Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Alternative Valentines

Since I don't have a Valentine this year, I've pulled together a list of alternative Valentines for myself:

My sweet beloved cat Pepper.  Almost three years ago (when I was blonde) we met in an animal shelter -- it was love at first sight.  She is the best cat that has ever lived, bar none, and I will fight you on that.

Liz Lemon.  Not technically a Valentine.  We'll be co-celebrating Anna Howard Shaw Day.

The abyss.  I looked into it, it looked back into me.  We've been making eyes at each other ever since.

Ladybugs.  They're kind of stalker-y obsessed with me.  They swarmed my room in Huntsville and now they're all over my room in Austin; I even found one in my bed yesterday.  Move on, ladybugs, it's not going to happen.  Don't make it weird.

And, most importantly, Jesus.  (Or, more accurately, the personification of my relationship with the Triune God).  I mean, duh.  In the light of Christ's overwhelming love for me, buying him a box of chocolates it the least I can do.  He's not here to eat them, though, so I'll have to do that part myself.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Writing Overload

I really did sit down last night with every intention of writing a personal blog post.  However, I spent most of my Tuesday and Wednesday engrossed in a marathon of research, spreadsheeting, and typing up very dry data (trying to make it interesting); by the time I got home, I would rather have pulled off my keyboard keys than write another word.  So instead of writing about myself, I'm using this post as an insight into my job and reposting that blog entry here.

From the Grassroots Leadership blog:

Meet the private prison industry's lobbyists who could shape immigration reform

In the last two years, major private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group have spent at least $4,350,000 on lobbying the federal government, primarily to win immigration-related contracts.  What does that kind of money buy you?  Some pretty lucrative contracts, apparently.  In 2011, the federal government paid $1.4 billion to the two corporations, nearly a third of their total profits.
In fact, a 2011 report by Grassroots Leadership and Detention Watch Network found that private prison corporations operate nearly half of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds.  What's more, private prison corporations are benefiting greatly from the criminalization of migration through programs like Operation Streamline.  
It’s no surprise – or secret – that immigration reform which reduces detentions and deportations would be a threat to private prison corporations' business.  Business Insider reported on February 2nd that in 2011, GEO Group CEO George Zoley told investors:
"At the federal level, initiatives related to border enforcement and immigration detention with an emphasis on criminal alien populations as well as the consolidation of existing detainee populations have continued to create demand for larger-scale, cost efficient facilities."
That same year, CCA stated in its annual earnings report that immigration reform
“could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."
So who are these wealthy private prison corporations looking to to win them immigration detention contracts?   Below the jump are just some of the some the major lobbyists for private prison interests in Washington:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mental Health in Dollars

It's been forever since I've updated this blog.  My life has been both really busy and really uneventful -- I don't have much time to write and what I have to write about doesn't seem interesting.  If you want to see some work-related things I'm writing, though, keep an eye on the Grassroots Leadership blog and Texas Prison Bid'ness.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my life could have unrolled if I had been born into a different situation.  I see everyday how mental illness and economic access interact, both in my work and personal life.
The US is completely unequipped to deal with people with mental illness.  I am so, so blessed to belong to a family that had the wealth and ability to take care of a daughter with a serious mental illness; without their resources, I would have ended up like most of us –  homeless or in prison.
Without a mother and father who were able and willing to intervene early in my life, I doubt I would have finished high school, much less attended college.  I would have dropped out and tried to support myself with whatever work I could find, if I could keep it.  Because of my father’s health insurance, I’m able to afford expensive prescriptions and personalized treatment, but I could have just of easily tried to self medicate with illegal drugs.
Just one drug offense could have landed me in jail – if I had been born Hispanic or African American, the chances of my using would have been equal, but the odds of me being incarcerated for the same offense would be seven times greater.  The mental health services available to people in prisons are abysmal, especially in underfunded states like Alabama and Texas; without the psychiatric intervention I received at age twenty and the constant vigilance, I could have been a “trouble maker” and be sent to administrative segregation.  I would be kept twenty four hours a day in a small cell without psychiatric help, fresh air or sunlight, room to move, or meaningful human contact.
After being released from prison or jail, US Americans are ineligible for social services and can be legally discriminated against for jobs.  The rate of recidivism in this country is astounding – two thirds of people return to prison after being released.  Even if I managed to stay out of prison, I would have no governmental assistance and probably wouldn’t be able to get a job.  I would be homeless and mentally ill, like a third of the people living on the street.
My parents’ wealth – not my own abilities – bought my ticket to a secure, comfortable life.  In fact, without their wealth, my abilities would be useless, lost under a tenuous grasp on reality rather than buttressed by a first-class education.
I profoundly wish that other people in the chemically imbalanced boat had the same opportunities that I have.  Instead I’m face to face with a system so intrinsically unjust that I feel like I’m emptying a pool with a tea spoon.  It’s enough to drive a person crazy.

Check out Presbyterian Serious Mental Illness Network for information and some great resources.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A new litany

I regret how bad I've been lately at keeping up with this blog -- now that we've all settled in things seem too normal to write about.  Once I figure out what to write about (hopefully by Wednesday), I'll do so; in the meantime, I've been composing a prayer in my head during my bus rides that I'm going to share here.  In many ways a reflection on St. Thomas Aquinas's Student's Prayer and very heavily influenced by Bonhoeffer (we're reading Life Together as a community).

The Activist’s Prayer
I am capable.
I am strong and equipped for the work set before me.
I am not called to the impossible task of making things perfect,
But I am called to try anyway.

I recognize that I am sometimes disappointed – in myself, in others, in everything –
And I recognize that all I can do is turn these things over to God.
I pray for God’s intercession in the world
And, in doing so, see all things in the light of Christ’s redeeming love.
I pray for us, not for them.

I am happy because of God’s infinite, perfect love,
Which is so abundant and beautiful that even the rocks and trees proclaim it.
I am joyful even when I am not happy
Because of the divine Spirit that pours forth from every human heart,
Including my own.

I am thankful for my burden
Because I know that my reward is not waiting for me in a distant heaven,
But present with me in my daily life.
I am so thankful for Christ’s love that I gladly and constantly submit to God’s will
And praise God in everything I do.

I pray these things in the name of Christ Jesus,
Who has forgiven my uncountable sins
And turned my weeds into flowers.

May the words of my mouth,
The meditation of my heart,
And the work of my hands
Be acceptable to you oh Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Social Justice Hero!

Instead of a regular Wednesday blog post, I'm bringing you an article from the Grassroots Leadership blog on our Social Justice Hero of the Month, Caroline Isaacs of the American Friends Service Committee!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Law and Justice

Sarah, Eric, and I got home from our whirlwind trip to Tucson on Monday afternoon.  We went as a Borderlinks delegation with other YAVs from the Southwest to learn about immigration issues and cross over into the Mexican half of the city of Nogales.  While it was energizing to see our YAV friends and really helpful to contextualize my work, the trip overall was physically and psychologically  taxing.  I'm still processing the trip and will probably revisit it in future blog posts; there is just too much to unpack all at once.  Seeing firsthand what I usually only view from behind a computer screen hit me really hard.

The question that I can't avoid is one that came up when we reflected as a group -- should we even try to abide by the law when it contradicts our values?

If you haven't guessed by now, I take a very liberal stance on immigration issues.  At the heart of everything I do is my strong belief that all of God's children are equal, regardless of where they are born.  According to my faith, US immigration policy runs counter to Christ's command to reflect God's love by welcoming the stranger.  Simply put, our laws are unjust.  But I don't know if I would have the courage to break them.

If you found a migrant in the desert, what would you do?  Would you give him food and water and then turn your back?  Turn him in to Border Patrol knowing that you were sending him back to violence and dire poverty?  Drive him to safety and, in doing so, risk fifteen years in prison?

I wish I could say that I would flaunt federal law in the service of my brother in Christ, but I know that until the opportunity arises I can't be sure.  In the meantime, I'll be behind my desk trying to make a difference in legal ways.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lists and lists and lists

I have a long history of being disorganized.  Iconically, in sixth grade, my math teacher asked me to show her my planner everyday after class because I never seemed to know what was going on.  Of course, since she never told me to stop (or she did and I didn't write it down), I kept doing so until the end of the year and didn't find out until my senior year of high school that she took my ignorance to mean I was extra dedicated.

At my boss's wise urging, I finally got a real adult day planner, although it took me awhile because I kept forgetting.  Lists keep popping up all over my life -- I send out a schedule of my work week every Monday, keep spreadsheets of journalists and Public Information Requests, curse myself when I go to the grocery store without a list and end up buying all the wrong things.  They've even spilled over into my spiritual life; my Tuesday night Bible study made lists of five things Christians do, and each member of AYAVA house is starting a Benedictine-style schedule of prayers (I'm including both of them after the jump).

I never really thought of God as a "list-person," not that God would really have to be, being omniscient and all.  Watching organizational skills play into my spiritual life is exciting, although unexpected.  Turns out I should have listened to my parents for all those years (who would have thought!).