My report must begin with the sad news that Susan Merrill died this past Wednesday, March 31. Susan had assumed the role of Assistant Clerk to FCWPP in the fall of 2008, but a week later she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In spite of her illness she served in this capacity for well over a year with her wonderful attention to detail and thoughtful comments and reminders, and we will miss her attentive, loving support. Her memorial service will be held at the Olympia Meetinghouse this coming Sunday, April 11, at 3 pm. Letters of condolence or emails may be sent to Sam Merrill at 3024 43 Ct., NW, Olympia, WA 98502 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
News of further change at FCWPP comes with the resignation of Carol Estes who has served as our contract lobbyist for the past three years. Although this will be a loss for FCWPP, we are thrilled that the reason Carol is leaving is that she can now fulfill a personal dream of being able, thanks to a major grant, to serve in a paid capacity as the Executive Director of the University Behind Bars which she founded and has served as a volunteer for the past ten years. Below is her resignation letter which also serves as her spring report on the past legislative session.
April 5, 2010
It’s the end of my third year with FCWPP, and the end of my time as FCWPP’s lobbyist. The organization I have directed as a volunteer for the past 10 years has offered me a paid position as fulltime executive director of its University Behind Bars program. UBB offers college classes to prisoners at Washington State Reformatory and for the first time, thanks to a progressive foundation, is looking to expand to prisons across the state. I am thrilled to have the chance to make college available to the men and women in our prisons.
I want to thank you for the time I’ve spent with FCWPP. Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of watching and sometimes helping FCWPP develop, focus, and build relationships with legislators, community leaders, allies, and key agency personnel. In the area of criminal justice, the Quaker voice is known and respected in Olympia. We helped pass important reentry legislation, helped released prisoners get back their right to vote, and made important strides toward raising awareness of the problems with the Three Strikes law, overly long sentences, and the heavy financial burden of legal financial obligations on releasing prisoners. We are the ones legislators turn to when they want to figure out how to inspire a grassroots movement to reduce the prison population. And we are the ones who orchestrated and testified at an unprecedented joint hearing of the House Higher Education and Human Services committees on the subject of higher education in the prisons.
While we were working to increase our influence in Olympia, we’ve also worked hard to develop our relationships with one another. The group of people actively involved in FCWPP has increased significantly. We’ve had our first two lobby days. Both were well attended and, I think, informative and fun. We also had our first summer issues seminar, where issues and politics are discussed, and we have a second one scheduled June 12.
Those events signify to me that FCWPP—that is, you—are doing your important work well.
· You are helping to build an influential political force by increasing the confidence of lots of Quakers across the state who now have personal relationships with their legislators and know their way around Olympia.
· You are letting progressive legislators know by your active involvement that there are vocal people who will stand beside them if they choose “smart on crime” over “tough on crime.” This has the potential to change the public debate on this issue.
· You are reviving interest in restorative justice as an alternative to prison and in higher education for prisoners.
· And your influence is felt in many other ways as well.
I will continue to work as a volunteer with FCWPP effort. I am excited by Sam Merrill’s effort to make sure that former prisoners are encouraged to vote and not scared away by threatening ballot language; by Tom Ewell’s efforts to view extended solitary confinement as the torture it is, and his work to address the possibility of Washington’s inmates being able to vote; and by Paul McCold’s efforts to establish restorative justice as a viable alternative to punishment. And I hope you will continue our ongoing efforts to repeal the Three Strikes law and pass Second Look (possibility of early release) legislation.
I thank you for allowing me to represent you, and hope that you will continue to speak out, clear and loud, for those with no voice.
TWO FURTHER NOTES
We will convene the FCWPP Steering Committee as usual at our Quarterly Meeting at Lazy F Camp in Ellensburg on Friday evening, April 23 at 7 pm. We will focus on reporting on our legislative work this past legislative session and hear reports from our Restorative Justice, Economic Policy, and Global Climate Change committees as well as take up the question of replacing Carol and progress on our website development. Please do plan to attend.
And finally, please consider attending our second annual “FCWPP Roundtable” on Saturday, June 12, from 9-1 at University Friends in Seattle. Last year we used the opportunity for twenty or so Friends concerned about criminal justice reform to gather to informally share our stories and commitments and learn more about the legislative and educational challenges
facing the Washington criminal justice system. This year we plan to host two local directors and their screening of a 27 minute pilot film, “Minor Differences,” still in production, that has followed several juveniles, who are now in their thirties and still incarcerated, through their years of being in and out of prison, and we expect to have as guests ex-inmates who have lived this process but who are now living outside of prison. Everyone is invited to to come and learn and share with like-minded Friends as we seek to guide and support FCWPP as it continues here in Washington our Friend’s 350 year legacy of addressing prison and related reform efforts. More information about registration will follow.
And again thanks to all of you who support FCWPP through your legislative involvement and through your financial support. We are completely dependent on Friends’ contributions for our support, so please encourage your meeting to make a contribution and please continue to make your personal contributions and encourage other Friends to do so as well.