prison

Government aid doesn’t always go where it’s supposed to. Foster care agencies team up with companies to take disability and survivor benefits from abused and neglected children. States and their revenue consultants use illusory schemes to siphon Medicaid funds intended for children and the poor into general state coffers. Child support payments for foster children and families on public assistance are converted into government revenue. And the poverty industry keeps expanding, leaving us with nursing homes and juvenile detention centers that sedate residents to reduce costs and maximize profit, local governments buying nursing homes to take the facilities’ federal aid while the elderly languish with poor care, and counties hiring companies to mine the poor for additional funds in modern day debtor’s prisons.

In The Poverty Industry, Daniel L. Hatcher shows us how state governments and their private industry partners are profiting from the social safety net, turning America’s most vulnerable populations into sources of revenue.

   David Simon is best known as creator of HBO's The Wire which chronicled the story of Baltimore's police department and its gangs. A former reporter for The Baltimore Sun, Simon is also known for his NBC police procedural Homicide: Life on the Streets. The show was based on his book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.

This week he spoke at Williams College, presenting a lecture entitled "The Audacity of Despair."

  On sabbatical from teaching literature to undergraduates, and wanting to educate a different kind of student, Mikita Brottman starts a book club with a group of convicts from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland.

She assigns them ten dark, challenging classics—including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe’s story “The Black Cat,” and Nabokov’s Lolita—books that don’t flinch from evoking the isolation of the human struggle, the pain of conflict, and the cost of transgression. Although Brottman is already familiar with these works, the convicts open them up in completely new ways. Their discussions may “only” be about literature, but for the prisoners, everything is at stake.

Gradually, the inmates open up about their lives and families, their disastrous choices, their guilt and loss. Brottman's book is The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison.

  Nationwide statistics have proven in-prison educational and rehabilitation programs to be extremely successful, yet many states across the country have cut large portions of the funding for these programs.

The film, The Game Changer, the winner of multiple festival awards, follows New Paltz’s renowned choreographer Susan Slotnick in her work rehabilitating prisoners through dance at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility.

The film will screen at Unison Arts Center in New Paltz, NY this Saturday, May 14th at 8pm in a special event that will also feature dance performances and discussion.

Susan Slotnick joins us.

Photo of Piper Kerman
Brian Bowen Smith

  Piper Kerman was a 24 year old Smith College graduate in 1993 when she flew to Belgium with a suitcase of money intended for a West African drug lord. This misguided adventure started when she began a romantic relationship with the woman involved in a drug smuggling ring and got Kerman got involved too, though Kerman left that life after several months.

Five years later she was named as part of the drug ring and in February 2008 she reported to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. Kerman’s memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in Women’s Prison inspired the award winning Netflix television series of the same name. She will deliver the Alex Krieger Memorial Lecture at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie on Tuesday February 9th.

  Margaret Atwood is the author of more than 50  books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays including Cat's Eye, Alias Grace, and A Handmaid’s Tale. Her latest, The Heart Goes Last, is a funny disturbing tale about a new future in which the lawful are locked up and the lawless roam free.

Prison Bars
Gemma Longman Flickr

A New York comedian who is also an activist on prison rights issues is drawing attention to the state’s practice of investing a small amount of its pension fund in the private prison industry.

hbo.com

  America is the most punitive nation in the world, handing out historically harsh sentences that largely dispense with the concept of rehabilitation.

Alan and Susan Raymond - Oscar and Emmy winners for HBO’s I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School - explore the reality of “the other death penalty” in Toe Tag Parole: To Live and Die on Yard A.

Featuring exclusive, unprecedented access, Toe Tag Parole: To Live And Die On Yard A was shot entirely at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, a maximum-security facility in the Mojave Desert. The documentary debuts on Monday, August 3rd at 9PM on HBO.

  The Emmy-award winning Orange is the New Black, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, depicts her arrest, conviction and incarceration for drug-trafficking. The show’s third season premieres tomorrow.

But the book and Netflix series are from only Kerman’s perspective. Now, Cleary Wolters, the real life Alex Vause and Piper's former drug-smuggling lover, tells her side of the story in a new book, Out of Orange.

  Through the stories of prisoners and their families, including her own family’s experiences, Maya Schenwar shows in her book, Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, how the institution that locks up 2.3 million Americans and decimates poor communities of color is shredding the ties that, if nurtured, could foster real collective safety.

  Psychiatrist Stephen Seager was no stranger to locked psych wards when he accepted a job at California’s Gorman State hospital, known locally as “Gomorrah,” but nothing could have prepared him for what he encountered when he stepped through its gates, a triple sally port behind the twenty-foot walls topped with shining coils of razor wire. 

One in three American children will be arrested by the time they are twenty-three, and many will spend time locked inside horrific detention centers that defy everything we know about how to rehabilitate young offenders.

In a clear-eyed indictment of the juvenile justice system run amok, award-winning journalist Nell Bernstein shows that there is no right way to lock up a child. The very act of isolation denies delinquent children the thing that is most essential to their growth and rehabilitation: positive relationships with caring adults.

The New Press

One in three American young people will be arrested before the age of 23, and many will spend time in institutions that used to be called "reform schools" or "rehabilitation camps"...but can really only be described as prisons.

Today on the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll talk to the author of an extensive study of the juvenile justice system and learn just what is happening to children behind bars.

We'll also spend an academic minute looking at the health care people get while in jail.

2/20/14 Panel

Feb 20, 2014

    

  Today's panelists are WAMC’s Alan Chartock, Executive Editor of the Poughkeepsie Journal, Stu Shinske and University at Albany Journalism Professor and Investigative Reporter, Rosemary Armao.

Topics include:
Ukraine Update
Drone report
NYS Solitary
Ex-Guard to Prison
Poor Church

Prison Closure Announcement Rankles Guard Union

Jul 29, 2013
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Correction officers say they are still in “shock” that late on a July Friday, with very little advance warning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s prison agency announced the closure of four prisons within the next year. And they are asking the legislature to rescind the closures.

WAMC

A program that has reduced recidivism rates was praised today by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.  The governor toured the program operated by the office of Hampden County Sheriff  Michael Ashe. 

Since 2007, the Hampden County Sheriff’s office has operated a one-stop center for newly released inmates. Located in a nondescript one- story brick building in a tough Springfield neighborhood, the center helps former inmates transition back into the community with a range of support services.

Prison Bars
Gemma Longman Flickr

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York officials project the state's prisons will shed 1,000 more inmates over the next four years, partly because of relaxed drug laws.

That follows a 25 percent drop since 1999.

The inmate population is below 55,000 after peaking at more than 72,000 in 1999 under the harsh Rockefeller-era drug laws.

A Massachusetts man convicted of conspiring to help al-Qaida has been sentenced by a federal judge in Boston to 17 and a half years in prison.