Spreading Justice

I wanted to inform my blog readers—loyal bunch that you are—that peace advocate Alex Sanchez and director of Homies Unidos, who is facing RICO charges related to alleged gang activities, including murder, has had his next bail hearing changed from Monday, August 17, to Monday, October 19, 2009 at 1:30 PM. Judge Manuel Real has given Alex’s attorneys time to look over evidence the federal government is using to convict Alex for life. At the last bail hearing that I attended, Judge Real seemed frustrated with the government’s inability to provide wiretaps that supposedly incriminate Alex. They claimed these wiretaps were in two different FBI facilities and that they needed time to obtain them. The judge insisted on hearing these tapes—all of them—before he could determine if bail is warranted. Alex’s lawyer made a request that those tapes be made available to the defense as well, which the Judge also granted. While this may seem like a long time for Alex to be sitting behind bars in federal detention, pushing back the bail hearing is a good development. The first judge to address this issue ended up refusing bail entirely, despite rather flimsy “evidence” f rom the government—and despite the community and family coming up with close to $2 million in promissory notes and houses for collateral. Remember to visit the We Are Alex website for more information (www.wearealex.org). I also took part in a reception for US Congresswoman Diane Watson at City Hall on August 10, organized by City Councilperson Tony Cardenas. Congresswoman Watson has introduced a bill that would help bring adequate gang intervention services to violence reduction programs. This bill was based on “A Guide for Understanding Effective Community-Based Gang Intervention” that I helped create along with about forty other gang intervention experts in Los Angeles. This guide became LA City policy in an anonymous vote by the LA City Council in February of 2009, largely through the efforts of Councilperson Cardenas. I’ve also taken this guide to many communities, most recently at Fort Bragg, CA, where gangs are becoming a growing concern. I also have to let my readers know that I’m proud to be part of a US Supreme Court Amicus Curiae brief on the Terrace Jamar Graham v. Florida and Joe Harris Sullivan v. Florida cases from the District Court of Appeals of Florida, First District. I join former juvenile offenders Charles S. Dutton and US Senator Alan K. Simpson, among others, in support of the petitioners. The issues center around a very important development—the growing convictions of juveniles to life sentences, which I’ve opposed for many years. Those of us in the brief are people who as youth committed crimes that today might have sent us to prison for life (in my case for attempted murder and assaulting police officers). But for various reasons, including being given second chances (or in some cases fourth of fifth chances), we turned our lives around, became good citizens, decent family men, and for many of us, strong and positive leaders in our communities. I believe troubled young people today should be given the same consideration and support instead of life sentences. Next Monday, I’ll travel to the weeklong Mosaic’s Men’s Conference at the Woodlands Camp in Mendocino. Sponsored by Michael Meade’s Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, I’ve been a teacher/poet in these conferences, as well as other Mosaic workshops and events, for sixteen years. We utilize story, song, dance, poetry, and living/emerging rituals as well as intense dialogue and teaching, to work through some deep, dark and difficult issues. The men are 20 from all walks of life, races, classes, and sexual orientation. We also include urban gang and other youth. This has been a vital part of the important works I do in mentoring and youth development. This year my 21-year-old son Ruben (he’ll be 21 next month) joins me at the conference. I’m honored he’s taking part. I pray my son and I—and the rest of around 100 men—have a powerfully engaging learning and teaching experience. Remember, I’m out of commission for that week—no cell phones or emails. It’s a lot of work, but being in the shadows of majestic redwood trees and among raw nature also makes this event quite healing and life-turning toward the mysteries. c/s

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