Group files suit to compel vote on jail

March 16, 2020. McPherson Sentinel.

LAWRENCE — An interfaith organization filed a lawsuit Monday to force a public vote on the Douglas County Commission’s plan to invest $30 million in a jail expansion.

Voters in the county rejected in May 2018 a proposal to rely on a 0.5% sales tax increase to finance an addition to the overcrowded jail. That vote was 13,811 opposed and 12,257 in support of the idea.

In January, however, the Douglas County Commission concluded a county ballot measure adopted in 1994 gave commissioners authority to issue bonds backed by current sales tax revenue to pay for about $22 million of the prison project with the remainder drawn from other county resources. The commission unanimously passed a resolution approving construction of up to 112 beds at the 186-bed Douglas County Correctional Facility.

Pastors blast Fort Myers council members for no-show at Nehemiah Action

March 10, 2020. News-Press.

More than 300 Fort Myers residents flocked to Dunbar High School to hear ministers and activists call for action Monday for affordable housing and day care and heard their religious leaders criticize four city council members they had expected to attend.

One of the four, Councilman Fred Burson, said he did not attend because city attorney Grant Alley called the council members and told them not to attend because of the possibility that it could violate the state Sunshine Law requiring open government.

Local Group Calls For More Frequency Along CARTA Bus Routes

March 2, 2019. The Charleston Chronicle.

Last week, the Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) along with the ACLU of South Carolina, Citizens Climate Lobby, Best Friends of Lowcountry Transit, Charleston Climate Coalition, and the Center for the Study of Slavery Social Justice Working Group held a press conference at the Cherokee United Methodist Church to show support for increased bus frequency. The average bus in Charleston runs on a frequency of once every hour making life extremely difficult for the 11,000 people who rely on public transportation every day, the group contends.

Last year, thousands of people gathered under the banner of CAJM to push for more frequent buses – specifically on North Charleston routes with high transit-dependent ridership. They are carrying that campaign into 2020.

How the fight for racial justice pushed Charleston beyond the segregated hour

February 24, 2020. Religion News Service.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (RNS) — On a Monday night in April 2016, more than 2,000 people packed into Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston. The crowd included black and white Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, as well as Reform Jews, Unitarians, local activists and other community members. They weren’t there for worship but to confront racial bias in policing practices.

The gathering was the culmination of months of work by the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, which began in the intimacy of private homes the previous fall. People shared stories of the concerns that kept them up at night. A common refrain, particularly of black residents, was being stopped by the police for no apparent reason. The practice, known as an “investigatory stop,” had led to the murder of a black man named Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer.

‘It’s a major problem’ Justice Knox meets to discuss mental illness crisis behind bars

February 23, 2020. WBIR.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — For more than a decade, Leon Evans has worked to divert people with mental illness from jail in Texas.

He said he’s proven that treatment works in San Antonio.

“The Texas prison system is actually working on shutting down their third prison,” Evans told 10News. “The prison system actually pays for mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment.”

Now, he’s bringing his expertise to Knox County, Tennessee.

Justice Knox, which is an interfaith collaboration tackling criminal justice issues, hosted Evans for a series of meetings on Thursday.