I co-founded Rights Restoration Project (named Caniexpunge at the time) in 2017 and have sat as Chair of the Board since our incorporation. We've accomplished a lot in the past two years and it is about time that we write our first "annual" report covering our accomplishments, as promised in our fundraiser in late 2018.
We began as Caniexpunge after Rachelle Yeung, an employee of the ACLU at the time, recommended I build a website dedicated to helping individuals answer the question, "am I eligible for criminal records mitigation?" Although similar websites existed at the time, they generally focused on single states, contained confusing legal language, or were run by companies providing legal assistance who keep the processes by which they answer those questions private in an attempt to maximize profits. I developed a custom web app to store and display information about records mitigation eligibility online in multiple formats and contacted attorneys to ask for assistance in developing these resources. Over the past two years, we've built resources for three states and direct people to other organization's resources in five other states. We've also helped to start National Expungement Week, a coalition of organizations dedicated to helping individuals expunge or otherwise mitigate the impacts of criminal convictions.
As we expanded operations in 2018, we recognized the value of a wide set of efforts intended to mitigate the consequences of mass criminalization in the United States and began looking in more detail at the voting rights of incarcerated people. I personally volunteered with the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition to register voters in Denver jails, which highlighted the issue further. Currently, more than 4.5 million people in the United States are not eligible to vote due to a criminal status or criminal record, which is down from more than 6 million when we started this work due to Florida's 2018 Amendment 4. More than 70 million residents of the United States have some form of criminal record and over 20 million have a felony record. Many of these people falsely believe that they can't legally vote. Shortly after we began doing in-depth research on this issue, a nonprofit called Campaign Legal Center launched a website, restoreyourvote.org, to help inform people of whether or not they could vote. We reached out about possible avenues of collaboration, and they informed us that they only had operations in several states, and would be glad to have us do outreach across the country based on information from that resource. We parsed through the dataset they had compiled and we're currently building one of the most in-depth resources on the voting rights of individuals with criminal records while also sending print resources across the country to partner organizations who work with criminalized populations.
We currently maintain resources for more than 40 states on either criminal records mitigation or voting eligibility of people with criminal records. We're excited to get this information to the public, especially in light of the upcoming elections in 2020. Thank you to everyone who has helped us get here, we couldn't have produced all these resources without generous donors, pro bono assistance, and a lot of guidance from our community. I'd like to encourage those of you reading this report to become a supporter of our organization if you aren't already. There is a lot still to be accomplished and we can't do it without your support.
Since our inception, our major campaigns over the past two years have helped people across the country better understand the voting eligibility of people with criminal records and have helped people access expungement and other records mitigation opportunities.
With Caniexpunge we provide information about: (a) individual eligibility for expungement or other mitigation of criminal records, (b) additional details about the law and processes relating to and involved in mitigation of criminal records, and (c) the legal rights of persons with criminal records. We currently list resources for eight states on our website, three of which we've developed with the aid of pro bono attorneys in those three states. These resources are all accessible from our website at caniexpunge.org.
We've spent our time developing custom technology to display the information we're collecting, identify and communicate with pro bono attorneys, and identify resources in the states we still don't have resources for.
With Canivote we provide information and resources to those with criminal records to determine their eligibility to vote. Materials provided include information about who legally can vote, how to register to vote, and restoration of voting rights processes for people in one of the few states that require manual rights restoration. We've developed resources for 29 states, and resources for 11 other states are coming soon. These resources are all accessible from our website at rightsrestorationproject.org.
For this project, we've spent our time developing information by contacting state agencies to: (i) confirm our understanding of their voting laws, (ii) identify and communicate with local organizations to distribute materials to, and (iii) design and create informational posters.
Rights Restoration Project is also a co-founder of the annual National Expungement Week, a coalition of organizations from the criminal justice, drug policy reform, recovery, and cannabis equity movements who host events across the country where they provide assistance with criminal records mitigation and voter registration. Local, community-based events like these are a great way to meet people where they're at and a critical part of the work Rights Restoration Project does.
