“What if, a few times a week, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, were streamed on the prison’s internal station, channel 3? … The MOOCs, which are free for the rest of the world, could help American prisoners become more educated and connected.”
Read the full NYTimes article, by John J. Lennon, here.
“Our role is not to punish. The punishment is the prison sentence: they have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us,” says Nils Öberg, director-general of Sweden’s prison and probation service.
The United States prison system is widely regarded as broken. Prisons were supposed to “rehabilitate” offenders who have wronged society by punishing them with a prison sentence. Unfortunately, the United States prison system has failed to rehabilitate thus producing high recidivism rates and overall crime. In Sweden, they are testing a new approach to crime. Oberg, the director-general, believes in addressing the inmate’s needs in order for he or she to correct the behavior that led them to prison in the first place. Sweden’s prison rates are significantly lower after they implemented this approach. They’ve also been fortunate enough to actually close prisons because of the lowered crime rate.
“It was serious—but I knew leukemia is very treatable. I didn’t understand what was happening or why she wasn’t receiving treatment”- Sue Ellen Allen (left) on her friend Gina’s (right) lack of medical care.
In a previous post, attorney Joel Thompson was on HuffPost Live to discuss the inadequate healthcare and medical treatment inmates receive when they become a prisoner of the state. One woman, Sue Ellen Allen, has experienced both sides of medical treatment. Six months before she was to enter prison, Sue Ellen Allen was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer. Cancer, in itself, is scary. Cancer, while a prisoner, is unimaginably terrifying.
Before she entered prison, Sue Ellen Allen was given competent doctors and availably ready medical treatment to manage the pains of cancer and chemotherapy. Then, she entered prison, and her life and illness were suddenly ignored and worthless. Her chemotherapy treatments were delayed, she was not given any medicine to reduce the nausea, and when she got a mastectomy, she was handcuffed and shackled throughout the entire procedure. Despite all this pain and misery, Sue Ellen Allen found light in her friend, Gina. Gina was another cancer patient in prison who was also a victim of delayed chemotherapy treatments. Together, they cared for each other through their pain and formed a bond Sue Ellen Allen would never forget. Sadly, Gina succumbed to her leukemia very quickly, and passed away on June 19, 2002.
Click here to read the full article.
Click here to learn about Gina’s Team, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education of incarcerated citizens.
Mark Olmsted vowed to never forget his fellow inmates that he would leave behind after his release from a nine month prison stint, and he certainly did not. When he got out he continued to keep in contact with his former cellmates, sending them money here and there or just a friendly letter to let them know they haven’t been forgotten by the outside world. As he continued to campaign for prison reform, he received surprising, and seemingly impossible, tweets from an inmate in an Alabama prison. Turns out that some inmates in southern area prisons are networking via contraband cell phones to inform us, the outside world, of their lives and prison conditions. This network has come to be known as the Free Alabama Movement. A part of it’s statement purpose reads, “And this Movement isn’t about getting ‘some outside support,’ or having our family ‘call the politicians or mayor’s office,’ ‘call the news station’ and on and on and on. The reason for this is simple: we can’t form a movement conditioned on ‘outside’ people without first unifying the ‘inside people.'” So, take a moment out of your day to hear the truth about prisons and prison life from the best experts there could possibly be: the inmates themselves.
Free Alabama Movement Official Website– Here you can listen to the prisoners who have been forgotten, silenced and ignored. Listen to them, let their voices be heard, and spread their message further along in the outside world.
AND the Free Alabama Movement is ALL over youtube, recording their lives on the inside and exposing the hard truths to the outside.
Not only are there youtube videos being posted by FAM, but one inmate actually hosts a talk show from inside the prison, allowing for other inmates with contraband cell phones to call in and speak on his online radio station.
Above, a photo from the scene at Keene State College’s Pumpkin Fest this weekend.
We’ve been hearing about the Ferguson protests since the day Michael Brown was shot and killed by white police officer, Darren Wilson. The media has described the protesters as everything from “thugs” to “domestic terrorists” that are out to destroy their town of Ferguson. However, anyone who has been following the story knows that the protests by these “unruly thugs” is nothing more than a prime example of the media’s racism and the ways it criminalizes young African-American men. Compare the “riots” of Ferguson to the chaos of Pumpkin Fest at Keene State College this past weekend and you’ll be able to see the problems that plague the intersection of race and media exposure. Why weren’t the young, privileged white men referred to as “thugs” and “domestic terrorists” as they stood atop flipped cars and threw beer bottles at police? Imagine the images we saw from Keene State this past weekend were of the Ferguson protestors- would the media be using language such as “high spirited” and saying the protests had “gotten out of hand?” Ferguson protestors are using civil disobedience to protest the way they are being gravely mistreated and negatively profiled by police officers because of the color of their skin, resulting in extreme violations of their civil rights. Keene State rioters were blatantly disobeying police officers because, as one student is quoted as saying, “it’s a blast to do things you aren’t supposed to be doing.”
New documetary film “The Throwaways” follows Ira McKinley, a filmmaker and ex-convcit, as he guides viewers through nearly empty city of Albany, New York while shedding light on the prison and police problems that have plagued marginalized populations for years. Ira McKinley describes his life before prison, explaining that his father was shot and killed by cops when he was just 14 and he quickly became “addicted to the life.” To support his new lifestyle, including a crack habit, he began robbing stores which ultimately landed him in prison until 2002. After he was released, he describes how hard it was for him to re-enter society as an ex convict, deeming himself a “marked” citizen. Ira McKinley bravely takes viewers into a world of racial profiling, which he refers to as “The New Jim Crow,” based on the book by Michelle Alexander, mass incarceration, and the slow death of once heavily populated, black communities.
Click here to watch the interview or read the full article.
Click here to learn more about Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
Click here for “The Throwaways” documenary website.
“The way we treat prisoners while they are locked up, after all, directly affects how they fare when they re-enter society”- Clio Chang, author of article.
Rikers Island has started to improve conditions for inmates with the elimination of solitary confinement for youth ages 16 and 17. However, much more needs to be done to rehabilitate, not punish, America’s most vulnerable citizens. Rikers Island has an infamous reputation for being especially brutal to its inmates for minor disturbances and has most recently been brought into the spotlight for it’s lack of rehabilitation for inmates. The United States has become a strictly punitive system that makes it impossible for inmates to escape their prison history and then successfully re-enter society. Even though in theory prisons were meant to rehabilitate via educational programs, job trainings etc., it has developed into a system of punishment that lacks the resources necessary to break the prison to povery pipeline. Click here to read the full article.
“People talk about the euphoria you feel about getting out,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything like that. I was scared to death and I certainly wasn’t happy. You don’t spend three decades in an eight-by-sixteen foot cell and then come out and expect to live a normal life. You become acclimated to prison life and get institutionalized” -Lawrence White, also pictured below, a released prisoner who served 30 years.
The quote above, said by Lawrence White, accurately explains the difficulty of adjusting to freedom after having spent so many years behind bars. Many people who are released from prison do not receive the reentry help and up to date information that is needed for them to survive in a new day and age. After living in a controlled and secluded facility for a majority of their life, many inmates, such as Lawrence White mentioned above, forget how to live independently and without being told what to do. The abrupt push into the free world is only the beginning of inevitable difficulties for all inmates, but it may be even harder for those who are aged 50 and older and have spent a majority of their life in prison. Finding a home, apartment or an assisted living facility that is willing to take ex felons, a job that doesn’t require daily lifting of heavy weights (construction and foodservice jobs are the most commonly available to ex prisoners), medical care and with that the ability to pay for it via healthcare, etc., are just a few of the uphill battles for the aged inmates. For those who lose the battle, many end up homeless or in cramped, illegal living spaces, and begging on the street. Fortunately though, there are programs that are dedicated to helping aging prisoners adjust to society and ensuring they receive the proper care and resources they need. Click here to read the full article.
Advocates say that Congress has all agreed on wanting to scale back on the high mass incarceration rates. Both Republicans and Democrats are coming together for the greater good. Congress is handling the matter one reform at a time, and all new developments are underway. All previous bills and laws that were passed before Obama’s administration are being taken into account and are still being used. A recent bill that is projected to result in the number of inmates being housed in federal prisons to decrease is omnibus spending bill. The FY2014 omnibus spending bill includes a federal prison reform panel that will have discretion on which aspects of the system they would like to focus on. In particular, non-violent offenders make up more than 90 percent of the federal prison population, fairer sentences are being figured out, because it costs more than $30,000 to house an inmate for a crime that could have been taken care of with various treatment programs. There is hope for the future of prison reform, it just takes positive steps and help from everyone.