Registration now open for national movement conference on overturning mass incarceration

At a time when 100 million Americans are trying to move on from their criminal records, hundreds (and possibly thousands) of people will gather in Oakland, California to address their common struggle with an oppressive criminal justice system. The Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM) is made up of the directly impacted families and communities confronting a system of control; a system that has, itself, grown out of control. This two-day conference (Sept. 9-10) is the latest of many historical markers in the Civil Rights movement and represents the courageous individual and collective journeys among every organizer and participant.

Source: Registration now open for national movement conference on overturning mass incarceration



The Flanbwayan tree is  a beautiful tree that grows throughout the island of Haiti. It stands out with its fiery red flowers, for us it is a symbol of strength, patience, and growth.

Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project (Flanbwayan) founded in 2005 is a youth membership-based organization serving newcomer and young adult Haitian immigrant students in New York City who are English Language Learners (ELLs) between the ages of 14 to 21. Flanbwayan provides a safety net for Haitian youth who may possibly fall through the cracks of an overwhelming high school placement process as they enter the New York area, providing much-needed services, including individual education assessments and appropriate school placements. In this project student members have found themselves in a safe space where they discussed issues, share experiences, express their views on education issues, develop outreach efforts to their peers and raise awareness on the need for education reform.

Flanbwayan’s multi-level approach to education, advocacy, organizing and cultural activities provides rigorous learning experiences where students acquire critical thinking, analytical and leadership skills that deepen community ties and cultural understanding. Flanbwayan assumes in order for newcomer immigrant youth to grow and develop they need to have a safe space, equal access to resources and opportunities.

Visit for their scholarship listings.

Please share this link with others!




What are the legal ramifications for having no home country? and I don’t mean this in the mystifying way exhibited in Games of Thrones character, Arya Stark.

“More than 40,000 people – including several hundred unaccompanied children — have been deported from the Dominican Republic to Haiti between August 2015 and May 2016, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Haitian civil society organizations.”


These deportations have left these persons stateless.

A stateless person is someone who, under national laws, does not enjoy citizenship – the legal bond between a government and an individual – in any country. While some people are de jure or legally stateless persons (meaning they are not recognized as citizens under the laws of any state), many people are de facto or effectively stateless persons (meaning they are not recognized as citizens by any state even if they have a claim to citizenship under the laws of one of more states.)


International legal instruments related to statelessness include:

• 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 15


• 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons

• 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

• 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 24

• 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 7

• 1997 European Convention on Nationality


The 1954 Convention entered into force on June 6, 1960 provides the definition of a “stateless person” and is the foundation of the international legal framework to address statelessness.

The 1961 Convention is the leading international instrument that sets rules for the conferral and non-withdrawal of citizenship to prevent statelessness.

The Dominican Republic is not a signatory to this treatise and neither is Haiti.

The Documentary: STATELESS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLICtells the stories of statelessness in the Dominican Republic and issues along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Haiti Elections

Would you like to stay up to date on the elections? Haiti Election Blog has a list of the approved presidential candidates and other resourceful links in their Legal section.

Below is an excerpt from their June 20th article:

The end of interim President Jocelerme Privert’s 120-day term came and went on June 14 without any decision by Haiti’s parliament, leaving confusion in its wake. The disputes over extending Privert’s mandate spilled out into the streets, with some of his opponents hinting at the possibility of his removal by force. The international powers expressed their dismay at the political uncertainty created by this situation. The verification commission’s (CIEVE) report, meanwhile, continued to make waves. The EU withdrew its observers in protest of the decision to rerun the presidential race, while the U.S. also expressed its “regret” over this decision. Another big question for the upcoming elections is where the financing will come from, given the disquiet of the international donors.”



The Haiti Elections Blog is a collaboration of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 1804 Institute, Haiti Support Group, the National Lawyers Guild International Committee, and International Association of Democratic Lawyers. The blog is an indispensable resource for journalists, policy-makers, aid workers and other “Haiti watchers,” providing the latest news, analysis and information on the elections in Haiti and promoting free access to information and accountability with the electoral process. Over the next several months, Haitians are scheduled to vote on virtually every public office in the country; including the President, 119 deputies, 20 senators, and over 5,000 municipal agents.

International Marine Conservation Congress

The International Marine Conservation Congress is the most important international meetings for marine conservation.

Samantha Oester, Society for Conservation BiologyMarine Section president-elect, has studied marine animals and conservation around the globe, as well as freshwater ecology and aquatic microbiology in remote locations. She has also worked in Haiti as a medical volunteer, including after the 2010 earthquake. She has become passionate about helping to reduce poverty and improve public health while also ameliorating habitat for endangered and endemic coastal and marine species.

Research is still in its infancy in Haiti, especially in the Cap-Haïtien region, and Oester’s pilot project is collecting data in the Cap-Haïtien watershed, including marine, freshwater, mangrove and inland riverine wetland data, which will be discussed in her ICCB ECCB 2015 presentation. Working with the Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine, Haiti’s only marine conservation non-governmental organization, Oester’s research will start a large, long-term research and monitoring project in the region to improve life for all in Cap-Haïtien Bay.