Some of the milestones we've achieved in this time period that we're particularly proud of include:
Since our inception, $10,402.90 has been donated to our organization. Of that money, we have $7,468.33 remaining, most of which will likely be going towards hiring a part-time contractor. Our largest expenses include producing printed materials, sponsoring the SSDP2019 Conference and the DPA 2019 Conference, and applying for 501(c)3 status/filing other mandatory government forms and registrations. Upcoming expenses include hiring a full or part-time contractor, printing and shipping materials, hosting expungement events, sponsorships of further conferences and events, and further governmental registration expenses.
We had a very successful GoFundMe campaign, with over 100 donors, raising over $6,000. Donors putting forward more than $100 include:
of Capitol Hemp
of THC Staffing Group
...and two anonymous donors
Cheney Galluzzi Howard
Provided $2500 in Pro Bono labor while developing a Caniexpunge resource for Colorado
Michael C. Minardi and Andie Sgromo
Provided $6,000 in Pro Bono labor while developing a Caniexpunge resource for Florida
Frank Gerratana and David Lehr
Fish & Richardson
Provided $14,983 in Pro Bono labor while developing a Caniexpunge resource for Massachusetts
Provided $5,625 in Pro Bono labor while developing custom software for Caniexpunge
Provided designs for posters for our Canivote program
Scott Cecil has been active in the drug policy reform movement for a decade after experiencing an arrest for marijuana possession. In that time he has worked with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) as an Outreach Director and Operations Associate. He has also interned with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) on a medical cannabis study for treating PTSD in combat veterans and served briefly as the Operations Director at the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA). Scott has been involved with efforts to legalize cannabis for medical use and adult use in a handful of states. He is currently a non-profit professional and lobbyist in Washington D.C and Maryland where he focuses on cannabis policy and harm reduction & safer consumption spaces for as a means for preventing accidental fatal overdoses. In May of 2019, Scott was elected to a four-year term to the City Council in Mount Rainier, MD where he resides.
Ashleigh Dennis is a third-year law student at the University of California, Irvine School of Law hoping to pursue a legal career in drug policy and criminal justice reform after graduation. She has been involved in criminal justice reform since high school after experiencing a DEA raid and interning with Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) in 2013 during her senior year. In college, Ashleigh founded the Chapman University chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and continued with student activism. During law school, she has interned with Root & Rebound, the ACLU SoCal Jails Project and the Loyola Project for the Innocent.
James Gould taught himself how to program and began a career doing web development shortly after finishing high school. Several years later, he relocated to Colorado after receiving a job offer in Boulder. Shortly after moving to Colorado, he got involved with student activism at the University of Colorado Boulder, specifically around drug policy and prison policy, and began attending the University of Colorado Boulder part-time. After several years of involvement in student activism and community organizing, he started a contract working for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which served as his primary place of employment for a year, during which time he interned with Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Drug Policy Alliance. Later that year, he founded Caniexpunge, which later became Rights Restoration Project, and the next year was elected to the Board of Directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. James Gould currently serves as the Chair of the Board and Executive Director.
Imani R. Oakley, Esq. is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake. Formally, Imani served as a Constituent Advocate for Senator Cory A. Booker where her portfolio consisted of affordable housing, mortgages, taxes, student loans, consumer protection, pensions, and postal service issues. In 2017, Imani was the panel speaker for the 2017 International Drug Policy Reform Conference where she spoke about what students can do to effect drug policy reform on their campus and in their communities. Furthering her endeavors to create positive change in drug policy reform, Imani was invited to participate in the 2016 Minority Cannabis Business Association's Policy Summit where she helped draft model legislation for the legalization of marijuana in a manner that promotes access to the legal cannabis industry for marginalized communities. As an unyielding advocate for the systemically powerless, Imani served as a legal observer during the anti-police brutality protests in Baltimore, where she ensured that the First Amendment rights of protestors were not infringed upon. During this same year, Imani worked for the South African non-profit, Ndifuna Ukwazi, where she collected affidavits on property and sewage conditions from South African communities that suffered under Apartheid. Imani earned her Bachelor's degree from Howard University, a Master of Arts degree from New York University, and a Juris Doctor degree from Howard University School of Law. Through her passion for both policy and her community, Imani hopes to continue to be a servant of the people and a trailblazer for progress.
