has been prevented, we will keep tabs on any future developments. We will continue to push for a solution that does not increase the number of jail beds, stops the revolving door of return inmates by offering programs for rehabilitation and transitional jobs, utilizes responsible contracting and operations resources, and is discussed openly with the public.

We are confident this campaign is not yet over!

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 Year of Encounter

Rev. Juard Barnes (far right) shares the stage with Cardinal Rodriguez (far left) and others at the Year of Encounter kick-off event in Philadelphia in April.

Let's talk about equity

IndyCAN joins PICO to launch 'Year of Encounter' in anticipation of pope's U.S. visit

The Pope’s right-hand man — Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB, Chair of the nine-member Council of Cardinals that advises Pope Francis — sat down with 270 clergy and faith leaders from 21 states, including Indiana, on April 30 and May 1 in Philadelphia. The meeting was the launch of the Year of Encounter with Pope Francis, a PICO-organized, year-long, nationwide effort to get people thinking about, studying, reflecting upon, talking about and ultimately acting against inequality in America.

IndyCAN’s Rev. Juard Barnes, pastor of The Eagle’s Nest Church in Indianapolis, was one of four IndyCAN faith leaders who attended, and he had an opportunity to speak in front of the Cardinal and the crowd about the sin of mass incarceration.

"I know what it's like to be excluded, branded a felon after I was arrested on a thrown-out child support charge – for my son who lived with me," recounted Rev. Juard Barnes.

Barnes explained IndyCAN's effort to end criminalization of people of color and promote racial inclusion. This was a rare opportunity to share with global Catholic leaders the story of Indianapolis’ race issue, and the issue in cities around the nation, especially as it applies to the misuse of jails and its detrimental effects that magnify inequalities of race and class.

Year of Encounter study guide cover

The Year of Encounter

PICO has developed a six-session study guide, the Year of Encounter with Pope Francis, for Catholic and non-Catholic congregations and community groups to get people talking about our culture of racial and economic exclusion. Sessions that focus on how our economy, immigration, the criminal justice system and racism exclude people, as well as information about Pope Francis and how to put the study into action, provide the tools groups can use to begin conversations that will ultimately foster a deeper understanding of those who are excluded and hurting in our country.

Ultimately, groups of parishioners, neighbors and community members who might not know each other well or understand how exclusion affects the others’ daily lives are encouraged to work together for the well being of all.

The study is rooted in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation (communication from the pope that encourages the Roman Catholic Church to unite around a particular action) “The Joy of the Gospel.”

Barnes and other IndyCAN faith leaders recognize that God is calling together communities to talk about equality. They will be approaching the Year of Encounter as an opportunity to ignite the conversation about racism and inequality, engage all members of the faith community in discussions that center around inclusion, and then turn those conversations into actions that hold public officials accountable for the needs of all Hoosiers, regardless of class or race.

IndyCAN will be hosting a series of events revolving around this national conversation. See below for information about “A Season of Encounter: Sacred Coversations on Race & Faith.”

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Year of Encounter logoA Season of Encounter: Sacred Conversations on Race & Faith

“Racism today is the ultimate evil in the world[.] … The problem of intolerance should be dealth with as a whole — every time a minority is persecuted and marginalized because of his religious beliefs or ethnicity, the good of the whole society is in danger. Let us join forces to promote a culture of encounter, respect, understanding and mutual forgiveness.” (Pope Francis, Oct. 24, 2013)

Faith leaders from multiple races and faith backgrounds will soon be leading Indianapolis-area congregations in conversations about race and equality. It’s part of A Season of Encounter, designed to deepen our capacity to work across race lines to build a community of inclusion. 

IndyCAN’s goal is to form 20 encounter teams, each having 100 conversations, for a total of 2,000 sacred conversations of racial encounter across Indianapolis.

Clergy will experience a “Race Encounter” retreat on June 11 that includes practical tools to foster conversations within their own congregations and across IndyCAN. The Season of Encounter will officially kick off with three retreat weekends for congregations:

  • overnight, June 19 and 20
  • daylong, July 18
  • daylong, Aug. 1

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Leaders will then come together to share their experiences and what they have learned, creating an action platformrooted in our conversations and research. Part of the action plan will include meeting with city mayoral candidates to discuss concrete action Indianapolis can take toward racial and economic equity. IndyCAN will then reach out to traditionally excluded voters, in order to get their input on IndyCAN's racial equity plan and increase their participation at the polls.