Follow Oester on Twitter: @samoester

Read more . . .

Pollution in Haiti


Poverty is exacerbating Haiti’s environment.

Many Haitians rely on the use of organic matter such as wood, manure and food waste for fuel. These materials are burned indoors and produce a large amount of smoke, which results in indoor air pollution. The smoke often contains harmful compounds such as carbon monoxide and certain carcinogens.

Worldwide, indoor air pollution kills 1.5 million people annually, and it has shortened the average life expectancy of Haitians by approximately six years. Even when fires are outdoors, the close and cramped living conditions in Haiti allow smoke to quickly contaminate large areas.

Women and children are at high risk for smoke-related illness because they spend a significant portion of the day cooking and maintaining smoke-filled residences. They often have not been properly informed of the dangers that constant smoke brings to the home.

There are organizations fighting for Haiti’s environment.

In a country plagued by extreme poverty and political instability, Jean Wiener led community efforts to establish the nation’s first Marine Protected Areas by empowering Haitians to see the long-term value in sustainably managing fisheries and mangrove forests.

Wiener’s parents had plans for him to become a doctor and sent him to pursue a medical education in the United States. During his studies, he reconnected with his childhood love for the ocean and ended up with a degree in marine biology instead.

He returned to Haiti in 1989 and began working in the science department at a local school. While Wiener had seen signs of the damaged marine wildlife during his visits home, he now fully realized the serious extent of the toll the ecosystem had taken from unchecked exploitation. He frequently heard stories from local fishermen of how much harder it was to find fish. “We used to be able to fish for a half day and feed our family for two weeks,” they said. “Now we fish for two weeks and feed our family for a half day.”

Determined to restore the marine wildlife of his childhood and bring sustainable economic opportunities for the people of Haiti, Wiener started the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity (FoProBiM)in 1992.

Wiener was the recipient of the GoldMan prize in 2015 for his faithful efforts towards protecting Haiti’s environment. 

The Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots environmental heroes from the world’s six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South & Central America. The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. The Goldman Prize views “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.


Hilary and Haiti

Clinton’s Long Shadow

“Hillary Clinton may never be called to account for her role in Haiti’s ongoing political crisis.” by

Excerpt from the article:

Throughout her term as secretary of state, Clinton made Haiti one of her top foreign-policy priorities. She and her chief of staff Cheryl Mills closely managed the internationally financed effort to rebuild Haiti after the quake. Bill Clinton pitched in as co-chair of a commission tasked with approving reconstruction projects.

As Clinton wrote in her memoir Hard Choices, rebuilding Haiti was “an opportunity . . . to road-test new approaches to development that could be applied more broadly around the world.”

Wielding an unparalleled level of influence over massive flows of public, private, and philanthropic capital, the Clintons set out to turn their slogan — Haiti “built back better” — into reality.

As Katz told the Washington Post: “There’s nowhere Clinton had more influence or respect when she became Secretary of State than in Haiti, and it was clear that she planned to use that to make Haiti the proving ground for her vision of American power.”

In retrospect, the Clintons’ bold, new vision for Haiti looks more like a mirage. The “new” approach was the same old “sweatshop model of development,” pursued by the United States since the Duvalier days, in a slick new package, and it had the same disastrous results.

A multi-million dollar industrial park the Clintons promoted as Haiti’s economic salvation was a flop on its own capitalist terms, generating only one-tenth of the promised sixty thousand jobs.

Meanwhile, mammoth new slum areas have sprung up north of Port-au-Prince, a testament to the mind-boggling decision to prioritize building luxury hotels for foreign tourists, NGO workers and businesspeople over permanent housing for the over one million Haitians made homeless by the quake.


Nikolas Barry-Shaw is a Montreal-based Haiti solidarity activist. He is the voting rights associate for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti and co-author ofPaved with Good Intentions: Canada’s Development NGOs from Idealism to Imperialism.


Alternative Dispute Resolution

People are opting to employ alternative avenues of justice such as the Gacacafor used following the Rwandan Genocide. In Haiti, there is the Chamber of Conciliation and Arbitration of Haiti.

In Dallas, Texas, The Islamic Tribunal aims to resolve conflicts and disputes according to the principles of Islamic Law in a manner that is reasonable and cost effective, taking on serious family problems, divorces,  and business disputes among some of the cases.  Options such as this are rare in the United States, but they are growing in access. The Tribunal seeks to support and guidance from consultants and counselors to its attorneys to ensure that local, state and federal law are strictly conformed to, and decisions that originate from the Tribunal are by said laws. IT offers free legal consultations.

And similar alternatives are available and have been for a long time, for other faith-based dispute resolutions such as Christian mediation.

The following links are taken from  lead to the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC), a division of Peacemaker® Ministries, to explain Christian conciliation and court-tested conciliation clauses in more detail:


Questions arise concerning the legality of these methods, and whether an impartial application of justice is being applied. Are women being treated subjectively, as is usually assumed of religious teachings?  Would children be submitted to reasoning of parents? What about cases of rape, incest, or child molestation? Are the perpetrators and victims receiving justice? Can criminal charges legally be addressed in these alternative methods?

