OUR ENVIRONMENT NEEDS MORE LOCAL REPORTING

The Concord Monitor is launching its Environmental Reporting Lab, a long-term effort to better inform the community about the New Hampshire environment. To launch phase 1 of this effort, we need your help. The money raised will go toward hiring a full-time environmental reporter.

Please consider donating to this effort.

 

National, community organizers rally for clemency for women and girls

  • ">

    Rallygoers stand on the steps of the Capitol building in Concord, chanting "Free her." Jenny Whidden—Granite State News Collaborative

  • Danielle Metz (right) and Sharon Smith, organizers at the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, address the crowd Thursday. Jenny Whidden / Granite State News Collaborative

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 8/16/2021 5:45:15 PM

Gathered together at Hope for Recovery in Manchester recently, a dozen activists began assembling a quilt. On each patch, they plan to carefully stitch the name of a woman incarcerated in New Hampshire seeking clemency.

“I know how it feels when you’re in there and somebody says your name,” Danielle Metz, an organizer with the National Council for Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Women & Girls, said. “That’s what’s going to give them hope.”

At 26-years-old, Metz was given multiple federal life sentences for non-violent drug offenses. She had two children, ages three and seven. After 23 years in prison, Metz was granted clemency by former President Barack Obama in 2016.

The day after the quilting event, chants of “Free her!” and “603-217-2121” – the number for the Office of the Governor – rang across the State House square. Community and national activists gathered to call on Gov. Chris Sununu to take action and employ what they call an underutilized tool.

Clemency is the ability the president of the United States and state governors have to grant a person convicted of a criminal offense relief from a punitive measure – essentially either one’s sentence is reduced or they are completely pardoned.

“We’re putting pressure on the governor,” organizer Sharon Smith said into the microphone outside the Capitol building. “Christopher, listen. Clemency is in your hands man. You have to understand that this is important to us, important to our families, our children, our communities. Let our women go.”

The rally was part of the New England ClemencyWorks tour, an awareness campaign organized by the National Council for Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Women & Girls. The council partnered with a handful of community groups, including the American Friends Service Committee of New Hampshire and New Hampshire Women’s Foundation.

Smith, who is a national organizer with the council, and several other speakers shared with the crowd their experiences being formerly incarcerated.

“I felt like I was going to die in there,” she said. “They don’t care nothing about us. They just throw us in cages and leave us there, our children left suffering.”

Organizers said clemency is an option that many incarcerated women who are elderly, sick, disabled, long-time incarcerated and “survived and punished” – incarcerated due to self-defense – are unaware of. The campaign is two pronged: bring awareness of clemency to potential recipients and ask state leaders to grant it.

“We’re here because we believe in second chances,” Joseph Lascaze, smart justice organizer at ACLU of NH, said. “Pardons are granted from the governor and the Executive Council, both of which positions are elected.”

Pardons have been rare in the state, with New Hampshire governors granting clemency to 11 people since 1986, according to a 2011 report from the Associated Press.

Coincidentally, Gov. Sununu’s father John Sununu was one of the last governors to grant a significant amount of pardons: 17 people during his six years in office from 1983 to 1989.

“Our governor today has a chance to live up to that, to make a difference for the women who are incarcerated right now in the state prison,” Lascaze said.

Metz asked rallygoers to support the movement by reaching out and connecting with people who are in prison, remarking how it feels “like you’re dead on the inside when you have no support on the outside.”

“This isn’t about my story anymore. This is about the women who are incarcerated right now,” she said. “We’re going to each state. We’re not stopping.”

As the national campaign moves on, community organizations that helped host this week’s events plan to continue clemency awareness in New Hampshire with additional events.

Jenny Whidden is a Report For America Corps Member. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative as part of our race and equity project. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

Jenny Whidden is a Report for America corps member reporting on the New Hampshire State House and racial justice legislation for The Granite State News Collaborative, a statewide multimedia collective of nearly 20 media outlets and community partners working together. Prior to starting at the GSNC in June 2021, Whidden, of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, covered the Illinois State House and the pandemic for the Chicago Tribune. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Marquette University, where she was managing editor of the Marquette Tribune, the award-winning student paper. Whidden has reported for New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, a nonprofit site.



Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy