prison

A former aide to Robert F. Kennedy and senior official in the Clinton administration, Peter Edelman has devoted his life to understanding the causes of poverty.

In one of the richest countries on Earth it has effectively become a crime to be poor. For example, in Ferguson, Missouri, the U.S. Department of Justice didn’t just expose racially biased policing; it also exposed exorbitant fines and fees for minor crimes that mainly hit the city’s poor, African American population, resulting in jail by the thousands. As Peter Edelman explains in "Not a Crime to Be Poor," in fact Ferguson is everywhere: the debtors’ prisons of the twenty-first century.

Peter Edelman is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy and the faculty director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University Law Center.

"Sugar Land" by Tammy Lynne Stoner is an award-winning southern novel about love, Lead Belly, and liberation.

It's 1923 in Midland, Texas, and Miss Dara falls in love with her best friend - who also happens to be a girl. Terrified, Miss Dara takes a job at the Imperial State Prison Farm for men. Once there, she befriends inmate and soon-to-be legendary blues singer Lead Belly, who sings his way out but only after he makes her promise to free herself from her own prison.

Tammy Lynn Stoner’s work has been selected for more than a dozen anthologies and literary journals.

André Braugher In "A Human Being, Of A Sort" At Williamstown Theatre Festival
Williamstown Theatre Festival - Joseph O'Malley

André Braugher is a Golden Glove and Emmy Award winner best known for his roles in "Homicide: Life on the Street" and the current NBC sitcom, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." He is currently starring in the Williamstown Theatre Festival's World-Premiere production of Jonathan Payne's "A Human Being, of a Sort."

Braugher plays a Southern convict named Smokey who is guarding the Bronx Zoo's most sensational exhibit: Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy. 

Based on a true story, the play takes place in 1906, the public's fascination intensifies and protestors call for Ota's release, Smokey must grapple with the fact that his own freedom depends on another black man's captivity. 

"A Human Being, of a Sort" is directed at Williamstown by Whitney White and runs through July 7.

In June 2015, two vicious convicted murderers broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, in New York’s North Country, launching the most extensive manhunt in state history. Aided by prison employee Joyce Mitchell, double murderer Richard Matt and cop-killer David Sweat slipped out of their cells, followed a network of tunnels and pipes under the thirty-foot prison wall, and climbed out of a manhole to freedom.

For three weeks, the residents of local communities were virtual prisoners in their own homes as law enforcement from across the nation swept the rural wilderness near the Canadian border. The manhunt made front-page headlines—as did the prison sex scandal involving both inmates and Joyce Mitchell—and culminated in a dramatic and bloody standoff.

Charles Gardner, a lifelong resident of the community and a former correction officer who began his training at Clinton and ultimately oversaw the training of staff in twelve prisons, including Clinton, tells the whole story from an insider's point of view in his book: "Dannemora: Two Escaped Killers, Three Weeks of Terror, and the Largest Manhunt Ever in New York State."

Behind bars, Chris Wilson embarked on a remarkable journey of self-improvement; reading, working out, learning languages, even starting a business. At the age of twenty, he wrote a list of things he intended to accomplish or acquire; he called it his Master Plan.

He revised it regularly and followed it religiously. And, by his thirties, Chris Wilson did the impossible: he convinced a judge to reduce his sentence. He came out, six years later, determined to teach others the selflessness, work ethic, and professional skills that led to his second chance.

Wilson's memoir is "The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose."

Union College is sponsoring a talk by one of the country's foremost experts in sentencing policy, race and the criminal justice system.

Marc Mauer is the Executive Director of The Sentencing Project and the co-author of "The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences."

He has authored numerous other books, including "Race to Incarcerate," which was later published as a graphic novel, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio and other media outlets.

His talk at Union College begins at 12:50 PM and is titled: "How to Lock Up Fewer People."

David Baldacci is one of the greatest thriller writers of the last two decades. He creates heroes with severe flaws, powerful people of influence who are easily corruptible, or in the case of his most recent novel, "Long Road to Mercy," an FBI agent with special skills assigned to the remote wilds of the southwestern United States.

Great Meadow Correctional Facility
Google

A lockdown was in effect today at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York, in Washington County. Governor Andrew Cuomo visited with officials at the prison and is seeking a plan to reduce similar incidents statewide.

At the age of nine, Issac J. Bailey saw his hero, his eldest brother, taken away in handcuffs, not to return from prison for thirty-two years. Bailey tells the story of their relationship and of his experience living in a family suffering from guilt and shame in his book, "My Brother Moochie: Regaining Dignity in the Midst of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South." Drawing on sociological research as well as his expertise as a journalist, he seeks to answer the crucial question of why Moochie and many other young black men, including half of the ten boys in his own family, end up in the criminal justice system.