Answers to these questions vary but ADR for criminal matters is growing in demand with a majority of programs  “identifying themselves as victim-offender mediation programs.”

Carryn Wolfe in her article for Fordham Law Review shares the following:

It is undeniable that ADR is often faster and cheaper than litigation. Congress in 1925 passed the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), establishing that a written agreement of arbitration “shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” Then the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafted the Uniform Arbitration Act (UAA) in 1955, and the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act (RUAA) in 2000 which are currently in place.

Persons may feel obligated to use faith-based alternative dispute resolutions out of conviction. For example, according to “halakhah”, followers of Judaism may hold that they are not allowed to turn to secular courts. The decision to not use secular courts is also found in Christian and Islamic faith. Turning to religious ADR may lead to the preservation of minority cultures and community values but could come at the cost of what modern society has come to understand as justice. This begs the question of whether justice is to be sought for the victim or for the victim and society at large.










Caryn Litt Wolfe, Faith-Based Arbitration: Friend or Foe? An Evaluation of Religious Arbitration Systems and Their Interaction with Secular Courts, 75 Fordham L. Rev. 427 (2006). Available at:



Practical Ways to do Public Interest

Ms. JD is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of law students and recent graduates and supported by a small group of independent contractors. Ms. JD serves “as a unique nexus between the profession and the pipeline of diverse attorneys, Ms. JD’s online community provides a forum for dialogue and networking among women lawyers and law students.”

Ms. Jd is home to the  National Women Law Students’ Organization and has campus chapters around the nation.

“Ms. JD celebrates women’s achievements, addresses remaining challenges, and facilitates continued progress by bringing legal practitioners and law students together to share in an ongoing conversation about gender issues in law school and the profession.”

Ms. JD also accepts volunteer bloggers.

Ms. Emmanuela SaintJean, of Haitian descent published an article on Ms.JD directed towards persons interested in practicing public interest law.

Ms. SaintJean states that:

While there are various branches in public interest, we all have one aim and that is to do good and pursue justice. A few practical ways we can be stronger together is by;

1. Listening: It’s not enough to just hear the issues the people we serve, we must listen to issues, listening is intentional. Briefly, put yourself in your client shoes, and give them the same attention you would want.

2. Sharing Resources: Share financial resources, list of food pantries, shelters, listing of other agencies that can serve your clients, employees, and even a willing intern.

3. Be Radical: Be unapologetic about your zeal and passion to serve your clients.  Graciously, don’t take no for an answer, be creative and think outside the box when thinking of a solution. Remember the people that you serve are counting on your brilliance to help them. Finally stronger together means

4. Being Committed: Dr. Martin Luther King said “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” If we are going to be strong together we must be truly committed to the work that we do. Public interest work is not for the faint at heart, it requires long hours, fewer dollars, and fewer resources but the reward of making a positive impact on the lives of the clients we serve far outweighs the bad, and this cause is worthy of all that we have.


Too Poor to Afford Freedom

Is being poor punishable by imprisonment? Should only those who can afford it be allowed freedom?

Neil Sobol, Associate Professor at Texas A&M University School of Law, explores the topic of imprisonment for debt in the article, “Charging the Poor: Criminal Justice Debt & Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons.”

In colonial times in the United States, individuals were commonly imprisoned for their debt. Now, despite prohibitions against it,  poor and needy individuals are regularly incarcerated for unpaid debts. 

These “modernday debtors’ prisons” have been the subject of at least ten lawsuits in 2015 against municipalities who used them, primarily for criminal justice debt. 


For example, January 2015, in Georgia:

The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging debt collection practices that have resulted in the jailing of people simply because they are poor. The case was brought on behalf of Kevin Thompson, a black teenager in DeKalb County, Georgia. The ACLU charges that DeKalb County and the for-profit company Judicial Corrections Services teamed up to engage in a coercive debt collection scheme that focuses on revenue generation at the expense of protecting poor people’s rights.

The ACLU tells us that “State and local courts have increasingly attempted to supplement their funding by charging fees to people convicted of crimes, including fees for public defenders, prosecutors, court administration, jail operation, and probation supervision. And in the face of mounting budget deficits at the state and local level, courts across the country have used aggressive tactics to collect these unpaid fines and fees, including for traffic offenses and other low-level offenses. These courts have ordered the arrest and jailing of people who fall behind on their payments, without affording any hearings to determine an individual’s ability to pay or offering alternatives to payment such as community service.”

The effects of this system are daunting. Prof. Sobol states:

“The impact of criminal justice debt is especially severe on the poor and minorities as they are frequently assessed “poverty penalties” for interest, late fees, installment plans, and collection. Often they have to decide between paying criminal justice debt and buying family necessities. The deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore have prompted renewed calls for investigation of the adverse treatment of the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system. The fear of arrest, incarceration, and unfair treatment for those owing criminal justice debt creates distrust in the system.”

Neil L. Sobol, Charging the Poor: Criminal Justice Debt & Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons, 75 Md. L. Rev. 486 (2016).
Available at: