Inspired by the Women’s March, here I am with my niece only a month after knee surgery! We had 175,000 in Boston. What a day.


Keep the actions going! Here’s more info from the #WomensMarch

Action 1 / 10

Write a postcard to your Senators about what matters most to you – and how you’re going to continue to fight for it in the days, weeks and months ahead. We’re offering printable postcards for you to download.

You can go it alone, or consider inviting some friends, neighbors and fellow Marchers over for a drink or dinner sometime in the next ten days to talk about your experience and fill out your postcards.”

It’s easy! Just print them at home or at a print shop and send to your senators.

For more, see The Campaign that is folowing from the millions who marched world-wide on January 21st: 10 ACTIONS / 100 DAYS.

What writing a book about a juvenile lifer taught me

In April, 2016, my book Boy With A Knife: The Story of Murder, Remorse, and a Prisoner’s Fight for Justice was published by Ig Publishing. But getting the book into print was hardly the beginning of my getting to know Karter Reed, a once juvenile lifer, who eventually won parole by suing and then settling with the Parle Board in Massachusetts. It was hardly the beginning of my coming to understand now firmly held beliefs: that our country must not send youth to adult prisons and that as a nation, we have come late to the compassion table


Karter Reed killed a boy when he was sixteen and while there is no excusing the tragedy that his murder of Jason Robinson incurred—for both Jason and Karter’s friends and famiies and for the communities they hailed from—he was a child who ended up serving time in a prison with adults, subject to rape, violence, with difficult barriers to get more than his GED, therapy and age-appropriate programming. Karter was like more than 200,000 youth who each year are tried, sentenced, or imprisoned as adults across the United States. On any given day, 6,000 youth are detained or incarcerated in adult jails and prisons. We know that punishment is more severe for kids of color all across the board and that housing kids with adults creates more mental health as well as safety issues.

I learned all this slowly and much of it through Karter as well as through six years of digging into trial transcripts, books, articles and case studies. This began in 2007, when Karter first wrote me from prison. He asked me, a college professor and writer, if I could help a friend with parole. We wrote over one hundred letters to each other, and I learned the truth about the boy, who in news articles from the early 1990s, had been condemned as a “monster,” carrying out a “methodical crime.” Instead of a monster, I discovered a fallible human being, a teenager at the time of his crime, who had made a serious, life-changing mistake, but had spent his time in prison maturing into a man who thought each day about the life he had taken, while at the same time fighting the unfair and arbitrary justice of prison officials and the parole board.

Through knowing Reed and through my six years of work understanding his case and others like him, I came to see that he would have done fine if tried as a juvenile. And the country would have been safe because he has shown he did have the power to change and was not equally culpable as an adult might have been if convicted of murder. Research has shown us that children are not little adults. Their brains are still developing and this leads to the kind of impulsive, erratic behavior that sends them diving headfirst into dangerous risks because risk can also provide great rewards. They hang out with the “wrong kind of kids” and make poor choices be in storming into a classroom to finish a fight or carrying an open knife to school in a pant’s pocket. As scientists know adolescents mature at varied rates. It is teenagers’ heightened vulnerability to seek rewards and fulfill their need for excitement that drives risky behavior. Karter believed he was standing up for a friend and by finishing a fight, that he would be a heo. How many teens are driven by misguided loyalty to their friends!

When the book came out there were protests from the community where Karter’s crime occurred. The family did not want my book published  because they were afraid that I glorified a killer. But in fact, the book and much of the work about kids like Karter, aims to show that there are many victims who suffer when juveniles create harm. The intent is never to excuse murder. There were also many letters I received from people thankful to hear that Karter had received a second chance with parole, and some who lived in the area, were grateful to learn that kids can change and in fact do.

Our country has come late to giving kids who are sentenced to life second chances. Supreme court cases and changing understandings have helped us along but we have a long way to go. As I wrote in an article for Truthout this year, in “the first-ever national survey of victims’ views on safety and justice, published in August 2016 by the Alliance for Safety and Justice, crime victims overwhelmingly said they support spending money on treatment and crime prevention instead of on prisons and jails.”

