Member News Digest 4/23/20: Decarceration During COVID, Housing Organizing, Webinars, & More

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Upcoming NPAP Webinar: Locked Up in a Pandemic: Prisons, Prisoner Rights, and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Register here! / April 30, 1 PM EST (CLE credit eligible)

In collaboration DePaul University College of Law and the Federal Bar Association’s Civil Rights Section, the National Police Accountability Project of the NLG will host this free webinar (eligible for CLE credit) will focus on the ongoing legal efforts aimed at supporting the safety and health of incarcerated individuals during Covid-19, whether through release or prison policy shifts, and government and institutional responses to those efforts.

Panelists will include: Sarah Gelsomino, partner at the Civil Rights law firm Friedman and Gilbert; Bruce Hamilton, staff attorney of the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana; Mercedes Montagnes, Executive Director of The Promise of Justice Initiative, whose excellent presentation you might remember from NPAP’s last CLE: Civil Rights in Custody: Prison, Jail, and Police Detention; Eileen Rosen, partner at the Chicago firm Rock, Fusco, and Connelly. Register for the webinar here.

4/17/20: VIDEO: Right to Shelter: Protect Unhoused Californians from COVID-19

Watch this digital press conference/webinar by the NLG SF Bay Area and NLG Los Angeles Chapters on the right to housing and the launch of a demand letter put forth in collaboration with local community groups on the right to shelter. The letter includes legal arguments on why the state is responsible for protecting those those who are unable to shelter in place because they are unhoused. “The Coronavirus pandemic makes it clear, beyond question or denial, that the health, fate, lives of all human beings and life on this planet are unavoidably interconneted. As such, the health and survival of all of us depends on protecting the health and lives of all of us, which is both an ethical commitment and practical reality.”

Watch the recording here, and read the list of demands here.

4/14/20 | KVOA | Eviction hearings postponed in Pima County until early May

The NLG Southern Arizona Chapter was out the morning of April 14 outside the local courthouse giving legal information to renters facing eviction.

“When everybody’s focus is staying at home, staying safe, not getting sick, not getting other people sick,” Okrent argued. “It’s very egregious that we’re still moving forward with eviction hearings rather than trying to figure out how to keep people in their homes and keep people safe.”

Follow the Southern Arizona Chapter on Facebook for more.

NIPNLG Lawsuits to Release At-Risk Immigrants in Detention

NIPNLG is involved in a number of lawsuits seeking release for medically vulnerable people in immigration detention:

4/9/20: Immigration Groups Suing ICE Demanding Immediate Release of Individuals Detained in Virginia Who are Most at Risk of COVID-19

4/14/20 :Medically Vulnerable Immigrants in Louisiana ICE Facilities File Emergency Petition for Release

4/16/20: Medically Vulnerable Immigrants in “Notorious” Mississippi ICE Facility File Emergency Petition for Release

4/21/20: Indiana NLG Demands Governor Holcomb Exercise Constitutional Authority to Release Vulnerable State Prisoners

The Indiana NLG sent this letter to Gov. Holcomb urging him to release prisoners vulnerable to COVID-19.

The letter states: “According to the Indiana Department of Correction, more than 200 prisoners across the state are infected with the novel coronavirus. At least three prisoners have already died. More than 80 correctional employees have tested positive. There is currently an outbreak of more than 100 cases among prisoners at one northern Indiana prison alone… The DOC has stonewalled the public and the press and, in a statement, told the families and loved ones of prisoners simply to ‘remember that there are still reasons to feel hopeful and things to be grateful for even during this difficult time.’ Further, all in-prison medical care continues to be managed by a for-profit corporation, Wexford of Indiana LLC, the local division of Wexford Health Sources, Inc. Neither the department of correction nor this for-profit corporation has sufficiently explained how the state will provide adequate medical care to prisoners and protect them from the known dangers of the pandemic.”

Read the chapter’s full letter to Gov. Holcomb here, and read local coverage in the IndyStar here.

4/16/20: NLG Seattle Files Amicus Brief In Support of Prison Relief in Washington State

NLG Seattle filed a joint amicus brief with with Washington Defender Association and Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in support of prisoner furlough requests given the pandemic:

“The impact of COVID-19 within DOC will fall disproportionately on those who have already suffered from detrimental results of historic and ongoing discrimination. In other words, those who will suffer the most through DOC’s inaction will be those same people already vulnerable to other poor outcomes due to society’s failures to provide equity…

Respondents completely fail to consider that this history of inequity particularly in sentencing people to prison and to longer (and lifelong) prison sentences is a direct outcome of our historic social behavior of casting entire communities aside to society’s margins, in favor of social and economic systems designed for other people’s success. Respondents seek to justify their inhumane treatment by deciding that people in prison from certain communities are unworthy of the same medical protections and care as everybody else who is not in prison.”

