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A Big Milestone for The Appeal

from Nick Wing

November 2 is a big date for The Appeal, and it has nothing to do with the fact that it’s National Stress Awareness Day, National Deviled Egg Day, or David Schwimmer’s birthday.

One year ago today, we published the first reported piece of The Appeal’s worker-led era: Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg’s infuriating story about Reginald “Reggie” Randolph, a chronically homeless man who spent more than 800 days at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City after his arrest in 2018 for stealing cold medicine. Readers reacted by calling attention to the many ways the system had failed Reggie before it ultimately tried to dispose of him. In January, following widespread advocacy from community members and state lawmakers, Reggie was released into supportive housing pending an appeal in his case.

A lot has happened in the year since that first story. We’ve published over 100 original articles, earned recognition from awards committees, and built up a newsletter—the one you’re reading right now—that reaches over 10,000 people each week. And we’ve had our work cut out for us. Fear-mongering rhetoric about crime reached new highs, leading to continued pushback against justice reform and its champions. President Joe Biden, an architect of the modern war on drugs, announced a plan to potentially end the federal prohibition on marijuana. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, with votes from three men who had previously testified under oath that they believed the ruling was settled precedent.

In New York City, we can’t talk about Reggie’s story without noting that 18 people have died at city jails so far in 2022, including a dozen at the Rikers complex where he was detained for years. Despite the raging humanitarian crisis, NYC officials have offered few answers, with some pushing for further rollbacks of a state bail reform law that would only increase overcrowding and deprivation at the hellhole that is Rikers.

All of this brings us to today. We’re officially entering Year Two of publishing at the worker-led Appeal at a pretty consequential time. Elections next week could shift the balance of power at the local, state, and national levels, shaking up the momentum both in favor of and against reform. The assault on abortion rights has only just begun, as prosecutors and police prepare to ramp up efforts to criminalize abortion. Gun violence continues to plague the nation at elevated rates, and lawmakers continue to insist that we respond first and foremost with more cops and cages—though we are thankfully also seeing major new investments in community-based alternatives. Problems of homelessness and visible poverty and mental illness are only getting worse in cities, while officials double down on failed interventions that stress enforcement and further displacement over robust investments in services and housing.

All of that means The Appeal’s reporting will become even more crucial in the months ahead. There’s no way around it: We need your support to be able to do that work. Luckily for us, today isn’t only National Stress Awareness Day—and wow are we aware—it’s also Day 2 of Newsmatch, a program that helps small newsrooms like ours grow.

From now until December 31, all donations from readers will be tripled. Say you want to donate $56 in honor of David Schwimmer’s 56th birthday, that would turn into $168!

Even better, monthly donations will be matched at their annual value. So if you sign up to give $8 a month right now, that means $192 for us upfront.

Year One of the worker-led Appeal is officially in the books, and we couldn’t be more proud of what our team has already accomplished. But we know how much more there is to do: how many more injustices need to be exposed, how many more people need to be freed, how many more carceral policies need to be defeated, and how many more community-based solutions need to be elevated. Help us continue this work by donating today.


 

In the news

 

Not even six months after he was exonerated and released from prison, Claude Garrett died on October 31. Based on debunked forensic science, Garrett had been convicted of setting a fire that killed his girlfriend. He spent more than 30 years in prison for a crime that he never committed. [Liliana Segura / Twitter]

New York City Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina announced plans to ban physical mail at New York City jails, supposedly in response to recent drug overdoses. The jail chief claimed, without providing evidence, that “fentanyl-soaked” drawings, letters, prayer schedules, and clothing have been shipped to detainees. [Matt Katz / WNYC]

Commissioner Molina’s plan, which could involve a switch to digitized mail and new restrictions on care packages, follows reports of smuggling by jail staff and nonprofit employees. [Greg B. Smith And Reuven Blau / The City]

A Hawaii judge ruled that the state Department of Public Safety must publicly release the names of incarcerated people who die in state custody. The department had disclosed such deaths in the past but abruptly changed policy in 2020. [Kevin Dayton / Honolulu Civil Beat]

In Pennsylvania, the Lackawanna County Board of Elections blocked local efforts to put a referendum on the ballot that would limit solitary confinement in the local correctional facility, the Lackawanna County Prison, where many people are confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day. [Michael M. Santiago / Truthout]


That’s all for this week. As always, feel free to leave us some feedback, and if you want to invest in the future of The Appeal, please donate now and your donation will be tripled here.

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