Updated: Apr 9, 2020
POSTED BY MAYA SMITH ON FRI, AUG 23, 2019 AT 2:06 PM
click to enlarge A Tennessee organization is looking for community-sourced solutions to the criminalization of poor Tennesseans. Free Hearts, an organization led by formerly incarcerated women, seeks to provide support, advocacy, and education to families impacted by incarceration. The group’s ultimate goal is to keep families together or reuniting them. The organization is asking the public to complete a survey to help generate community-based solutions to decriminalize poverty in Tennessee. “#ItsNotACrime to be poor, but the state of TN has made it a crime to be poor and working-poor,” the survey introduction reads. Dawn Harrington, executive director of Free Hearts, said that the survey will help identify new Tennesseans who want to join their efforts to end the criminalization of the poor and “transform our state into one that is just and equitable for all.” The survey will be open through October 4th. Those who are interested can also send a 1-minute video on the criminalization of poverty to the group. “#ItsNotACrime to be poor, but the state of TN has made it a crime to be poor and working-poor."click to tweet Free Hearts, along with the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, helped push for a recently-passed state law meant to help parents facing incarceration stay with their families. The Primary Caretaker Bill, which became law in July, requires that courts factor in someone’s caretaker status when handing down sentences. The idea is for the caretakers to be offered a community-based alternative to incarceration. click to enlarge
Free Hearts with Gov. Bill Lee as he signs the Primary Caretaker Bill
The group has since been talking with Gov. Bill Lee’s office about solutions to the criminalization of poverty. The organization was asked to present solutions to address the issue and other policies related to poverty and criminal justice. The survey is a step in that direction. Harrington said the group wants to build on the work it’s done for caregivers, by looking for alternatives to parts of the system it says criminalizes poverty, such as bail and pre-trial detention. “It is our belief that participation is the first win and in order to propose solutions to a problem that affects so many of us, we must get input and buy in from Tennessee across the state on their ideas and organizations that already exists that they believe are effective,” Harrington said. To incentivize participation, Free Hearts will enter all survey participants or those who create videos in weekly drawings through October 4th for a chance to win a $500 gift card.