On the morning of the first day of the 2012 Prisoner’s Family Conference in Albuquerque I had the good fortune to sit down next to really smart and very kind man named Seth Ford. He’s a social media consultant who spent five years as a political lobbyist. A series of events in his personal life led him to become concerned about the toll that violence and incarceration take on so many communities in the United States. He now lives in Denver and works for an amazing organization called the Pendulum Foundation, which works to end juvenile life without parole in Colorado. He also blogs about this and other juvenile justice issues on his website PolitiVisor.com.
From 1992 to 2005, kids could be given a sentence of life without parole in the state of Colorado. The legislature came to its senses in 2006 and ended this barbaric sentencing practice, but because the change in law was not retroactive, the fifty children who had already been sentenced to life without parole remain in the system. Now all of them are adults who have never lived independently outside a prison. What kind of nation believes that people who are too young to be trusted to vote, drink, or serve in the military should be judged unfit to live among us for the rest of their lives? As I wrote in an earlier post about the sentencing of Laurence Lovette, giving life sentences to young people is a poor investment in the future of our children, our country, and our public safety. The Pendulum Foundation’s battle against juvenile life without parole is vital.
At the Prisoner’s Family Conference Seth Ford led a workshop entitled “Community Organizing.” I’ve always prided myself on knowing a thing or two about community organizing. I’ve marched, demonstrated, leafleted, petitioned, been to sit-ins, and done my share of street theatre. I can sing “We Shall Overcome” with the best of them, but I had no idea how to do the kind of community organizing that Ford was teaching at this conference. He showed an enraptured (and Luddite) audience how to use Twitter to reach an audience as broad as a local news outlet, which is precisely what he’s done for the Pendulum Foundation. His Twitter handle is @PolitiComm, and thanks to him I’m now @razorwirewoman. I have a deep mistrust of the sound byte levelof information that can be conveyed in 140 characters, but I have learned that tweets can lead folks to sources of information that provide more context, like blogs and other websites.
I’m still a deep believer in the power of live interaction, in sitting in and demonstrating for justice, but I’m learning the power of electronic media to connect us to those whom we cannot reach directly. Thanks, Seth. The next time you need a friend to march beside you I’ll repay the favor.