Ending mass incarceration in Arizona and reversing decades of failed policies will require a bipartisan effort in 2020 led by those closest to this crisis.
The ReFraming Justice Project of American Friends Service Committee-Arizona (AFSC-AZ) is responding by leading scores of formerly incarcerated people and the families of those still inside as they share their vision for change with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle at ReFraming Justice Day 2020 (#RFJDAY2020) at the state Capitol on Tuesday, January 21, starting at 10 a.m.
The day kicks off with a rousing rendition of the national anthem, performed by legendary rock guitarist Wayne Kramer (The MC5) in the Rose Garden of the Capitol. Wayne, the founder of Jail Guitar Doors USA, which donates musical equipment to incarcerated people in Arizona and all over the country, was himself incarcerated in federal prison in the 1970s for drug offenses. Today, Wayne tours the country with members of Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, and others conducting music workshops inside prisons and working to end mass incarceration. Wayne and The MC5 are on the short list of 2020 Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame nominees, with inductees to be announced this week.
With one of every two adults in America directly impacted by mass incarceration, we simply cannot afford to cling to partisan ideals to solve this crisis, as reflected in the diversity of AFSC-AZ’s #RFJDAY2020 lineup of speakers and special guests.
Following Wayne’s performance will be several speakers who are directly impacted by failed “tough on crime” policies in Arizona and across the country. Matthew Charles, the first incarcerated person who benefited from the 2019 signing of the federal First Step Act, released just a year ago from the Bureau of Prisons, is traveling from his home in Nashville, Tennessee, to advocate for long-overdue sentencing reform in Arizona. This time last year, weeks after his release, Matthew was sitting in the gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives, attending President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address as a special guest of First Lady Melania Trump. Today, Matthew travels the country as an ambassador for FAMM, a Washington, D.C.-based national criminal justice organization that advocates for prison reform and an end to mandatory minimum sentences.
“I am proud that we have finally arrived at a moment when the voices of those impacted by incarceration and mass criminalization are heard as credible and respected sources on these issues,” said Grace Gámez, Ph.D, the program director and founder of AFSC-AZ’s ReFraming Justice Project. “This day is explicitly focused on pouring into the leadership capacity of directly impacted people and connecting them to meaningful opportunities to engage and to lead.”
Formerly incarcerated people and loved ones of those who were and are still in prison from California, Colorado, and all over Arizona – from Tucson, Prescott, Phoenix and beyond – will also advocate for change and share their experiences. Led by AFSC-AZ’s first cohort of RFJ Leaders, all of whom have been impacted by incarceration and have dedicated themselves to this effort, they will travel to the Capitol to speak with media and meet with dozens of state lawmakers to advocate for a slate of proposals to reform Arizona’s broken criminal justice system and achieve fairness, justice and equity.