Tell your senators you care about AmeriCorps

Along with cuts to Title X Family Planning programs, on February 19 the U.S. House of Representatives voted to eliminate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which in effect means doing away with the AmeriCorps and RSVP National Service programs. If passed by the Senate, these cuts will impact King County by devastating programs and services that work to prevent violence, increase literacy, build community and reduce generational poverty in our community, including programs at the Seattle Police Department and more than a dozen other local criminal justice system agencies, schools and social justice organizations.

For example, JustServe AmeriCorps Member Antoinette Spillers, placed at the Seattle Police Department, increased dialogue between community and police at a time when several high-profile incidents created significant concern about police brutality and community-police relations in Seattle. Antoinette carried out the canvassing and networking efforts to engage more community members in the Seattle Police Department’s Native American and East African, Muslim, Sikh and Arab Community Advisory Councils. And JustServe AmeriCorps Member Monique Franklin has played a major role at Open Arms in supporting mothers with young children to lead community-driven violence prevention, infant mortality prevention and early childhood education projects.

Antoinette Spiller

JustServe AmeriCorps Members like Antoinette and Monique positively impact our community in countless ways as they work to reduce violence and poverty in King County. Working closely with our partner sites, JustServe AmeriCorps Members have made a difference in the lives of more than 2,000 people in the last few months alone.

Just a few highlights include:

  • ­ Youth Violence Prevention & Intervention: 519 youth at risk of violence or incarceration gained leadership and conflict resolution skills, participated in service learning activities, and connected with positive skill building programs that have shown to reduce the risk of violence.
  • ­Victim Advocacy: 427 domestic violence survivors received crisis intervention services and advocacy through JustServe AmeriCorps Members based at the Seattle Police Department Victim Support Team and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
  • ­Alternatives to Incarceration: 523 adult defendants with low-level misdemeanors participated in JustServe service activities as an alternative to incarceration – led by AmeriCorps Members based at the Seattle Municipal Community Court Program.

While eliminating funding for National Service programs would be a short-sighted move with dire consequences, this outcome is not set in stone. Please contact your senators to let them know that you care about the health and safety of our community.

In Washington State, contact:

Patty Murray: toll free 1 .866.481.9186 or via murray.senate.gov.

Maria Cantwell: toll free 1 .888.648.7328 via cantwell.senate.gov.

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Families of the incarcerated coming together for change

JustServe AmeriCorps is inspired and supported by many grassroots organizations working for justice and safety in our community. One of those groups is the Black Prisoners’ Caucus, a group of incarcerated men organizing within Washington State Reformatory, Monroe.

“Men of Vision” by Monica Stewart, from the Black Prisoners’ Caucus website

Founded in 1972, the Black Prisoners’ Caucus leads workshops and dialogue inside the prison for personal and community transformation. The BPC also hosts an annual Criminal Justice Summit at Monroe, bringing community leaders into the prison to discuss the root causes of crime and violence, and solutions and alternatives to incarceration and recidivism.

On Saturday, August 14th, 2010 the Black Prisoners Caucus will bring families of the incarcerated together at the Evergreen campus in Tacoma, to connect with each other and with others who are working for social change.

The Families Summit will…

  • Bring loved ones and families of the incarcerated together with community leaders and organizations for available resources, so they can begin to collectively organize and unify as one.
  • Offer a platform for families to address personal issues and experiences with other families, community leaders and organizations in order to raise awareness.
  • Educate families and the community on issues that exist within the criminal justice system that affect the lack of treatment services, rehabilitation programs, proper education and job training availability – all of which contributes to a high recidivism rate among newly released offenders, while connecting families to organizations that provide resources, support and family assistance.
  • Establish an online network (I.C.O.N.) comprised of families, support groups and organizations to assist in their efforts to unite, organize, advocate and collectively work towards a more humane justice system that works for families of the incarcerated and the community as a whole.

Food, childcare and transportation will be provided.

Here are three ways that you can support this work:

1) Spread the word about the Families Summit to your contacts in the community.

2) Get involved in the August 14th organizing committee, helping to get food, drink and other supplies donated for the event.

3) If you have access to a car, sign up to be a volunteer driver helping to transport families to the event.

For more information, please email bpc@blackprisonerscaucus.org, call Cammie Carl at 206.619.4655, or call Sherrell Severe at 206.937.2701.

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