About A Season of Encounter

This effort is inspired in part by Pope Francis, his vision for a culture of people who love one another as Jesus did, and his upcoming visit to the United States in September 2015. By gathering people for open discussions, uniting in our shared faith and fostering a culture of encounter within and across congregations, we will encourage healing among those who are hurting because of racism and inequality.

Together with IndyCAN, the encounter teams that will form during this season will be comprised of hundreds of people who are internally committed and empowered to take concrete action to end criminalization of people of color and build opportunity for all.

Our experience will teach us how to work across race lines in ways that encourage inclusion among our community, shaping all of IndyCAN’s campaigns of the future.

TIMELINE: The Season of Encounter

February - April 2015

Win Jobs Not Jails

May - August

Season of Encounter Race Conversations
Build 20 teams, reach 2,000 people

Sat., Sept. 19

Mayoral Candidates Action
Set Indy on a path to end criminalization of people of color

Sept. 28 - Nov. 4

Activate Prophetic Voters
Have thousands of conversations with voters committed to racial and economic inclusion

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 Max Bahr Park gathering

A St. Anthony leader addresses a large crowd of IndyCAN supporters who want to see Max Bahr Park remain a resource that benefits the entire community.

St. Anthony gains commitment from city to keep Max Bahr Park

When a group of impassioned organizers gets together, they can make change.

IndyCAN organizers at St. Anthony Catholic Parish learned that the Indianapolis Department of Parks & Recreation (Indy Parks) and Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD) are planning to redevelop Max Bahr Park, located directly across from St. Anthony parish and school, so they organized a meeting with DMD senior project manager Derek Naber to discuss the park’s future.

On April 21, more than 600 IndyCAN leaders from St. Anthony shared with Naber their desire for the park to continue to offer facilities, activities and services that will benefit the community. Ultimately, Naber committed to ensuring that the park will remain an anchor of health and well-being for the local community, and agreed to work alongside St. Anthony leaders over the next six months to determine an arrangement that will ensure that the park remains a cornerstone of community life.

Max Bahr Park is located north of Washington Street at the corner of West Vermont Street and North Warman Avenue on the city’s west side (part of the former Central State Hospital property). It currently includes swings, baseball and softball diamonds, shelters and a playground.

IndyCAN applauds the effort of these leaders, who gathered to stand up on behalf of their community and were able to secure a commitment from the city to protect the resources upon which our neighbors rely.

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I'm voting for 

IndyCAN closes the turnout gap in November election

Voter Engagement Campaign encourages voting on values

You talked. You shared. You cared. And the people voted!

Thanks to a massive effort by IndyCAN leaders from 40 congregations — including a diverse group of religious leaders, immigrants and formerly incarcerated returning citizens — Indianapolis voters who might otherwise have stayed home last November instead turned out to the polls in incredible numbers. Campaign results are now in, and the statistics demonstrate the power of person-to-person contact.

The effort, by the numbers

  • 12,002 – The number of conversations IndyCAN volunteers had with voters.
  • 71,704 – The number of phone calls IndyCAN volunteers made to voters.
  • 600 – The number of volunteer shifts that were filled by volunteers who were willing to make phone calls.
  • 40 – The number of congregations that held Souls to the Polls events, registered the members and made sure they turned out to vote, staffed phone banks and canvassed their neighborhoods

The effect, by the numbers

Hoosier Voter Totals

  • 30.2% – The percentage of Hoosier residents who turned out to vote
  • 28.3% – The percentage of Hoosiers who were contacted by IndyCAN who turned out to vote

Marion County Voter Totals

  • 24.7% – The percentage of Marion County residents who turned out to vote
  • 30.5% – The percentage of Marion County residents who were contacted by IndyCAN who turned out to vote

What’s more, when IndyCAN members had face-to-face conversations with voters, they asked them to sign cards pledging to vote. More than 1,100 voters signed pledge cards, and a staggering 71.1 percent of them took their pledges seriously, turning out to vote in the election!

IndyCAN successfully moves African-American, Hispanic and young voters to the polls

IndyCAN voter stats

Voter-turnout analysis shows that African-American, Hispanic and youth voters who were contacted by IndyCAN turned out to vote in higher numbers than statewide averages.

  • 29.9% of African-Americans who were contacted by IndyCAN voted, compared with 20.9% of the same group, on average, statewide
  • 21.2% of Hispanics who were contacted by IndyCAN voted, compared with 15.2% of the same group, on average, statewide
  • 17.2% of Hoosiers under the age of 35 who were contacted by IndyCAN voted, compared with 12.0% of the same group, on average, statewide

What’s more, those who were contacted throughout the election year — not just in the eight weeks leading up to the election — turned out in even higher numbers.

