ESR student Karen A. Bradley shares her thoughts after attending Friends Committee on Legislation's Spring Lobby Weekend:
Over Spring Break I had the opportunity to attend the “Unlock Justice” Lobby Weekend sponsored by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, in Washington DC. As a nontraditional student, I was--let's just say--“a tad” bit older than most of the participants, about 400 Quaker and Quaker-inspired high school and college students. The purpose of the event was to train and excite young activists in lobbying as an advocacy practice. Participants spent three days learning about the issue and one day actually lobbying their state senators and representatives on Capital Hill. It was a high energy event to say the least. These young adults were amped up on their political and religious passions. Even the moments of Quaker silence shimmered in palpable effervescence.
Sentencing reform was the substantive focus of the lobby weekend. In particular, mandatory sentencing, especially for small drug crimes, that has filled our prison systems with essentially non-violent, minimal crime offenders who end up with very long maximum sentences. There is also evidence that this affects poor and minority communities disproportionately. Much needs to be done to reform these laws. That is why FCNL chose this issue for the lobby weekend. It is an essential step in having a more fair and just approach to imprisonment in America.