Karter Reed is doing well these days. He has earned an Associates Degree (4.0 average!), has a job where he is a manager, owns a house, has developed good relationships with many in his family, and has a fledgling relationship. He constantly reminds me that he is not different from many of the other young men and women who are still behind bars. As the year comes to an end, I urge us all to recommit our efforts to help kids get out of prison. It is not what will help they heal, help communities heal, and as we have shown time and time again, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

TODAY: Protest of Trump Advisors & White Supremacy


I received this PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION from Harvard Student Groups and more than 25 co-sponsors (see below)

Protest of Trump Advisors and White Supremacy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government
A rally will begin at 5:00 P.M., at JFK Park (87 John F. Kennedy St Cambridge, MA 02138)

Marginalized communities, not just white nationalists, will have a platform to share their concerns, struggles and stories. After the rally we will peacefully march together, to show Trump advisors that individuals living in Boston and Cambridge will not normalize white nationalism or white supremacy. We will call a spade, a spade.

Background: Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government is hosting the “Campaign for President: The Managers Look at 2016 Conference,” a two-day conference on the 2016 Presidential Election this Wednesday, Nov. 30 th and Thursday, Dec. 1 st . Stephen Bannon, white nationalist and chief advisor to President-elect Donald Trump, was a confirmed participant along with several other close advisors to Trump, Hillary Clinton and media pundits from CNN and elsewhere.

While Bannon has reportedly backed out of attending the conference, Harvard has publicly defended their invitation. We stand with those who denounce Harvard for giving Bannon and the Trump Team a platform to legitimize their white supremacist agenda. Politicians of both political parties have put out calls to help ensure that Donald Trump “succeeds.”

Trump’s “success,” however, would mean the terrorizing of immigrant and Muslim communities, an increase in the already ever-present police harassment and brutality centered in Black communities, the destruction of women’s health care services and the slashing of vital social services. In Massachusetts, over 400 calls reporting hate crimes throughout the state have come into the Attorney General’s office in a single week . We stand in defense of the Muslim and South Asian communities against Islamophobia and racist scapegoating. The police have seemingly impenetrable impunity when it comes to crimes against our people. The reality is that policing has become safer over the years ; that white men are responsible for the majority of police killings in the U.S; and that white supremacists are more dangerous than foreign terrorists . Instead of addressing these concerns, Trump says that Black communities need more “law and order” policies. We stand against police corruption, intimidation, and impunity. Black lives matter! Justice for all victims of police brutality!”

COSPONSORS (with Harvard student groups):
Boston NAACP
Boston NOW (Nat’l Organization for Women)
Student Immigrant Movement
Massachusetts Peace Action
Massachusetts Student Peace Action
Answer Coalition
USW Local 8751
Workers World Party
Socialist Alternative
International Socialist Organization
If Not Now
Jewish Voice for Peace
Political Research Associates
Students for Justice in Palestine – Northeastern Universtity Chapter
Democratic Socialists of America
Party for Socialism and Liberation
Chelsea & East Boston Anti-Fascist Coalition
Boston Feminists for Liberation
Massachusetts Against HP
Boston Mobilization
Democracy Center
Cambridge Support for Syrian Refugees
New Hampshire Against Police Brutality
Muslim Justice League
MassArt Students Against Trump
(and growing…)”

Please see Facebook page for info and contact info



Some Kids That Give Me Hope

Today I spoke at Wilmington High School in Massachusetts, and while I honestly haven’t felt much like speaking anywhere, or like writing, these students gave me heart. While I am not yet ready to blog, here are some of the students I spoke to today.


While I talked about why I became an activist and a writer, they asked many questions. Some of my favorites were: “Was it hard for you to feel the pain of the family of the young man who was murdered by the subject of your book?” and “Can you tell us about the prison riots across the county?”

I’m thankful to Lisa Desberg, English teacher at WHS for inviting me to speak. The young really are our hope.

