On Thursday, September 8, WBUR released the second half of its two-part series on the release of juvenile lifers–people who were sentenced to life in prison before the age of 18. The series follows two Massachusetts men, Greg Diatchenko and Joe Donovan, who have recently been released on parole after spending decades in prison. PLAP is one organization in the state representing juvenile lifers like Diatchenko and Donovan before the parole board.
Read or listen at WBUR.
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.
If you’ve been reading the PLAP blog regularly, then you’ll remember the post titled “Mothering Between a Rock and a Hard Place” that told the story of Shanesha Taylor and her struggle as a poor, single mother. Well, today I learned that Shanesha Taylor has been awarded custody of her children again! Shanesha’s children were taken by Child Protective Services following the charges of child abuse for leaving her two youngest children in a car while she went for a job interview. Fortunately, the incredible support Shanesha received from the public was enough to influence the courts. It’s about time poverty stricken single mothers are given a voice, a chance, and a change.
Change starts on the ground level! Stand up for justice!
Click here for the original article
As the drug epidemic continues to grow and drug offenders continue to pile up in prison, we are faced with the undeniable truth that sending addicts to jail is not going to solve the drug problem. The “War on Drugs” specifically focused on eliminating the supplier while completely ignoring the addicts and the depths of addiction. What we should have focused on was prevention and treatment for drug addicts, but instead of treating the addict as the sick and vulnerable human being they truly are, we punished them for having a problem. As new research comes to light about the brain and addiction, I hope it will change people’s opinions about addicts and the right way to heal them. In the article, it states that when a person becomes an addict, it physically changes their brain chemistry and make up. Instead of receiving signals that they need food or water, they get a message that they need their drug to satisfy the physical dependence. Without proper treatment and counseling for addicts they will go straight back to the thing that makes them feel better; their drug.
How many times are we going to arrest and release a drug offender until he or she passes away from this harrowing health problem? When people are sick, we provide them with care. It is irrational to believe that locking up a sick person will cure their disease, so why do we believe this is true for drug offenders? The scariest part of releasing a drug offender is knowing that their need for their drug grew stronger every day they sat in that jail, but their tolerance for the drug was decreasing at the same time. For some, the drug becomes stronger than them. And for the unfortunate, the drug wins. It’s time to stop letting the drug win and stop letting it overcrowd our prisons.
Link to the Article
For more information about prisoners and drug treatment, please visit:
The Anonymous People Documentary Website
Justice Policy Institute
Shanesha Taylor is just one of the thousands of single mothers struggling to make a suitable living for her and her children in the United States. It was during this struggling time that she, without child support or child care, had to bring her two children with her to a job interview. Shanesha left them in the car for no longer than 45 minutes, and she is now facing up to seven years in prison. Does this sound fair? At first it would seem as if Shanesha acted irresponsibly, but then again as the article suggests, we have to consider the structural policies and governmental factors that are contributing to single mother poverty and the tough choices they have to make regarding their children. Also, separating the children increases their chances of suffering developmental delays and emotional issues. Instead of wondering how Shanesha could have left her children in the car, we need to ask the question that could prevent more single mothers from having to face this horrible decision: how and what can be done by policy makers to help single mothers in America climb out of poverty in order for them to provide a safe and sufficient life for their children? This isn’t about what type of parent one is, it’s about the tough choices these single mothers are forced to make when they receive no help.
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.
This video features American teens that have been held in solitary confinement telling their stories.
“If I would describe isolation to another person I would tell them it’s bad. We didn’t do anything wrong to be put in isolation. They say it’s to protect us but I think it puts us in more danger… [H]ow could we be charged as men but be separated from men. It makes no sense. If that’s the case, keep our cases at juvenile if they want to protect us.” – “Charles O.,” Pennsylvania, April 2012.
Ian Kysel, Aryeh Neier Fellow with Human Rights Watch and the ACLU and author of the report stated, “Locking kids in solitary confinement with little or no contact with other people is cruel, harmful, and unnecessary.”
Read more from the Human Rights Watch article here.
A number of groups are devoted to reforming youth sentencing. But in the realm of criminal justice activism, life sentences have not been a focus (indeed, many opponents of the death penalty have pushed life without parole as the best alternative to executions). “A good deal of [advocacy] focuses on removing low-level, nonviolent offenders from jails and prisons because they comprise such a large proportion of the incarcerated population,” says Ashley Nellis, an analyst with the Sentencing Project. Whereas the obvious excesses of the drug war have met resistance, when it comes to violent crimes, even young defendants have comparatively few advocates in their corner.
From The Nation’s recent article on juvenile life without parole. Read here.