FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 1, 2009 For more information about Bearing Witness or to schedule an interview, contact Lawanda Johnson at (202) 558-7974 x308 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
mother, grandmother, recovering addict, activist
As far back as I can remember my family has always been caught up in the system. My father went to prison a lot when I was a child. My mother was addicted to pills and alcohol. My father was an alcoholic too and that's one of the reasons he was always in and out of prison. There was always drugs and alcohol in my life. When I got older I started using and selling drugs.
When you pull a family apart, everyone suffers. Families must stay together. If the parents are addicted, the whole family struggles from addiction. Families need a place to get better when they're struggling from addiction.
Then my children started selling drugs. They didn't make a choice - I made the choice for them. Prison started for my children when they were about 14 or 15 years old. Each one of my boys had their own area in the neighborhood where they were selling drugs. If one of my kids would go to prison, we would sell drugs to get money to get them out. It was always that type of life. I don't remember any other life. So that's how I raised my children. That's all I knew so that was all they knew.
When I stopped using drugs, when the Lord sent me someplace to get the help that I needed, I knew I was finished with that life for good. A spiritual recovery house. This made the difference for me. I was so hurt as a young child, hurt was all I knew. People hurt me when I was young so I hurt everybody I touched. Before I was stumbling in the dark. Now I know where I am. In recovery, I learned a lot about
living in the light. I learned how to love people, how to care about people, how to stop fighting. That was a real transformation. I had to learn how to live free of drugs and alcohol and drama.
Now I'm raising my grandchild because his mother is in recovery. Her young children are scattered all over the place and she's trying to recover. It would be better if she could be in treatment and her children could be with her, getting help, going to school so you don't separate the family. So they heal together. When I returned from recovery, my children were mad at me and didn't trust me for the way I lived and for leaving them to go to recovery.
Contact: LaWanda Johnson
New report is "a cautionary tale" for the nation's leaders
BALTIMORE, MD--Teens spending their free time comforting parents who have lost their own children to violence; a woman fighting to break the cycle of addiction while fighting to keep her family together; a man struggling to keep his job while trying to comply with parole reporting requirements; a formerly incarcerated single mother making her daughter proud by getting her degree; and a woman grappling with the murder of her son and forgiving his assailant. These are some of the people who share their experiences in a new report, Bearing Witness: Baltimore City's residents give voice to what's needed to fix the criminal justice system, released today by the Justice Policy Institute. In a brilliant blend of narratives and policy recommendations, Bearing Witness lays bare the facts around crime and punishment in Maryland's largest city, while shining a light on the hope and resiliency of those most affected by decades of failed policies. This report was supported by the Open Society Institute.
"Bearing Witness provides a glimpse not only of the impact the criminal justice system has had on communities, but also on the hope and determination of Baltimore City residents," said Shakti Belway, the author of the report. "Each person's narrative demonstrates their perseverance in the face of incredible obstacles and their willingness to provide support and opportunity for others in similar circumstances."
Compared to the rest of Maryland, Baltimore City faces a concentrated impact of the criminal justice system. Although home to roughly 600,000 people, in 2006 the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center processed nearly 100,000 arrests and detained 44,825 individuals. In 2008, 61 percent of newly-incarcerated people in Maryland prisons were from Baltimore City. This intense involvement has taken its toll over the years on people, families, and neighborhoods.
"We felt that it was important for people most affected by the criminal justice system to have their voices heard, and a chance to talk about what they believe should be done to change the system for the better," said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute. "Their comments and conclusions underscore that more treatment, comprehensive services for families and individuals, and alternatives to incarceration--including those rooted in the principles of restorative justice--benefit people and their communities."
Bearing Witness, a collaborative effort of community members and organizations, not only documents Baltimore City's experiences, it also serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of relying on the criminal justice system to solve social problems.The report identifies five areas that are critical to Baltimore City becoming a safer and healthier community:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 1, 2009
For more information about Bearing Witness or to schedule an interview, contact Lawanda Johnson at (202) 558-7974 x308 or email@example.com.