Massachusetts and the Carceral State

Mass and the carceral state 3


On Sunday, September 11, 2016, join justice activists from across Massachusetts for a day of skill and strategy building to invigorate the movement to replace the state’s criminal justice system with community justice. Whether you’re already active or are looking to get involved, this day is for you! It’s free and open to all. There will be opportunities to learn about the great work that is being done for justice reform in Massachusetts and to improve your skills and understanding of the movement.

Sunday’s conference will run from 9 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. at Harvard Law School, Wasserstein Hall, 1585 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA. There will be workshops, panels, networking opportunities and activist art. Lunch is provided. Workshop presenters include the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, Young Abolitionists, National Alliance on Mental Illness — and many more!

This event is being organized by members of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, the Coalition for Effective Public Safety, the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition and the National Lawyers Guild – Massachusetts Chapter. Harvard Law School is easily accessible by public transportation: the Harvard Square stop on the Red Line or the following bus lines: 1, 66, 68, 69, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 77, 78, 86, 96. Street parking is also available and free on Sundays. For questions, please contact Rachel Corey, 617-807-0111director@cjpc.org.

If you’d like to park in Harvard parking, visitors must register with Harvard Parking to obtain a parking permit. Below you will find a link to register. The visitor parking option allows you to pick a garage: please choose the 52 OXFORD STREET garage since we are on a weekend.  When registering be sure to select the department “visitor to campus” and enter 7700 as the department code.

Link:  https://www2.uos.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/permit/purchase.pl
Public Parking Lots: http://www.harvardsquare.com/maps.aspx (if the garage is full)

If you’re part of an organization, and you’re interested in tabling, please fill out this form.

Attendance at some workshops is limited. To ensure your spot in the workshops being offered, sign up here (read below for descriptions of workshops).

Workshop Schedule for the day:
9:00 – 9:45 a.m.                      Welcome (Milstein B)
9:40 – 9:55 a.m.                      Poetry by the Mass. Literary 
Education and Performance Collective (MassLEAP) (Milstein B)
10:00 – 10:50 a.m.                  Workshop slot (Various rooms)
11:00 – 11:50 a.m.                   Workshop slot (Various rooms)
Noon – 12:50 p.m.                   Workshop slot (Various rooms)
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.                       Lunch and panel discussion (TBA) (Milstein B)
2:30 – 2:45 p.m.                      Poetry by MassLEAP (Milstein B)
2:50 – 3:45 p.m.                      Affinity groups (Milstein A, B, C)

Register for Workshops here.

Workshop schedule:

10 a.m. – 10:50 a.m. workshops:
Changing the state’s laws: Lobbying 101 – If you don’t like our current laws, then let’s change them! This interactive workshop will explain Massachusetts’ legislative process and present key ideas/talking points on criminal justice issues. Workshop participants will role play meeting with legislators and report back on the effectiveness of their lobbying efforts. Presented by Sana Fadel, Deputy Director at Citizens for Juvenile Justice and Lizz Matos, staff attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services of MassachusettsRoom 2012. Limit 50 people.

#NutsandBolts: Using Twitter for Racial Justice and Social Activism – This workshop will help you learn the fundamentals of Twitter and give you a brief introduction as to why and how Twitter can help promote racial justice and social activism. Participants will be encouraged to make their own Twitter account and learn a variety of skills: how to engage with other activists, attach articles, and read a “feed.” Bring your smart phone or laptop! For beginners or for those who want to learn more tricks of the Twitter trade. Presented by author/blogger/professor Jean Trounstine and Jasmine Gomez, Democracy Honors Fellow at Free Speech for People. Room 2004. Limit 25 people.

Recognizing the role of mental illness: Diversity, inclusion & mental health – This interactive workshop will provide an introduction to the major principles of diversity and inclusion in the mental health field. It will also raise sensitivity and awareness of participants while allowing opportunity to discuss the role that implicit bias, discrimination, mental health stigma and race plays on diverse groups and community engagement. Presented by Dr. Matthieu Bermingham, Diversity Committee Chair, and Florette Willis, Diversity Director of Outreach & Inclusion, from the Massachusetts office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).Room Milstein A. Limit 30 people.

11 a.m. -11:50 a.m. workshops:
Supporting those who take to the streets: Legal Observer™ training – When you see people wearing lime green hats at demonstrations, from Boston to Ferguson and beyond, those are Legal Observers™ trained by the National Lawyers Guild. This workshop will explain the role that Legal Observers play in supporting activists engaged in the struggle for social and economic justice, and provide basic training for those who wish to act as LO’s. Presented by Jeff Feuer and kt crossman for the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers GuildRoom 2012. Limit 30 people.

Ousting elected prosecutors: #ByeAnita – A coalition of grassroots groups in the Chicago area joined forces to prevent the re-election of Cook County’s top prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, in response to her handling of police misconduct cases, especially those involving youth of color. They did so without endorsing any other candidate running for that office. Learn about this successful campaign’s strategies and tactics. Presented by Veronica Morris-Moore of Chicago’s Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY). Room 2009. Limit 45 people.

Educating the public: How to use the media without getting used – It’s critical to educate the general public about the need for radical change – and that means working with the media. This overview of the Massachusetts and national media landscape will teach you how to get access to the most outlets possible, which are best for your purposes, how to avoid common mistakes, and how to form relationships with the media. Presented by Chris Faraone, DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and Howard Manly, formerly with the Bay State Banner, Boston Herald, WGBH and Boston Globe. Room 2004. Limit 60 people.

Healing, Reconciliation, and Accountability Outside the Criminal Justice System (NOTE: This is a two-hour workshop, from 11 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. If you sign up, please plan to attend the full workshop.) – The Intergenerational Justice Program (IJP) supports families of murder victims and families of people incarcerated for murder as they navigate the criminal justice system from arrest through re-entry. IJP fills a major gap in the field with its explicit focus on family engagement and community involvement to address the impact of homicide on both sides. Re-entry programs tend to have a narrow focus on the individual (often younger, often for non-violent offenses) while IJP expands the resources available to people who have been convicted of violent crimes and their families. The focus of IJP is to ensure that all families have what they need to live in peace after a homicide.
This workshop will describe IJP’s model for healing, reconciliation, and accountability and how they provide practical support for families on both sides. Facilitators will discuss the dangers of dividing communities into “victim” and “offender” and other institutional barriers the criminal justice system has imposed on families seeking justice and healing. Facilitators will also address the impact of racism and poverty on our communities that results in disparate numbers of poor people of color becoming both offenders and victims, often part of the same families and from the same neighborhoods. Families and communities of color need more support, resources, and community-led processes rather than the typical systemic response to violence: more police, swifter prosecution, and longer prison sentences. Facilitators will be from the partners of IJP: The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, SPAN Inc., and VISIONS IncMilstein A. Limit 50 people.

Noon to 12:50 p.m. workshops:
Speaking truth to power: Independent journalism and public records requests – You don’t need to be a professional journalist to investigate an issue and publicize your findings. Jamie Folk investigated former drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan while Jonathan Cohn probed the Boston 2024 Summer Olympics organization. Workshop goals:

  • How to come up with the idea for a public record request
  • How to file a public record request
  • How to deal with city/state departments & agencies
  • How to fundraise for requests (if needed)
  • How to publicize & disseminate requests
  • How to utilize public record requests for activism & advocacy
  • How to contact and lobby your state legislators

Room 2012. Limit 40 people.

An American history of policing and prisons: Abolition now! – The youth collective Young Abolitionists (formerly Youth Against Mass Incarceration) will provide an introduction to the concept of prison abolition, including a history of police from slavery to mass incarceration. Room 2009. Limit 75 people.

Healing, Reconciliation, and Accountability Outside the Criminal Justice System – Continued from 11 a.m. workshop.

To ensure you have a spot in each of the workshops you want to attend, sign up here ahead of time. For free tickets for the day, register here: http://bit.ly/2bM40Pw