Private Prisons

Private Prisons

In the early 1980s, the Corrections Corporation of America pioneered the idea of running prisons for a profit. “You just sell it like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers,” one of its founders told Inc. magazine. Today, corporate-run prisons hold eight percent of America’s inmates. Here’s how the private prison industry took off: read here.

Justice Department seeks increase in private prison beds

Last August, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced a plan to wind down the bureau’s reliance on private prisons after an inspector general report found that they posed higher security risks than public prisons.
“Private prisons served an important role during a difficult period, but time has shown that they compare poorly to our own [bureau] facilities,” Yates wrote in a memo. “They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”
Shortly after taking office, Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Yates’ directive.
“The memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system,” Sessions said in a memo.
The official solicitation is expected to be posted later this month and contracts can take up to two years to be awarded.  Read more here.

MLK and the Sanitation Worker’s Strike

Presented by Patricia Smith

I’m standing here before you this morning because I’m sad about something that I saw on TV last Tuesday night.  It bothered me so much that on Wednesday I called Pastor Camp and told him about what I had seen and how I thought that something should be mentioned in church on Sunday.  He too had seen the show and he agreed with me.

On Tuesday night I was watching The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell   (It’s a late night news show). The host said that Martin Luther King was going to get the last word that night.  The “last word” is supposedly the most important part of the show and that night it really was.

That show was about the Sanitation Worker’s Strike that took place in Memphis, Tennessee back in 1968. I remember when that incident happened so I watched it and as I watched it, I wept and I couldn’t get to sleep that night.  My heart was broken and I was ashamed of myself because I hadn’t known the REAL reason for the strike and had never even bothered to look into it. Granted, I was still in school when it happened but I’m not there now.  This is a part of our history!!  I should have been interested, inquisitive or even just plain curious but I hadn’t been.  BUT NOW I AM.

For the 1,100 sanitation workers, who were all male and exclusively African American, the working conditions were atrocious.  They worked rain or shine for 10, 12, 14 hours a day but were only paid for 8 hours at about $1.27 an hour. According to the Miami, there was no curbside pickup.  The workers had to suffer the indignities of going through other people’s backyards picking up their garbage, collecting fallen tree limbs, dead cats, chicken bones and the like.  Since there were no garbage cans, these downtrodden men carried metal tubs full of rubbish and rotten food on their heads and these tubs were often rusted through and the garbage leaked on them.  The workers often got maggots in their hair and down the collars of their shirts.

Blacks tolerated these injustices for fear of losing their jobs until February 1 1968, the catalyst, the “straw that broke the camel’s back” happened.  Two sanitation workers, Echol Cole aged 36 and Robert Walker aged 30 tragically lost their lives. They were a part of a four man crew that used a dilapidated old garbage truck that they had complained about for years. It was a rainy day so Cole and Walker wore rain coats. Two of the four men sat in the cab of the truck which left Cole and Walker with the choice of hanging on to the poles on the side of the truck or sitting in the back where the hydraulic packing arm crushed the garbage against the rear of the truck.  Because of the driving rain, they chose the latter and then the unthinkable happened.  The trash compacter, which had been retrofitted with a makeshift motor, was accidently triggered.  The first man was pulled in the compactor and ground up with the trash and second man’s raincoat was caught on the truck and he could not escape so he too was ground up. The deaths of these men and plus many other indignities that they were forced to endure are what caused Martin Luther King to be invited to speak in Memphis.

The next day after the accident, the headline in the Memphis paper proudly touted the fact that Elvis Pressley’s daughter Lisa Marie, had been born.  No mention of the two sanitation workers.  No mention of how their mangled bodies had to be separated from the ground up garbage.  No mention that their widows, one of who was pregnant at the time, were given just $500 towards their husband’s $900 dollar funerals in a pauper’s grave.  These facts hadn’t been shared because these men were black.  I now know that I have no reason to be ashamed for not knowing these facts but I still have a reason to be sad.  The people that forced these men to work under these terrible conditions are the ones who should be ashamed.

