“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.
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It seems as if criminal justice reform has been a mainstream topic since the 1970’s, but continuously we see prison reforms being halted or ignored by congress. The “tough on crime” approach was of major attention when New York City promised to harshly tackle the issue, but now that talk of reforming has taken place, the actual chance to take action on it seems to be absent from campaigns and ballots. Why? Well, most people pay attention to the problem of crime and then demand change, not the problems affecting criminals. However, as the article points out, America wears a scarlet letter of mass incarceration, which is an embarrassment for our country. And with so many people being affected by prison sentences, more people should be demanding change for the current system. Just because the crimes are happening behind prison walls doesn’t mean we can turn a blind eye. In fact, the author suggests, by reforming the criminal justice system, we will see a positive change in other areas, most notably, the economic inequality gap.
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.
HuffPost Live Segment “Questions Over 15 Deaths in New York Jail”
HuffPost Live had a segment dedicated to the lack of healthcare prisoners receive while incarcerated, and most importantly, why we should care about the healthcare rights of inmates. Joel Thompson, a PLAP attorney, was invited to be a guest contributer to the segment, enlightening viewers about the carelessness and corruption that plauges inmate healthcare. Watch the clip above to hear it from Joel Thompson himself, as well as other guest speakers, Bradley Brockmann, Jake Pearson, Lumumba Bandele.
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.
“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.
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
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.