Kenneth Foster, Jr., became a writer on death row. When he was nineteen, he drove three friends to two armed robberies in San Antonio, Texas; late that night, one of the friends shot and killed a man. Foster was in the car, approximately eighty feet away, but, under the Texas Law of Parties, he was convicted, in 1996, of capital murder. (Foster, like more than a third of the prisoners executed in Texas, is African-American.) He started writing a few years later, after he watched correctional officers forcibly remove a prisoner from his cell. “This man was gassed, wrestled down, cuffed and dragged to his fate,” he told me recently, in a letter. The prisoner was executed by lethal injection, and Foster began to grasp that, one day, the same thing would happen to him. He needed to share what he saw and felt. “I have written with everything from pen, typewriter, marker, to my own blood,” he explained. “I have written on tables, floors, on walls when I only had a crack of light, in the dark, under blinding lights.” ...
Meet the Creators of the New Podcast From Inside San Quentin Prison
The inmate-produced show will tell intimate stories of daily life behind bars.
“Ear Hustle” — the phrase is slang for eavesdropping — is a collaboration between Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, both prisoners at San Quentin, and Nigel Poor, a Bay Area visual artist who teaches photography classes at the prison. Williams, 29, has served more than 10 years on a 15-year sentence for armed robbery. Woods, 45, has served more than 19 years of a 31-years–to-life sentence for attempted second-degree robbery. Their chemistry is one of the best parts of the show: the three share a deep rapport that is at times funny, frank, and raw.
Read more and listen
Dear Congregants, Friends, and Supporters:
It is with great sadness that we share the news of the violent death on one of our members in prison, Mikaela Dodgens, who was also known as Phoenix. We especially want to send our deep condolence to our other CLF members living in prison who face the same dangers every day. We hold in our hearts the CLF Letter Writing Team the heart-beat of our prison ministry. They are the ones who share our UU faith directly with our members in prison.
Mikaela was a transgender woman living in a men's prison in Ohio. When we first heard the news about the death of a Unitarian Universalist in late August, the name was reported as Phoenix. During the six years of her membership at the CLF we had only known her as Mikaela. Her pen pal Erich contacted us after speaking with her mother, to inform us that it was indeed our Mikaela. Here is what Erich wanted to share with Mikaela's fellow congregants at the CLF who didn't get the chance to know her:
Mikaela was a bright, talented musician and artist, and a vibrantly spiritual person with high hopes for the future. I am proud to say Mikaela was my friend, my pen pal, and a person who was always excited to dig deep into an exchange of ideas. We shared hopes and dreams, sadness, and shortcomings. She was more than the decisions she made on her worst days. Mikaela saw me through several major life transitions and I hope I provided some level of companionship in our exchanges. I wanted her to know there were people on the outside rooting for her success, questioning the role of policing and prisons, and most importantly--people of faith and conscience who would welcome her fully in our congregations.
Her suffering a beating in the prison yard and dying the next day is most certainly not the future that she had envisioned for herself, nor was it a reflection of the hopes I had for her. For any who were touched by her spirit, her ability to make you smile on a bad day, I join you in grieving this terrible loss in our congregation. Her death serves as a not so subtle reminder of the brutalities of the prison-industrial complex and the gift that each day is. While there is pain in my heart and righteous indignation, I hope you will join me in lighting and carrying the flame for Mikaela.
We will be offering prayers for Mikaela on social media, and a time for people to share their grief about this horrible ending to a beautiful life. We will be honoring her strength and her beauty.
Here are three ways you can honor Mikaela's memory:
Rev. Meg Riley, Mandy Goheen and the Prison Ministry Team
The Youth First Initiative wants to help end the use of youth prisons. The justice-advocacy group works from the premise that detaining minors—whether in youth facilities or in prisons—is not just a poorly executed practice; it is simply beyond repair. “This model of incarceration is broken—it does not work,” says Liz Ryan, the president and CEO of the Youth First Initiative. “It actually has never worked.”
One advocate describes what happens in a family when a child is behind bars. Read More
Thursday, October 12, 7:30pm: Poor People’s Campaign
Indiana/Illinois Mass Meeting with Rev. William Barber at
Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church (3622 W. Douglass Blvd, Chicago).
A National Call for Moral Revival on Thursday, October 12 at 7 PM at the Historic Stone Temple Church in Chicago, IL to learn about the inspiration, vision and strategy of the PPC. The Campaign will build a broad and deep national moral fusion movement — rooted in the leadership of the poor and dispossessed as moral agents and reflecting the great moral teachings — to unite our country from the bottom up.
Article: Court Says Atheist Inmate’s Religious Rights Were Not Burdened By Missouri Prison System - 2016 KCUR by Margolies
Does a prison’s failure to regard atheism as a “religious preference” violate the Constitution?
That’s the question raised by a former Missouri prisoner, who contended the failure of the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) to list “atheist” on prison intake forms violated his First Amendment rights.
Writing my wrongs: Shaka Senghor
"Making the best out of a bad situation." Writer, mentor and motivational speaker, Shaka Senghor gives us a candid, behind the scenes peek into his life leading up to and during his incarceration for second degree murder. Witty and eloquent in his delivery, Shaka offers sobering firsthand accounts of redemption, the power of hope and how literature changed his life.
Shaka Senghor's story of redemption has inspired young adults at high schools and universities across the nation. While serving 19 years in prison, Senghor discovered his love for writing. He has written six books, including a memoir about his life in prison, Writing My Wrongs. In 2012, Senghor's Live in Peace Digital and Literary Arts Project won a Black Male Engagement Leadership Award from the Knight Foundation in partnership with the Open Society Foundation's Campaign for Black Male Achievement. Senghor has also recently been named a Director's Fellow at MIT for his work.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive