The Boy Who Lived: What the gift of Harry Potter meant to this closeted gay prisoner
Medium by Chun Rosenkranz
I’ve been caged for seven months now, and I’m beginning to forget what it feels like to be free, to be a human being. I subsist on a diet of self-pity and molded bologna smacked between sheets of white bread. Months ago, I was the son of a guru living on an ashram eating a vegetarian diet; now in jail, I don’t know what or who I am. If I’m honest, though, I was never truly free.
Addiction does that, locks you inside a body and mind that feel foreign and hostile, a quadriplegia of the conscience. So does growing up in central Florida and hiding that you’re gay. I wonder if I’ll ever be comfortable enough to have a boyfriend, to watch badly acted rom-coms while cuddling on a couch with another man. I don’t think people like me deserve that.
The actuality of jail is designed to sever the spirit from the body, to break the inhabitant. I feel broken, and brokenness is insidious. It slowly seeps into the soul, drip after drip, drowns its vessel in hopelessness. Days drag on, one after the other, in a never-ending series of sameness. This is incarceration.
Exercising Full Powers: Recommendation to Kim Foxx on Addressing Systemic Racism in the Cook County Criminal Justice System
In 2016, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx was elected in a landslide victory that was widely seen as a referendum on Cook County’s criminal justice system. Voters rejected the “tough on crime” stance of Anita Alvarez as well as her cover-up of the police murder of Laquan McDonald. Voters chose, instead, a candidate who ran on a platform of holding police accountable and reversing some of the policies that led to massive increases in the number of African American and Latinx people incarcerated in Cook County.
Changing practices in such a large criminal justice system is a big order. The People’s Lobby and Reclaim Chicago – which organized a significant portion of Kim Foxx’s electoral operation – have been working with Chicago Appleseed to report regularly on Foxx’s progress to reduce incarceration. The following is a report on the first nine months of 2018 data released by the State’s Attorney’s Office. It includes key recommendations for how Foxx can strengthen her decarceration efforts and be a leader in rolling back the failed policies of over-policing and mass incarceration.
In this report we evaluate the performance of Foxx’s State’s Attorney Office on four major criteria we believe are vital to the advancement of criminal justice reform and overturning decades of systematic racism in the Cook County court system. We look at the role of felony charging by the prosecutor’s office and highlight limited successes in a context of rising felony charging by Foxx’s office. How people are charged within the criminal justice system has far reaching consequences not just for sentencing, but also for people’s ability to avoid pre-trial detention. We analyze how wealth and class effect pre-trial detention in light of recent reforms by Chief Judge Evans and attempts by Foxx to find alternatives to incarceration. This type of research and evaluation is only possible with regular, detailed access to data from the court system, so we evaluate Foxx’s efforts at transparency in a court system renowned for antiquated and incomplete record keeping. The most recent data release also provides a clearer window into how gun crimes are charged and adjudicated. The data suggest that a “war on guns” is now adding to the “war on drugs” with equally disastrous results.
Read the full report
Virginia prison officials say they eliminated solitary confinement. Inmates say they just gave it a new name. - Virginia Mercury
Virginia prison officials say they eliminated solitary confinement. Inmates say they just gave it a new name. 'It's all very Hannibal Lecter-ish'
Virginia Mercury by Ned Oliver
January 14, 2019
Virginia prison officials say they’re on the leading edge of corrections reform for “operating without the use of solitary confinement.”
But Derek Cornelison, a 34-year-old inmate at Red Onion, one of the state’s two supermax prisons in Wise County, says he and dozens of other prisoners have remained isolated in tiny cells for 22 to 24 hours a day for years — a level of confinement increasingly viewed as cruel, inhumane and a violation of international human rights standards.
From A Cell To A Home: Newly Released Inmates Matched With Welcoming Hosts: NPR
It's a Friday night and roommates Jason Jones and Tamiko Panzella are hanging out in the Oakland, Calif., apartment they share, laughing about an epic gym workout misfire.
"I get there and we have to take our shoes and socks off. And I'm like, oh no, she got me into yoga. She tricked me," Jones says, laughing.
What made the yoga session more jarring — it was Jones' first full day of freedom after more than a decade behind bars.
Supreme Court Concludes That Snatching a Necklace Is a Violent Felony
New York Times by Adam Liptak
January 15, 2019
Purse snatching and pickpocketing can amount to violent felonies for purposes of a federal law, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in a 5-to-4 decision featuring unusual alliances.