4/15/20 | Newsweek | Chicago Community Organizer Works to Reduce Population at America’s Single Largest Jail Site Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Our friends at the Chicago Community Bond Fund, including NLG Chicago member Sharlyn Grace, was featured in this Newsweek article on CCBF’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic:

“People inside the jail are not a separate group,” Grace said. “They are part of our community, and their well-being and our well-being are tied up together in this public health crisis.”

4/8/20 | The Real News | Michigan Prisons Are One Of The Fastest Growing COVID-19 Hot Spots

In this interview with Eddie Conway on The Real News, NLG member Amani Sawari explains the rampant spread of COVID-19 in Michigan prisons, and the response by prison activists:

“A lot of people on the inside are afraid to even talk about any symptoms or illnesses because they don’t want to be put in isolation…So a lot of the things that MDOC is doing is more punitive for people that are suffering, whether they have the virus, whether they’re infected or not. The actions that MDOC is taking is making a more punitive, chaotic and anxious environment for people on the inside. And they’re really failing at all levels to address the situation appropriately…We believe that once Truth in Sentencing is repealed or suspended, and once we let go of these vulnerable populations that, that will open up resources in order for MDOC to better serve and protect the people who remain. That is supposed to be their primary priority, serving and protect people that are in prison right now. And right now resources are stretched so thin that the only thing they can offer is watered down bleach to people.  Watch the full interview with Eddie Conway and Amani Sawari here.

4/15/20: VIDEO: COVID-19 & Unilateral Coercive Measures as Acts of War Webinar

Did you know that 1/3 of all people in the world are affected by sanctions? In case you missed it, here’s a recording of the 4/15 webinar on economic sanctions and blockades by the NLG International Committee (IC) and International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). Speakers offered updates on the current impact of economic sanctions and blockades around the globe; discussed the illegality and political and colonial context of these measures; and opportunities for legal challenges and building the global movement to lift all sanctions.

Speakers: Micol Savia (IADL, Geneva); Raji Sourani (PCHR, Gaza/Palestine); Roger Wareham, (Dec. 12th Movement, U.S.); Nina Farnia (NLG); Cristóbal Cornieles (Venezuelan Association of Jurists); Martha Schmidt (NLG IC)

Rutgers University Law Review: Who Needs Legislators? Discrimination Against Sex Workers Is Sex Discrimination Under Title VII

In this Rutgers University Law Review article, Derek Demeri, past chair of the NLG Queer Caucus and co-founder of New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, argues that discrimination against sex workers violates Title VII.

“Despite this attention towards legal reform, sex workers have—and will continue to— experience rampant discrimination in non-sex work employment.”

Read the full law review article here and watch the NLG webinar on the movement to decriminalize sex work here.

4/11/20: VIDEO: One Year Since Julian Assange’s Arrest

NLG past president Marjorie Cohn participated in this webinar alongisde Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, and Aaron Mate, for a panel discussion marking one year since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and arrested by British police.

Assange is fighting extradition to the United States where he faces 175 years in prison on the first-ever charges of espionage for publishing truthful information in the public interest. The webinar was organized by the Courage Fund and can be watched in in full here.

4/11/20 | Uneven Earth | To Organize in Times of Crisis, We Need to Connect the Dots of Global Resistance Against Imperialism

Read this great piece from NLG past president Azadeh Shahshahani and Corinna Mullin on the importance of international solidarity against imperialism: “By dehumanizing, devaluing, and exploiting Global South lives and livelihoods, Imperialism perpetuates global white supremacy both within the US and across what W.E.B. Du Bois described as the ‘global color line.’ International solidarity derives from the realization that our own liberation — and indeed, our survival — is fundamentally linked to the liberation and survival of the most oppressed people across the globe.”

NLG Member Files Amicus Brief in Doe v. McKeeson

NLG member and Drexel law professor Tabatha Abu El-Haj, along with Tim Zick and appellate counsel in D.C., filed this amicus brief urging the Court to reverse the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Doe v. McKesson.  “The Fifth Circuit’s departure from this Court’s precedents—as well as centuries of common law and constitutional tradition—creates a grave and urgent risk to political dissent.” Read the full amicus brief here.

SIGN PETITION TO FDA: Expedite Review and Approval of Lifesaving Cuban Antiviral for COVID-19

“We urge that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration immediately implement the process for expedited approval of the sale and use of Alfa-2B to treat people in the US, as a matter of the utmost humanitarian urgency. We demand that politics not interfere with the science needed to save lives now.”

Please sign on at the link:

The petition was initiated by NLG member Dean Hubbard and the NLG’s Labor and Employment Committee, with support from the NLG International Committee.

Members-Only Job Board

Are you searching for a movement related legal or organizing job OR internship?

A reminder that all current NLG members have access to our Members-Only job board! This resource includes open positions for attorneys, paralegals, organizers, legal workers and law students.

Check it out at (NOTE: you must be logged in with your account to view this page). Have a job or internship listing you’d like to share with fellow Guild members? Send it to



Posted in Member Recap, News.