About the campaign

The IndyCAN Redemption Voter Program was the largest non-partisan, neighbor-to-neighbor, get-out-the-vote campaign in Indianapolis in 2014. The program combined organizing around an issue with leadership development and direct contact with voters, resulting in the building of power that will last well beyond a single voting cycle.

The goal of the program was to build IndyCAN’s power to organize and grow a body of people who register to vote, turn out to vote, mobilize others to take action and hold elected officials accountable — an approach that is known as integrated voter engagement (IVE).

That’s a tough endeavor, but one that was made possible by an issue campaign and public action centering on getting to the polls those who would not normally vote in a mid-term election.

Specifically, IndyCAN’s program focused on people of color who voted in 2012 but not vote in the mid-term election in 2010 — or who registered to vote after 2012. These are voters who were not likely to turn out in a midterm election unless they were directly engaged (i.e. personally invited to come out and vote). In addition, white voters who are people of faith, with similar voting records and voting histories that suggest that they support revenue measures and/or immigration reform, were also targeted.

In all, the IndyCAN voting population was:

  • 40% African American
  • 37% Latino
  • 12% White
  • 11% Asian American

Jobs Not Jails platform was a critical element

Congregations who were active in the Redemption Voter Program were acting out of concern over a proposed 35-year, half-billion-dollar criminal justice center that would have added 1,500 new jail cells we believe are not needed.

More than 80 percent of voters who were contacted by IndyCAN said that they supported the Jobs Not Jails campaign, which urged city officials to:

  • divert low-level offenders through alternative programs, such as those that provide jobs and necessary services, rather than adding additional beds for incarcerated individuals
  • be socially responsible when contracting and coordinating operations, if the proposed criminal-justice project becomes reality; this includes providing living wages, targeting disadvantaged workers and not privatizing operations
  • be transparent with the public and invite participation via public input and comment throughout decision-making processes related to the proposed criminal justice center

Returning citizens (those who were at one time incarcerated) also were a key population during this voting cycle. IndyCAN reached out to many of these individuals — who make up 28 percent of Marion County’s residents — encouraging them to awaken their civic voices and pledge to vote in this and all future elections.

IndyCAN leaders live out two key faith values — redemption and forgiveness — and their actions were evident throughout the Redemption Voter Program.

“My husband was murdered by an 18-year-old, mentally unstable boy who never got the help he needed, despite multiple incarcerations,” says Tanya Ndiaye, IndyCAN leader at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. “I talked with hundreds of voters because we are building a movement in Indianapolis for redemption — and a criminal justice system that rehabilitates, not just punishes.”

Encouraging results empower us to move forward

The results of the voter program demonstrate the power behind a passionate, organized community who cares about its people — and who lets its people know they matter. It’s an encouragement that puts wind in our sails as we continue to work toward a better tomorrow for Indianapolis. IndyCAN is building a new emerging-voter block — committed to vote our values!

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If We Can Win HereIf We Can Win Here

IndyCAN’s desire for a culture “where people of faith can act on their values in the public arena” is the subject of a chapter in author Fran Quigley’s book, If We Can Win Here: The New Front Lines of the Labor Movement.

The chapter includes the story and passions of immigrant youth like Isaias Guerrero (who authored the quotation above), who coordinated the Indiana Campaign for Citizenship with IndyCAN and the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, as well as stories and passions of others who lead IndyCAN’s efforts.

The chapter highlights IndyCAN’s approach to social justice through community organizing efforts, using details of a community meeting covering mass transit problems and advocacy, IndyCAN’s citizenship campaign and redemption voters to demonstrate the power of faith and community. Stories of undocumented Hispanic youths and adults, related campaigns’ effect on Congresswoman Susan Brooks and why those involved in community organizing push forward with their campaigns round out the chapter.

The IndyCAN stories comprise a small but enlightening piece of the book, which was published in April of this year and discusses how activism could change the future for Indianapolis’ service-sector workers – like janitors, health-care aides and cooks – who are fighting to earn middle-class incomes.

Author Fran Quigley is a clinical professor of law and director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law. The book is available from Cornell University Press. 

Read an excerpt from the book.

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Events and Key Trainings

Calendar - Clergy Retreat June 11Season of Encounter Leadership Retreats

See the full calendar listing in list/event-type view or month-at-a-glance view.