What role do poverty, race, and faith play? What effect does living in the South, in the Bible Belt, have? And why is their experience understood as an acceptable trope for black men, while white people who commit crimes are never seen in this generalized way?

Issac J. Bailey was born in St. Stephen, South Carolina, and holds a degree in psychology from Davidson College in North Carolina. Having trained at the prestigious Poynter Institute for journalists in St. Petersburg, Florida, he has been a professional journalist for twenty years. He has taught applied ethics at Coastal Carolina University and, as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, has taught journalism at Harvard Summer School.

Alisa Roth is a former staff reporter for Marketplace and frequent contributor to various NPR programs. A Soros Justice Fellow, her work has also appeared in the New York Review of Books and New York Times.

America has made mental illness a crime. Jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago each house more people with mental illnesses than any hospital. As many as half of all people in America's jails and prisons have a psychiatric disorder. One in four fatal police shootings involves a person with such disorders.

In "Insane: America's Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness," Roth goes deep inside the criminal justice system to show how and why it has become a warehouse where inmates are denied proper treatment, abused, and punished in ways that make them sicker.

Susan Burton is the founder and executive director of A New Way of Life, a nonprofit that provides sober housing and other support to formerly incarcerated women. She is nationally known as an advocate for restoring basic civil and human rights to those who have served time. Burton was a winner of AARP’s prestigious Purpose Prize and has been a Starbucks® “Upstander,” a CNN Top 10 Hero, a Soros Justice Fellow, and a Women’s Policy Institute Fellow at the California Wellness Foundation.

She is the co-author, with Cari Lynn, of Becoming Ms. Burton

Thousands of pregnant women pass through our nation’s jails every year. What happens to them as they carry their pregnancies in a space of punishment? In this time when the public safety net is frayed, incarceration has become a central and racialized strategy for managing the poor.

In her book Jailcare, Carolyn Sufrin explores how jail has, paradoxically, become a place where women can find care. Carolyn Sufrin is a medical anthropologist and an obstetrician-gynecologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In the 1970s, the United States had an incarceration rate comparable to those of other liberal democracies-and that rate had held steady for over 100 years. Yet today, though the US is home to only about 5 percent of the world's population, we hold nearly one quarter of its prisoners. Mass incarceration is now widely considered one of the biggest social and political crises of our age. How did we get to this point?

Locked In is a revelatory investigation into the root causes of mass incarceration by one of the most exciting scholars in the country. Having spent fifteen years studying the data on imprisonment, John Pfaff takes apart the reigning consensus created by Michelle Alexander and other reformers, revealing that the most widely accepted explanations-the failed War on Drugs, draconian sentencing laws, an increasing reliance on private prisons-tell us much less than we think.

  On sabbatical from teaching literature to undergraduates, and wanting to educate a different kind of student, Mikita Brottman starts a book club with a group of convicts from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland.

She assigns them ten dark, challenging classics—including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe’s story “The Black Cat,” and Nabokov’s Lolita—books that don’t flinch from evoking the isolation of the human struggle, the pain of conflict, and the cost of transgression. Although Brottman is already familiar with these works, the convicts open them up in completely new ways. Their discussions may “only” be about literature, but for the prisoners, everything is at stake.

Gradually, the inmates open up about their lives and families, their disastrous choices, their guilt and loss. Brottman's book is The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison.

Government aid doesn’t always go where it’s supposed to. Foster care agencies team up with companies to take disability and survivor benefits from abused and neglected children. States and their revenue consultants use illusory schemes to siphon Medicaid funds intended for children and the poor into general state coffers. Child support payments for foster children and families on public assistance are converted into government revenue. And the poverty industry keeps expanding, leaving us with nursing homes and juvenile detention centers that sedate residents to reduce costs and maximize profit, local governments buying nursing homes to take the facilities’ federal aid while the elderly languish with poor care, and counties hiring companies to mine the poor for additional funds in modern day debtor’s prisons.

In The Poverty Industry, Daniel L. Hatcher shows us how state governments and their private industry partners are profiting from the social safety net, turning America’s most vulnerable populations into sources of revenue.

   David Simon is best known as creator of HBO's The Wire which chronicled the story of Baltimore's police department and its gangs. A former reporter for The Baltimore Sun, Simon is also known for his NBC police procedural Homicide: Life on the Streets. The show was based on his book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.

This week he spoke at Williams College, presenting a lecture entitled "The Audacity of Despair."

  Nationwide statistics have proven in-prison educational and rehabilitation programs to be extremely successful, yet many states across the country have cut large portions of the funding for these programs.

The film, The Game Changer, the winner of multiple festival awards, follows New Paltz’s renowned choreographer Susan Slotnick in her work rehabilitating prisoners through dance at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility.

The film will screen at Unison Arts Center in New Paltz, NY this Saturday, May 14th at 8pm in a special event that will also feature dance performances and discussion.

Susan Slotnick joins us.

Photo of Piper Kerman
Brian Bowen Smith

  Piper Kerman was a 24 year old Smith College graduate in 1993 when she flew to Belgium with a suitcase of money intended for a West African drug lord. This misguided adventure started when she began a romantic relationship with the woman involved in a drug smuggling ring and got Kerman got involved too, though Kerman left that life after several months.

Five years later she was named as part of the drug ring and in February 2008 she reported to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. Kerman’s memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in Women’s Prison inspired the award winning Netflix television series of the same name. She will deliver the Alex Krieger Memorial Lecture at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie on Tuesday February 9th.

  Margaret Atwood is the author of more than 50  books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays including Cat's Eye, Alias Grace, and A Handmaid’s Tale. Her latest, The Heart Goes Last, is a funny disturbing tale about a new future in which the lawful are locked up and the lawless roam free.

Prison Bars
Gemma Longman Flickr

A New York comedian who is also an activist on prison rights issues is drawing attention to the state’s practice of investing a small amount of its pension fund in the private prison industry.

hbo.com

  America is the most punitive nation in the world, handing out historically harsh sentences that largely dispense with the concept of rehabilitation.

Alan and Susan Raymond - Oscar and Emmy winners for HBO’s I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School - explore the reality of “the other death penalty” in Toe Tag Parole: To Live and Die on Yard A.

Featuring exclusive, unprecedented access, Toe Tag Parole: To Live And Die On Yard A was shot entirely at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, a maximum-security facility in the Mojave Desert. The documentary debuts on Monday, August 3rd at 9PM on HBO.

  The Emmy-award winning Orange is the New Black, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, depicts her arrest, conviction and incarceration for drug-trafficking. The show’s third season premieres tomorrow.

But the book and Netflix series are from only Kerman’s perspective. Now, Cleary Wolters, the real life Alex Vause and Piper's former drug-smuggling lover, tells her side of the story in a new book, Out of Orange.

  Through the stories of prisoners and their families, including her own family’s experiences, Maya Schenwar shows in her book, Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, how the institution that locks up 2.3 million Americans and decimates poor communities of color is shredding the ties that, if nurtured, could foster real collective safety.

  Psychiatrist Stephen Seager was no stranger to locked psych wards when he accepted a job at California’s Gorman State hospital, known locally as “Gomorrah,” but nothing could have prepared him for what he encountered when he stepped through its gates, a triple sally port behind the twenty-foot walls topped with shining coils of razor wire. 

One in three American children will be arrested by the time they are twenty-three, and many will spend time locked inside horrific detention centers that defy everything we know about how to rehabilitate young offenders.

In a clear-eyed indictment of the juvenile justice system run amok, award-winning journalist Nell Bernstein shows that there is no right way to lock up a child. The very act of isolation denies delinquent children the thing that is most essential to their growth and rehabilitation: positive relationships with caring adults.

The New Press

One in three American young people will be arrested before the age of 23, and many will spend time in institutions that used to be called "reform schools" or "rehabilitation camps"...but can really only be described as prisons.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk to the author of an extensive study of the juvenile justice system and learn just what is happening to children behind bars.

We'll also spend an academic minute looking at the health care people get while in jail.

2/20/14 Panel

Feb 20, 2014

    

  Today's panelists are WAMC’s Alan Chartock, Executive Editor of the Poughkeepsie Journal, Stu Shinske and University at Albany Journalism Professor and Investigative Reporter, Rosemary Armao.

Topics include:
Ukraine Update
Drone report
NYS Solitary
Ex-Guard to Prison
Poor Church

Prison Closure Announcement Rankles Guard Union

Jul 29, 2013
wikipedia commons

Correction officers say they are still in “shock” that late on a July Friday, with very little advance warning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s prison agency announced the closure of four prisons within the next year. And they are asking the legislature to rescind the closures.

WAMC

A program that has reduced recidivism rates was praised today by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.  The governor toured the program operated by the office of Hampden County Sheriff  Michael Ashe. 

Since 2007, the Hampden County Sheriff’s office has operated a one-stop center for newly released inmates. Located in a nondescript one- story brick building in a tough Springfield neighborhood, the center helps former inmates transition back into the community with a range of support services.

Prison Bars
Gemma Longman Flickr

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York officials project the state's prisons will shed 1,000 more inmates over the next four years, partly because of relaxed drug laws.

That follows a 25 percent drop since 1999.

The inmate population is below 55,000 after peaking at more than 72,000 in 1999 under the harsh Rockefeller-era drug laws.

Pages