“These are not tears of sadness; these are tears of peace.” “I came in here broken; now I am whole.”
These are things shared with us by some of the incarcerated women at Logan Correctional Center, in our first session of Telling Our Stories, Transforming Our Lives, the 12-session covenant group led by UUPMI. We finally, after a negotiation with the prison administration that was strung out over a couple of years, held our first session on January 6, 2018. A historic occasion! There were three of us there leading the session – Cindy Cotton, a volunteer from the UU congregation in Bloomington/Normal; the Rev. Karen Mooney, our UUPMI minister and executive director; and the Rev. Marcia Curtis (that would be me!), the president of the UUPMI board. For the next six months, at least two of us will be going into Logan every other week to lead sessions that we hope will continue to be transformational, not just for the incarcerated women, but for us as well, as we learn to see the world through their eyes.
We found, in our first session at Logan, that leading a covenant group session there is very different from leading a covenant group session at Cook County Jail. At Cook County Jail, there is a lot more chaos. There’s a lot of turnover among the incarcerated women, with the average stay being only about a month, and there’s a lot of turnover in the staff, with a whole new set of Correctional Officers (COs) every 90 days. When you’re in jail, you’re in a transitional space, physically and emotionally – waiting to be tried (because you couldn’t cover bail), or serving a short sentence (something less than a year). We’ve found that some women are there for longer periods of time, as much as a few years, while awaiting trial. But for the most part, the women who come to the covenant group sessions don’t know what’s going to happen to them next – when (or if) they’ll get out, whether they’ll be able to stay clean and sober (so far, the women we’ve worked with there are all in an addiction treatment program), whether their partner will wait for them, whether their children will be hurt by the separation. We’re delighted that we already have enough people signed up for our Circle Facilitator Volunteer Training, on either 2/10/18 or 2/24/18, that we think we’ll be able to go to offering the covenant group every week instead of every two weeks, giving women something to hang onto and to look forward to, something consistent where they know they will be treated with dignity and respect, and where their humanity will be recognized and honored. It matters!
A Different Justice: Why Anders Breivik Only Got 21 Years for Killing 77 People
The Atlantic - By MAX FISHER AUG 24, 2012
Norway's gentler criminal system uses something called "restorative justice," which appears to be potentially better at reducing crime than our own, but at a real cost.
Norway's criminal justice system is, obviously, quite distinct from that of, say, the U.S.; 21 years is the maximum sentence for anything less severe than war crimes or genocide. Still, it's more than that: the entire philosophy underpinning their system is radically different. I don't have an answer for which is better. I doubt anyone does. But Americans' shocked response to the Breivik sentence hints at not just how different the two systems are, but how deeply we may have come to internalize our understanding of justice, which, whatever its merits, doesn't seem to be as universally applied as we might think.
By JONAH ENGEL BROMWICH JAN. 18, 2018
In the eight years since its publication, “The New Jim Crow,” a book by Michelle Alexander that explores the phenomenon of mass incarceration, has sold well over a million copies, been compared to the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, been cited in the legal decisions to end stop-and-frisk and sentencing laws, and been quoted passionately on stage at the Academy Awards.
But for the more than 130,000 adults in prison in North Carolina and Florida, the book is strictly off-limits.
And prisoners around the country often have trouble obtaining copies of the book, which points to the vast racial disparities in sentencing policy, and the way that mass incarceration has ravaged the African-American population.
This month, after protests, New Jersey revoked a ban some of its prisons had placed on the book, while New York quickly scrapped a program that would have limited its inmates’ ability to receive books at all.
RIKERS: An American Jail
Bill Moyers PBS 8-21-2017
The United States is facing a crisis of mass incarceration with over 2.2 million people packed into its jails and prisons. To understand the human toll of this crisis, Rikers Island is a good place to start. Of the more than 7,500 people detained at Rikers Island on any given day, almost 80 percent have not yet been found guilty or innocent of the charges they face.
All are at risk in the pervasive culture of violence that forces people to come to terms with what they must do for their own survival. RIKERS: An American Jail, a riveting new documentary from Bill Moyers, brings you face to face with men and women who have endured incarceration at Rikers Island. Their stories, told directly to camera, vividly describe the cruel arc of the Rikers experience — from the shock of entry to the extortion and control exercised by other inmates, the oppressive interaction with corrections officers, the beatings and stabbings, the torture of solitary confinement and the many challenges of returning to the outside world.
Since the initial release of RIKERS last fall, there has been widespread discussion and debate about the future of the prison complex. In April 2017, The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform released its recommendations and called for closing Rikers and replacing it with smaller jails in the city’s five boroughs.
Just prior to the report’s release New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reversed his prior position that closing Rikers Island Jail was not feasible and announced his support for closing Rikers, but said it will take a decade to do so.
WATCH THE MOVIE
(Scroll down to see the full film)
Please be sure to visit the official RIKERS website for more information about the film, mass incarceration in America and efforts at criminal justice reform. Also, please like @RIKERSfilm on Facebook and follow @RIKERSfilm on Twitter to get the latest information and contribute to the already robust online community talking about the film.
RIKERS, which recently won a 2017 Robert F. Kennedy journalism award, is a production of Schumann Media Center, Inc. and Brick City TV LLC, in association with Public Square Media, Inc. Produced by Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin, with producer Rolake Bamgbose. Edited by Jason Pollard. Director of Photography Mark Benjamin. Executive Producer, Judy Doctoroff O’Neill. Executive Editor, Bill Moyers.
Founding director of Twin Cities nonprofit explains why 'We're All Criminals'
January 7, 2018 Star Tribune
Emily Baxter is on the road, driving home a message to prosecutors and law enforcement officials, politicians and business leaders, students and book clubs. None of us is free of a criminal past, she argues. But most of us have been granted, by luck of birth or privilege, “the luxury to forget” our transgressions.
Read the full story
At 18 Kingley Rowe Went to Prison for 10 years - Now He's 47 and Still Wonders When He'll Be Free: Salon 1-1-2018
Lowering the prison population isn't enough, not if formerly incarcerated individuals are denied jobs after release.
...It comes down to whether, as a nation, for people branded as violent offenders, if “second chances” are not just written into law, but possible. ...
Read more about Mr. Rowe
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive