DMC McKenzie Civic Fellow, Lauren Lockhart, recently attended the first two sessions of “NextGen Bama Community,” a four-part series presented by the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice. Alabama is one of the poorest states in America, while having one of the highest incarceration rates. Alabama Appleseed confronts these challenges with research, policy change campaigns, coalition building, and direct action, focusing on the intersection of economic and racial justice and mass incarceration. Facilitated by Communications and Development Manager, Megan Cheek, these meetings aim to gather young and young-at-heart people, who are dedicated to a better Alabama, and provide them with the information, resources, and space to work towards addressing these issues.

The first session, led by Carla Crowder, Executive Director, and Dana Sweeney, Statewide Organizer, focused on criminal justice reform in Alabama and how Appleseed’s approach and organizing efforts function within this system. In addition to providing an overview of the current system in Alabama, possible policies were presented that would address social and economic issues within the justice system, such as reexamining the convictions of older incarcerated individuals, who are the most expensive to incarcerate but the least likely to reoffend.

During the second session, participants received a more in-depth overview from Elaine Burdeshaw, Policy Associate, who discussed how the Alabama legislature is set up, as well as how bills are created, proposed, and passed in the state. Afterwards, Frederick Spight, Policy Director, described how to get in contact with local lawmakers, and what that looks like from the perspective of a policy advocate. Each session ended with small and large group discussions about the content, plus other interesting stories and perspectives from participants in the group. 

Throughout the sessions, participants have discussed potential capstone projects. These fun and casual ideas of how to engage others to create a community of advocacy will continue to be developed during the April meetings. The group was also informed of many different resources to stay-up-to-date and engaged in the Alabama legislative process, which are listed below:

  • Find your Alabama lawmakers
  • ALISON site – Site of the Alabama Legislature where we can look up bills to track their progress and watch live streams of committee meetings, public hearings, and House and Senate meetings.
  • The Alabama Channel – Developed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, this website is a database of live and past legislative meetings that is searchable by keywords, topics, persons, etc., while providing an easy way to share clips and more.
  • Appleseed’s Action Alerts – A great way to stay informed on Appleseed’s issues and jump into action when needed!

Lauren and the Mathews Center are excited for the second-half of the series and continuing to share the resources to support an informed and engaged Alabama. We look forward to our ongoing work and partnership with the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice.