Nov 23, 2021

The Appeal team has a lot to be thankful for this year, including the fact that we can spend time with our families again. We know not everyone is as fortunate, and we’re thinking of community members, especially those behind bars, who can’t be with their loved ones. 

In the midst of Thanksgiving travel and weird schedules, we figured we’d use this week’s newsletter to update you on our progress. (Don’t worry, you can still find our roundup of justice news below.) 

First, make sure to check out Meg O’Connor’s story, which was published today. It’s a deep dive into the culture of impunity and abuse at the Rochester Police Department in New York, and it will probably make you mad. Read it now so you have time to process before Thanksgiving.

There’s more good news on our end: We recently secured a $250,000 grant from, a bipartisan organization working for criminal justice reform. This is our first major grant, and it’s a big deal. It dramatically expands our runway and provides us with critical resources to cover operating costs. We’re so grateful for FWD’s support. But here’s the reality: To get fully back up and running, we need to raise at least half of our $3 million annual budget, which is why we continue to ask for your help.

Now is an especially great time to donate. When you sign up to support The Appeal with a recurring monthly donation today, NewsMatch will match the amount at 12 times the value. And they’ll double one-time donations.

We have a steep hill to climb. Some of you might be wondering why we’re trying so hard to make it in a challenging media environment. When it comes down to it, we’re working to relaunch The Appeal because we truly believe that journalism is a powerful tool for change. This is a pivotal moment for the future of criminal justice reform. And if we don’t continue to shine a light on this deeply flawed system and the people it affects, the progress we’ve seen may get lost to the tough-on-crime backlash.

This isn’t an exaggeration. We’re not using police fear mongering tactics. The threat to the movement is real, and we feel that the best way for us to fight back is to keep telling the truth. Jody Armour, a renowned law professor at the University of Southern California and a member of The Appeal’s advisory board, recently explained why he feels this work is so important.

“To change the system, we must unify around a common purpose,” Jody says. “But that depends on a shared common truth — one rooted in careful investigations, reliable sources, and rigorous analyses. The Appeal’s work helps voters, lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, activists, and other agents of change establish an evidence-based common truth, which guides us in the fight against racialized mass incarceration.”

We have a lot more stories coming out over the next five weeks, but the first slate of pieces we’ve published has focused on elevating voices silenced by the system, and speaking truth to power. If you haven’t read them yet, you can find them here, here, and here.

These are the sorts of eye-opening and enraging stories we’re committed to investing in. But as a worker-led nonprofit, The Appeal depends on the support of readers to be able to bring you ambitious, high-quality journalism that makes an impact. We’d be so thankful for any contribution you can make.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next week,
The Appeal Workers

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Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal last week likely left many of us struggling to articulate our thoughts. In a Twitter thread, Appeal advisory board member Josie Duffy Rice captured both the frustrations and the continued hope for change. “The idea that, regardless of the outcome, there was peace or fairness or reckoning to be found in a courtroom, was always a farce,” she wrote. [Josie Duffy Rice / Twitter]

Samuel Scott Jr., a Black man, is suing Miami and five of the city’s police officers for arresting him in 2018 after he reported his car had been stolen. Police claimed Scott “matched the description” of the suspect seen driving his vehicle, and determined he had “stolen” his own car, crashed it, and then made a false report. The Miami Police Department has a history of brutalizing and harassing Black residents. [Alex DeLuca / Miami New Times]

Ju’zema Goldring was kept in Georgia’s Fulton County jail for almost six months after Atlanta police officers Vladimir Henry and Juan Restrepo arrested her for trafficking cocaine. The substance was actually sand inside a stress ball. Goldring is suing the officers, and her judicial path may have gotten easier after the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled this month that the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity. [C.J. Ciaramella / Reason]

The San Francisco Chronicle published a story last week examining how police are responding to a recent increase in burglaries. Turns out, they’re not doing a good job. The San Francisco Police Department cleared just 10.2 percent of the burglary cases presented this year, and victims report that cops have shown a lack of interest in solving cases, even when presented with clear evidence. One officer was said to have showed up to take a report five days after a burglary, and told the woman who called the cops that the crime had happened “because San Francisco is too progressive.” [Rachel Swan / San Francisco Chronicle]

Henry Montgomery was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in Louisiana for a crime he committed when he was 17. Last week, Montgomery, now 75, was granted parole and freed from prison. While incarcerated, Montgomery filed suit, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 decision banning mandatory life sentences for children should be applied retroactively. The Court sided with Montgomery in 2016, paving the way for hundreds of people to be released. The Louisiana Parole Project has started a GoFundMe to help Montgomery build his life on the outside. [Rebecca Santana / Associated Press]

Since the start of 2019, more than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, convicted, or sentenced for crimes. Their offenses took place both on and off the job, and include things like stalking and harassing fellow employees,  molesting an incarcerated person, and taking thousands of dollars in bribes to bring Suboxone, marijuana, tobacco, and cell phones into prison. [Michael Balsamo and Michael R. Sisak / Associated Press] Also from AP: “White supremacist prison guards work with impunity in Fla.”

Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam have been exonerated more than 50 years after being wrongfully convicted in the assassination of Malcolm X. The FBI and the New York Police Department withheld exculpatory evidence that undermined the prosecution’s case, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office and attorneys for Aziz and Islam. Aziz is now 83; he was released in 1985. Islam was released in 1987 and died in 2009. [Ashley Southall and Jonah E. Bromwich / New York Times]

In August, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Illinois Way Forward Act, which banned cities and counties in the state from using their jails to hold immigrants detained by ICE. According to the most recent data, ICE detains more than 20,000 immigrants in over 100 jails and private detention facilities across the United States, but immigration rights advocates have successfully pressured state and local governments to end ICE contracts in recent years. Two Illinois counties, McHenry and Kankakee, have sued the state, arguing that the Way Forward Act is unconstitutional and will deprive the counties of crucial revenue. Illinois has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which is before a federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois. [Carlos Ballesteros / Injustice Watch]

That’s all for this week. Feel free to leave us some feedback, and if you want to support our official relaunch, please donate here. Until next time, the work continues.