The Common Good
March-April 1997

Resources for Study and Action

by Sandy Maben | March-April 1997

MOTHERS IN PRISON

MOTHERS IN PRISON

Angela Thompson was only 17 years old, and pregnant, when she sold just over two ounces of cocaine to an undercover police officer at the direction of her drug-dealer uncle in 1988. She had not been in trouble with the law before. Now 25, she is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence, mandatory for this offense in New York, while her young son is raised by relatives.

Angela is just one tragic example of the more than 116,000 women in prison, almost 80 percent of whom are nonviolent offenders. Two-thirds are mothers of dependent children—156,000 children all together. Since 1980, the number of women in prison has increased from just 10,000, driven largely by mandatory minimum drug sentencing requirements.

For the third year, JusticeWorks Community in New York is sponsoring "Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis Campaign ’97," a grassroots campaign to influence local and national sentencing policies to establish alternatives to incarceration for mothers with dependent children. This year’s actions will take place on May 7, the Friday before Mother’s Day, with rallies in 15 major cities and 350 public education events in 36 states. To find out about organizing or supporting local events, call Shirley Cloyes or Mary-Elizabeth Fitzgerald at JusticeWorks Community, 1012 Eighth Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11215; (718) 499-6704.

ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES

Holy Ground: A Resource on Faith and the Environment will be available from Sojourners on April 1, 1997, just in time for Earth Day! Following are some other organizations and resources that deal with environmental concerns.

Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste has been assisting disenfranchised peoples struggling for environmental justice since 1981, developing a network of 26,000 individuals and 8,000 community organizations. These groups are working at the local, regional, and national levels to protect their health and environment. CCHW provides technical assistance, computer hardware and software support, training, and workshops in the forming of a new group or the strengthening of an existing one.

Several publications are available, ranging from basic information (how to organize a community environmental group) to very technical (a computer data base on incinerators) to just plain fun (the Environmental Justice Songbook). For membership information or a copy of its latest catalog, call CCHW at (703) 237-2249 or write them at P.O. Box 6806, Falls Church, VA 22040.

What can citizens do to hold federal agencies and their contractors accountable for complying with environmental laws? Facing Reality, a project of the Tides Foundation, is a series of six publications, the most recent of which is "A Guide to Citizen Law Enforcement."

This booklet aids citizens in understanding environmental litigation and the role they can play in the legal process. As the guide notes, "The poor records of the Energy and Defense Departments in meeting their environmental responsibilities underlines the need for careful oversight...by watchful citizens." Copies of "A Guide to Citizen Law Enforcement" are available for $2 postpaid from the Project for Participatory Democracy, 1226 1/2 State St., Suite 5, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; (805) 962-1707. Make checks payable to Tides/PPD.

Let's Get Personal

What impact do your everyday actions have on the environment? How can you quantify this? "EarthScore: Your Personal Environmental Audit and Guide" allows you to assign scores to your own habits and lifestyle, then learn how to reduce their environmental impact. The 14 areas of assessment include household energy, consumerism, water, waste, toxins, and advocacy. This practical guide could be used by a single household or in a large group project to provide insight and action steps on becoming more Earth friendly.

Individual copies of "EarthScore" are $4.50 plus $1.50 postage, with discounts available for quantity orders. Order from Morning Sun Press, P.O. Box 413, Lafayette, CA 94549; (510) 932-1383.

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