Dain Roose-Snyder received a BA in Political Science, with a concentration in Community Studies, from Guilford College. During his time in college Dain volunteered with the African Services Coalition assisting a family of Sudanese refugees adjust to life in the US, and also with Triad Health Project supporting individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS. After graduation, Dain relocated to Washington, DC where he has served as an independent election monitor for the DC Housing Authority's Resident Commissioner Elections, worked as a government relations expert, was the Membership Director of the Flex Your Rights Foundation, and is currently a Spent Nuclear Fuels analyst. Dain has spent much of the last 20 years extricating himself from the criminal justice system and joined Rights Restoration Project Board because of his commitment to helping others do the same. Dain's focuses include creating improved outcomes for offenders transitioning back into their communities, voting rights education and restoration efforts, and highlighting ways to successfully use the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments to the constitution to minimize interaction with the US criminal justice system in the first place.
Sarah Saucedo attended Arizona State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Social Welfare in the spring of 2016. While pursuing her undergraduate studies, Sarah became involved in drug policy activism through Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) where she served as chapter secretary and then president for two and a half years. She has worked full time at Arizona State University as a department administrator since August of 2016 and served as the faculty advisor for the existing SSDP chapter since October of 2016. In the spring of 2019, her SSDP chapter moved one step closer to enacting a Good Samaritan Policy for drugs and alcohol on the ASU campus by receiving an endorsement of such a measure by campus student government and Health Services officials. Sarah has also been involved or worked in drug policy-adjacent organizations like Marijuana for Medical Professionals, Yes on 205/Marijuana Policy Project, and Sonoran Prevention Works. She currently serves as the Board Secretary for Rights Restoration Project and is the Media Coordinator for Shot in the Dark, an underground syringe access program in Maricopa County, Arizona. Note: Sarah Saucedo stepped down from the board due to other obligations shortly before this document was published.
Ken Seligson, Esq. holds a Juris Doctorate from Golden Gate University School of Law. While in law school, Ken founded a chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). The GGU chapter of SSDP focused on two major issues, criminal conviction expungement and educating participants of the equity programs developing in San Francisco and Oakland. He also assisted the Chair of the San Francisco Cannabis Legalization Task Force to formulate policy proposals and advise the City of San Francisco on the legalization of adult-use cannabis. After graduation, Ken Co-founded the Oakland based cannabis delivery service, Padre Mu. Ken has served on the Board of Directors since the launch of Padre Mu in March 2019. Ken also serves as the Director of Business Development. Ken is currently an associate at the Law Office of Matthew Kumin, helping clients with a broad range of cannabis-related legal issues. Ken primarily advises legacy cannabis businesses transitioning from the unregulated medical market to the highly regulated and licensed adult-use market. He also provides free and significantly reduced cost legal services to equity businesses as part of the law firm's mission to fight the impacts of the War on Drugs. Ken is the current treasurer of Rights Restoration Project.
In the next year, some of our major work will include:
Our main project is engaging in a national voting rights campaign, intending to reach millions of residents of the United States with information about who can and who cannot legally vote with a criminal record. We've set a goal of being involved in the registrations of 1,000,000 people with criminal records in the United States, though finding the metrics to track this might be more difficult than accomplishing it. We believe achieving this kind of reach is possible--even by a small organization like ours--due to the fact that in many places in this country, nobody is doing voter outreach to people with criminal records. We're working on voter outreach in places that traditionally have been deprioritized in voter outreach work, specifically because they have historically been deprioritized. The voices of people with criminal records matter in our political system, and we're here to ensure their voices are not ignored.
As a new organization, we've spent a lot of time plotting our path forward and how we're going to accomplish some of our bigger goals. To fully accomplish our objectives, we'll need to hire at least one full-time contractor. Towards that end, our development team is currently working on developing fundraising materials and fundraisers, grant-writing, and soliciting large donations. We encourage you to contribute today towards making this work a reality in this vital time. The 2020 elections may be some of the most impactful elections of our lifetime, so please support us in protecting the voting rights of the millions of residents of the United States with criminal records.