I questioned about eleven fellow African Americans to find out if they knew the reason for the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike.  Some of them had heard about the strike but not one of them knew about Echol Cole or Robert Walker.  Of the people that I asked, one was a retired teacher who knew none of the facts and the other one had been my sociology teacher when I attended community college a few years ago. She knew about the strike and instantly told me that this was the first time that MLK had attended a rally that was about social class and economic rights rather than just civil rights and race issues but even she was not aware of the story about Echol Cole and Robert Walker.  Because of what I told her, she said that she’s going to add their story to her curriculum.       SMALL STEPS . . .

If you are in a good place in your life, you probably got there on the backs of someone from the past, you probably got there on the backs of people who were treated like animals, you probably got there on the backs of people who fought and died so that you could be treated like the people of GOD that you are and in the case of those sanitation workers, you probably got there on the backs of people that were treated like the garbage that they disposed of … They should always be remembered.  Always.   I just want you to remember these men, Echol Cole and Robert Walker.  Don’t let their deaths be forgotten because you probably got to this place on their backs.

John Lewis Accepts National Book Award

Image result for john lewis goodwin college


John Lewis Accepts National Book Award With Emotional Speech

As a teenager, the congressman wasn’t even allowed to get a library card because of his race.

Emily Tate Politics Intern, The Huffington Post 

In a powerful acceptance speech at the National Book Awards ceremony Wednesday night, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) recalled how far he had come to receive the honor.  “And I remember in 1956, when I was 16 years old, some of my brothers and sisters and cousins going down to the public library, trying to get library cards,” Lewis said, clutching his award. “And we were told that the library was for whites only and not for coloreds.”

Religious Liberty vs. Nondiscrimination

Where the Public Stands on Religious Liberty vs. Nondiscrimination

Two-thirds say employers should provide birth control in insurance plans, but public is split over same-sex wedding services and use of public bathrooms by transgender people

The U.S. public expresses a clear consensus on the contentious question of whether employers who have religious objections to contraception should be required to provide it in health insurance plans for their employees. Fully two-thirds of American adults say such businesses should be required to cover birth control as part of their employees’ insurance plans, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, while just three-in-ten say businesses should be allowed to refuse to cover contraception for religious reasons.

When it comes to views about employer-provided birth control, services for same-sex weddings and use of public restrooms by transgender people, there are large differences between some religious groups.

Read more here.

On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart



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On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart

About four-in-ten blacks are doubtful that the U.S. will ever achieve racial equality

Many blacks are skeptical that the country will eventually make the changes necessary for racial equality

Almost eight years after Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president –an event that engendered a sense of optimism among many Americans about the future of race relations1 – a series of flashpoints around the U.S. has exposed deep racial divides and reignited a national conversation about race. A new Pew Research Center survey finds profound differences between black and white adults in their views on racial discrimination, barriers to black progress and the prospects for change.

Read more here.  For the interactive article, click here.

Conference sends teams to Orlando to offer support, witness…

The Connecticut Conference sent two teams of first responders to Orlando, Florida, to offer care, support and public witness following the mass shooting that left 50 people dead and 53 wounded, most of them part of the gay Latino/a community. The C.A.R.E. (Church Awareness Response Effort) Team is made up of members of three New England Conferences, CTUCC, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The first team of responders, The Rev. Emily Heath of Exeter, NH, and Chris Breen, a seminarian from Cambridge, MA, arrived in Orlando on the morning of June 14th in time to join a gathering with national UCC staff, Florida Conference staff and Florida pastors.

A second team of first responders composed of Connecticut clergy went to Orlando on June 15.  They are: The Rev. Thea Racelis, pastor of the South Congregational Church of Middletown, The Rev. Jack Davidson, Associate Minister of the First Church of Christ Congregational in Redding, and The Rev. Mia Douglas, Director of Discipleship at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford.

Read more here

Mia DouglasEmily HeathJack DavidsonChris BreenThea Racelis

Labels like “Felon” Are an Unfair Life Sentence

Labels like “Felon” Are an Unfair Life Sentence

Lately, the Obama Administration and others on the local level have come to recognize that the words used to describe those who have offended against society, the vocabulary of incarceration, matter. The way we discuss people can interfere with their ability to reintegrate into society. The demands we place on them and the identity they are assigned often prevents them from acquiring employment and housing, two strong factors in preventing recidivism. Read more here.



Muhammad Ali


Photo source: ali

Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) was an American former heavyweight champion boxer and one of the greatest sporting figures of the 20th century. An Olympic gold medalist and the first fighter to capture the heavyweight title three times, Ali won 56 times in his 21-year professional career. Ali’s outspokenness on issues of race, religion and politics made him a controversial figure during his career, and the heavyweight’s quips and taunts were as quick as his fists. Born Cassius Clay Jr., Ali changed his name in 1964 after joining the Nation of Islam. Citing his religious beliefs, he refused military induction and was stripped of his heavyweight championship and banned from boxing for three years during the prime of his career. Parkinson’s syndrome severely impaired Ali’s motor skills and speech, but he remained active as a humanitarian and goodwill ambassador. Read more.

Environmental Racism is in CT Too!

Environmental Racism

Humankind has so much become one family that we cannot ensure our own security unless we ensure the security of all others.” - Bertrand Russell, from Simple Prosperity

Why Is Environmental Racism an Issue of Faith?

People of faith are called to care for all of our neighbors, regardless of their race, their income level, or their life circumstances. Jesus taught us this behavior in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He was also a student of the Hebrew Scriptures where he learned to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Jesus did not discriminate or separate people into artificial groups, but rather declared that the Kingdom of God is available to all of God’s children.

Read more HERE.

Lead Exposure Exposes Environmental Racism

by Alli Van Leer

Environmental Justice affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and provided fair access for all to the full range of resources. – 12thPrinciple of Environmental Justice, 1991

For over sixty years scientists, business leaders and government officials have been aware of the detrimental impact of childhood exposure to lead. In the 1970’s research by Herbert Needleman, MD and his team in exposed the effect of even a low dose of lead exposure during childhood. Needleman et al.’s paper, “Deficits in psychologic and classroom performance of children with elevated dentine lead levels” also shifted the focus from the somatic based health effects of lead to the physiological and cognitive effects.

Lead has historically been used in a wide array of industrial products, most importantly gasoline, paint and water piping. The process of removing lead from gasoline began in 1965 and was officially banned from on road vehicles in 1996. Lead was banned from the use of paint in 1978, though remains on the wall of buildings and houses painted prior to 1978. While lead is rarely used today in water piping it remains in many homes and city water lines (Gilbert, 2006).

Read more here.

“Toxic Communities” and the Fight for Environmental Justice

JAN 8, 2015
Dorceta Taylor.
Dorceta Taylor’s most recent book, Toxic Communities, takes a magnifying glass to the modern environmental justice movement. In it, she provides an in-depth analysis of some of the biggest environmental issues facing low-income and minority communities across the U.S.  Listen to the interview here.

A Christian Minister on Restrooms, Gender and Fear

photo credit:

Rev. Emily C. Heath    Clergy, United Church of Christ

My wife and I have a joke. We tell it when we are out in public, at an airport or a restaurant or concert, and I need to use the bathroom. When I stand up to find a restroom I say to her, “Okay, honey, if I’m not out in five minutes, come look for me.”

We always laugh but, actually, it’s not that funny. The “joke” plays on the fact that I’m a gender non-conforming person, and bathrooms are not safe spaces for me. This has always been true, but in the current political climate, when states are passing laws regulating the use of bathrooms by trans and gender non-confirming people, we’ve been telling this joke more.

Sometimes gallows humor is all you have.  Read more here.