The case concerned the Armed Career Criminal Act, a federal law that is a kind of three-strikes statute. It requires mandatory 15-year sentences for people convicted of possessing firearms if they have earlier been found guilty of three violent felonies or serious drug charges.
Figuring out what qualifies as one of those earlier offenses is not always easy. Tuesday’s decision considered a part of the law that defined violent felonies to include offenses involving the use or threat of physical force. The question in the case was whether minimal force, as in a purse snatching, is enough.
Neuroscientists Make a Case against Solitary Confinement
SAN DIEGO—Robert King spent 29 years living alone in a six by nine-foot prison cell.
He was part of the “Angola Three”—a trio of men kept in solitary confinement for decades and named for the Louisiana state penitentiary where they were held. King was released in 2001 after a judge overturned his 1973 conviction for killing a fellow inmate. Since his exoneration he has dedicated his life to raising awareness about the psychological harms of solitary confinement.
There Are Thousands of Cyntoia Browns: Mariame Kaba on Criminalization of Sexual Violence Survivors
Cyntoia Brown was granted full clemency by Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Monday after serving 15 years in prison. The decision follows months of intense public pressure and outrage over her case. Brown was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder for shooting her rapist as a teenager. She had been sexually trafficked and repeatedly abused and drugged. The shooting happened when Brown was just 16 years old, but she was tried as an adult. We speak with Mariame Kaba, organizer and educator who has worked on anti-domestic violence programs, anti-incarceration and racial justice programs since the late 1980s. Kaba is the co-founder of Survived and Punished, an organization that supports survivors of violence who have been criminalized for defending themselves. She’s also a board member of Critical Resistance.
The Atlantic by Frank Tannenbaum
Remember as you read this is almost 100 years old and still too relevant today:
To the uninitiated, prison cruelty seems to be a rare and isolated phenomenon. When on occasion instances of it become known and the community has its sense of decency outraged, there is generally a demand for investigation and removal of the guilty warden and keeper. With that achieved, the average citizen settles back comfortably into the old habits of life, without asking too many questions, and with the general assumption that, after all, it cannot be expected that prisons should be turned into palaces.
To him who goes into the matter more deeply, there is the added comfort, not only that the given warden has been punished for cruelty, but that there are legal and constitutional provisions against its reappearance. Our laws provide against cruel and unusual punishments, and to the average mind, with its faith in the law, this is sufficient assurance against their repetition. These facts, added to the infrequency of the publicity, strengthen the general feeling that prison brutality is a personal matter for which particular individuals are responsible.
This is the general view. But to those who are acquainted with prison organization, brutality is a constant factor—constant as the prison itself; and the publicity which upon occasion makes it known to the public has only an accidental relation to the thing itself. It is some fortunate approach on the part of an inmate to the publicity forces in the community, or some accidental trial, such as brought before the public the current charges against Bedford, which makes it evident that brutality exists in a particular institution. It is obvious, of course, that, had it not been for the trial at which the charges of brutality at Bedford were brought in as a part of the court procedure, brutality might have existed for a long period of time without general public knowledge. I am stressing this point because it helps to carry the important fact that cruelty in prison and publicity out it are not closely related.
Tennessee governor grants clemency to Cyntoia Brown
WREG 3 - Memphis
Eryn Taylor and CNN Wire
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The woman who was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16 after killing a Nashville man who solicited her for sex has been granted full clemency by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said. “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
Those conditions require Brown not to break any state or federal laws, and be subject to a release plan or other supervision conditions. Those could include work, education, employment, counseling and other requirements.
She will be released to parole supervision in August 2019. She will remain on parole for 10 years.
I'm Honestly Fed Up With all the Bad News So I Illustrated the Best News of 2017
Bored Panda by Mauro Gatti
I'm honestly fed up with all the bad news everywhere. I am not a journalist or an influencer, but I want to use my art to spread some positivity. I wanted to create something positive as an anti-venom to the vitriolic rhetoric that pervades our media. That's why I want to share some of this year's positive news from around the world in the hope that it brings you some happiness and inspires you to spread some good news yourself! Art, technology, food, science, animal rights, human rights... we have progressed in so many categories and it's necessary to let the world know that, despite having much more to do, we've accomplished some amazing things in 2018.
#18 Dutch prison population is the lowest in Europe and its prisons are being turned into homes for refugees.
But read the rest of them for some potentially needed inspiration...
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive