Category: Publications, Media and Advocacy (page 3 of 4)

The Price of Prisons

The Vera Institute of Justice has released a report entitled “The Price of Prisons,” outlining a new methodology to calculate the real cost of prisons for taxpayers. The Center on Sentencing and Corrections and Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit studied 40 states, finding significant costs not included in the corrections budgets but directly affecting taxpayers nonetheless. For more, see their report and state fact sheets here.

Quincy Prison Book Program is Amazing– Visit, Help Out!

When I went to drop off books at the Prison Book Program in Quincy last week, I walked into a whirlwind of activity generated by a big, diverse and inspiring community of people committed to getting reading materials into prisoners’ hands. Some of the forty-some volunteers that evening, who were young, old, and everything in between, were catching up with each other at round tables where they were packaging books to send out to prisons; others were absorbed in processing and filing letters and requests from prisoners all around the country; more were stocking and organizing the shelves of their small bookstore-like supply room, sorting donations, or dashing around pulling books for packages.

PBP has been increasing prisoner access to resources for education and personal development by sending out books to incarcerated individuals since 1972. They’ve moved locations a number of time over the years but since 2004 have been housed in the basement of the United First Parish Church in Quincy, Mass. I hate to give away surprises but as an inducement for you to go check it out, this Unitarian Universalist church is worth a visit itself. It was opened in 1639 as “Ye Church of Braintry” and holds the remains of two former presidents, John Adams and John Quincy, and their spouses, Abigail and Louisa Catherine. A part of your tour of PBP can include a detour round the corner to the crypt that holds the four tombs:

PBP receives around 200 letters from prisoners per week, ships to over 800 facilities, serves around 7000 individuals a year. In order to do this work, they rely entirely on volunteer labor and donations, which almost all go to postage costs. Every hour and every dollar makes a big difference. Please consider sharing some of yours! I can’t think of many ways they could be better placed.

Quincy isn’t far from Boston, and the Program has regular volunteer hours every Tuesday and Thursday evenings and some special Saturday hours over the next few months too. You can get more info about all of this from their website. Literature about the program and one of their partners, Better World Books, is also available in the PLAP office, so please look for it.

RA for Charles Hamilton Institute

The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute at Harvard is looking for research help on projects related to commutation and pending three-strikes legislation in Massachusetts. If you’re interested, see more here.

Send some holiday cheer to survivors of sexual abuse in prisons

This year, while collecting gifts for your loved ones, think about taking a minute to send some words of encouragement, comfort and solidarity to someone who will spend the holidays far from family and friends in prison. More information and a link to send a message directly are available here.

Welcome to America

From the NAACP.

Study demonstrates the counterproductive effects of incarcerating youth

This study  confirms that incarcerating youth is toxic for both those youth and for society, by demonstrating that youth prisons do not reduce future offenses, waste taxpayer dollars, and expose youth to dangerous and abusive conditions.

This commentary includes more useful observations for those who need convincing, like the fact that 336 of every 100,000 of the world’s incarcerated youth is locked away in a U.S. prison facility– nearly five times the rate of South Africa, the next country on list– and that juvenile crime fell when Texas authorities began to decrease the jailed youth population.

California prison hunger strike resumes

Pelican Bay State prisoners who led the month-long hunger strike of over 6,000 prisoners this summer are back on strike.

The prisoners, as this summer, are protesting inhumane prison conditions, including a policy that allows prisoners to be held in solitary confinement for more than ten years. They resume their strike now to protest the absence of good-faith negotiations.

Read more here.

The Justice Show

This audio story produced for the Third Coast International Audio Festival blew my mind. It’s advertised as a tale of “justice, injustice, redemption and pralines” and focuses on the real, full lives of those behind bars. Incredibly well-edited and enlightening.

After Attica, again

Attica’s 40th has past (see Nina’s Sept. 17th post to listen to soul-chilling recordings of Nixon and Rockefeller congratulating each other on the success of the slaughter), but we can learn from revisiting the story any day.

For that reason, take a moment to read about what happened at Attica again in this detailed, commemorative article in Prison Legal News, which also traces Attica’s immediate impact and subsequent legacy on prison reform and politics– throughout the hardening of prison policies during the next decades, up to the Pelican Bay Hunger strike this year.

Also worth reading is Attica historian Heather Ann Thompson’s commentary from September 8th.

Reading Thompson’s piece, I am struck by her description of how, “Over five days, Americans sat glued to their televisions as this uprising unfolded. They watched in surprise as inmates elected representatives from each cellblock to negotiate on their behalf. They watched in disbelief as these same inmates protected the guards and civilian employees they had taken hostage.”

Can you imagine mainstream media covering a prison uprising like this today?

Attica was a spectacle, but for people to watch what was going on, the media had to report it. We’ve largely taken that service for granted as we have remembered Attica over the years, and we might now– but for the fact that we really can no longer take it for granted.

The link Nina gave below for the anniversary of Attica was headlined with an image of carnage. An image like this should remind us that we don’t and won’t see equivalent images of the violence wrought by the contemporary U.S. State, not from prisons, city streets, nor from the wars in which we are engaged in overseas. Something has changed since that time, which is captured well in signs carried by protesters at Wall Street this week– “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

I won’t go much further in spinning thoughts out loud– about the selectivity problems of our new mediasphere, or how more news is more immediately, widely, everywhere available yes, but only if you go looking for it or are already plugged into the right networks, and about the profound political consequences of the capture and deterioration of mainstream media. But this line of thought also affirmed my sense of the importance of using other media channels as much, and growing them as vigorously as possible.

The Interrupters

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The Interrupters is a stunning documentary that follows a year in Chicago as the city struggles with crippling youth violence, and the work of the CeaseFire “violence interrupters.” It’s showing now at the Kendall Square theater, and is truly not to be missed.

More at the film’s website here.

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