Calling for reform, President Obama notes the impact of incarceration on families

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By Melinda Clemmons

From a cellblock at El Reno Federal Penitentiary in Oklahoma on July 16, President Barack Obama, the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, spoke of his hope that his proposed criminal justice reforms will, among other positive outcomes, “perhaps most importantly, keep families intact.”

His historic visit to El Reno capped a week in which the president sought to “shine a spotlight” on the U.S. criminal justice system, which he said in a speech July 14 at the NAACP convention in Philadelphia is “particularly skewed by race and by wealth, a source of inequity that has ripple effects on families and on communities and ultimately on our nation.”

The day before his appearance at the NAACP convention, Obama granted clemency to 46 inmates, most of whom were incarcerated for non-violent offenses under mandatory minimum sentencing laws. In his speech in Philadelphia, the president said the mandatory sentencing laws for non-violent offenses are in large part responsible for the quadrupling of the number of people behind bars in the U.S. since 1980. He is proposing those mandatory minimum sentences be reduced or eliminated, allowing judges to use discretion in sentencing.

Obama noted that while the U.S. spends $80 billion every year to incarcerate 2.2 million people, there are also “costs that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.”

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SaintA helps create a trauma-informed school in Green Bay, WI

Sara Daniel

Sara Daniel _________________

As with many schools that have students living in poverty and who have a high number of adverse childhood experiences, Franklin Middle School in Green Bay, WI, has some who need assistance with attendance or behaviors.

They received a grant to form the Responder Project to address school discipline issues. As part of the project, Sara Daniel, SaintA’s clinical services director, met with a group of 17 seventh-grade teachers and seven staff members, including a social worker dedicated to the project, several times since August 2014 to provide training in trauma-informed care and trauma-sensitive schools.

As a result,  63% of the 22 students in the project had improved behavior compared to the previous year, 71% had excellent attendance, and 25% were referred to outside sources for mental health assistance.

“Sara’s support has been critical; she’s key to all of this,” said Kim Shanock, the school district’s coordinator of Community Partners and Grants, who secured funding for the one-year pilot project. “She brought a way to think about kids’ mindsets, and the teachers and staff adored her.”

Part of the reason for those feelings toward Daniel, Principal Jackie Hauser said, was that she did a great job of blending research with practical experience and real-life applications. In early meetings, she said, staff shared their frustrations and Daniel just listened.

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Safeguarding children of arrested parents in Alameda, CA

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By Melinda Clemmons, Chronicle of Social Change

Excited to be home from school, five-year-old Luna Garcia was playing with her little brothers in the front room of her apartment, her grandmother in another room, when she heard a hard knock on the door.

“I wasn’t allowed to answer the door because who lets a little kid answer the door?” she said to a crowd of nearly 100 law enforcement professionals, child welfare workers, advocates, and others last month in Oakland, CA.

Tears welled up in her eyes as Garcia, now 16, recalled how she and her brothers stood and watched as police officers broke down the door of their apartment, ran to her bedroom and then her brothers’, turning over their beds, breaking them in the process.

They were looking for her dad, Garcia told the group, gathered on May 18 for the fourth annual convening of the Alameda County Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (ACCIPP).

Not finding her father, the officers left. Police officers would again break down the door of her apartment in search of her father while she was home three more times over the next eight years.

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Washington, DC, City Council Education Committee probes how trauma-informed schools can help students

David Grosso, DC City Council Education Committee Chair

District of Columbia Councilmember David Grosso _____________________

Two-and-a-half years ago, a school administrator confronted District of Columbia Councilmember David Grosso with a stark and surprising reality when he visited the Walker-Jones Education Campus to learn about a literacy intervention program. At the end of the visit, the school official delayed Grosso’s departure to make one additional point: Something must be done to address the fact that over 40% of all DC students have experienced trauma—a “jaw-dropping” number, according to Grosso.

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In “Notes from the Field,” Anna Deavere Smith asks us to end the “school-to-prison pipeline”

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An enthusiastic, diverse audience packed the seats at Berkeley Repertory Theater in Berkeley, CA, on July 10 for a rehearsal of Anna Deveare Smith’s new play, “Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education.” Smith is known for seamlessly impersonating different characters from real life to spin a theme, often one that advocates for social change. This time, she stepped onto the stage – bare except for a few chairs, a sofa, and a podium — with a lone bassist (Marcus Shelby) playing off to one side. Three overhead screens identified her as Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP.

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In “Childhood Disrupted”, Donna Jackson Nakazawa explains how your biography becomes your biology…and that you really can heal

childhood-disruptedcovIf you want to know why you’ve been married three – or more — times. Or why you just can’t stop smoking. Or why the ability to control your drinking is slipping away from you. Or why you have so many physical problems that doctors just can’t seem to help you with. Or why you feel as if there’s no joy in your life even though you’re

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