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Playlist: Prison

Compiled By: PRX Editors

 Credit: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-219958p1.html">Qing Qing</a>
Image by: Qing Qing 
Curated Playlist

Behind bars. Stories of felony, redemption, and survival.

Below are picks chosen by PRX editorial staff.

SURVIVORS: Solitary Confinement in America's Prisons

From Claire Schoen | 29:00

In this half-hour radio documentary, "survivors" of solitary confinement paint a picture of what it looks, sounds and feels like to live for years - and even decades - in total isolation in American prisons.
(A companion multimedia piece is also available for station websites.)

Dsf_0308_1_small Tens of thousands of inmates live in total isolation in America's jails and prisons today. And the number is rapidly growing. Often prisoners spend years – even decades – by themselves in a cell the size of a small bathroom. They don't see anyone. They don't talk to anyone. They don't touch anyone. They are completely alone.

In this half-hour radio documentary, "survivors" of solitary paint a picture of what solitary confinement looks, sounds and feels like. These are the voices of both men and women; Black, White and Latino; old and young.
   
The effects of sensory deprivation experienced in solitary confinement have been well documented. They include depression, panic attacks, insomnia, paranoia, hypersensitivity, hallucination and psychosis. These psychological effects can be permanent. And often prisoners are released directly from solitary back into society.
   
U.N. conventions and treaties define this sort of treatment as torture. If we, as a people, continue to brutalize others in this fashion, what does that do to us all as a society?

99% Invisible #80- An Architect's Code

From Roman Mars | Part of the 99% Invisible (Director's Cut) series | 16:47

Some architects say there are just some buildings that should never have been built: buildings that violate human rights by design.

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The fundamental ethical precept of medicine is that doctors first do no harm. This led the American Medical Association to adopt Opinion 2.06 of the AMA Code of Medical Ethics in 1992. An individual's opinion of capital punishment is the personal moral decision of that individual. A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution. It goes on from there. Lawyers have an ethics code. Journalists have an ethics code. So It shouldn't surprise you that architects do as well. The relevant Ethical Standard we're discussing from the American Institute of Architects is E.S. 1.4 Human Rights: Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.

A number of architects have taken a stance that there are some buildings  that should not have been built. 

And they don't just mean the ugly ones. That by design, they violate standards of human rights.

Specifically, prisons that put people to death, or keep people in long term solitary confinement.

Embroidery Felon

From Jonathan Mitchell | 05:29

a prison inmate finds redemption in a pair of socks

Default-piece-image-1 Ray Materson was in prison for an armed robbery he committed with a toy gun to support his cocaine habit. He spent the first year of his seven and a half-year prison sentence being mad at the world and angry with himself for what he had done. And then he found a kind of redemption...in a pair of socks. Includes interviews with the artist Ray Materson, and Sanford Smith, the producer of the Outsider Art Show in New York. PLEASE NOTE: I've posted two versions of this piece, one version that runs 3:42, and a longer version that runs 5:28. The short version originally aired on Studio 360 in March, 2003. It has also appeared on the Third Coast Festival website. The long version has not aired.

Moving Beyond

From Salt Institute for Documentary Studies | 07:17

"I am a Christian, I am a mom, a wife, a homemaker, a leader, a knitter, a quilter… I’m lots of things. Accepting the label felon was really hard."

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There are many labels that define a person, but some hold greater weight than others. Recently, Kelsey Padgett met a woman who carries a heavy label, that is incredibly hard to come to terms with, and influences much of her world.  

A look inside California’s toughest prison

From KALW | 05:13

If you’re convicted of committing a felony in California, you can end up in many kinds of prisons. Steal a lot of money in a Ponzi scheme – you might end up in minimum security. Locked up, but with little supervision. Commit a violent crime, and you could be sent to a medium-security prison, like Folsom. Kill someone, and you could be headed for supermax.

Pelican Bay State Prison, in Crescent City, is a maximum-security prison. About 3,230 of California’s most violent criminals live there – and those who cause problems within prison walls end up in the Security Housing Unit, or SHU. It’s highly restricted living conditions that some have called solitary confinement. And those stuck in the SHU for years say it be literally maddening.

Last month, some of those inmates began a hunger strike, and they were quickly joined by more than a thousand prisoners around the state. With media attention drawn to harsh conditions in Pelican Bay, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation decided to host a tour of the facility. KALW’s criminal justice reporter, Rina Palta was there.

Picture_2_small If you’re convicted of committing a felony in California, you can end up in many kinds of prisons. Steal a lot of money in a Ponzi scheme – you might end up in minimum security. Locked up, but with little supervision. Commit a violent crime, and you could be sent to a medium-security prison, like Folsom. Kill someone, and you could be headed for supermax. Pelican Bay State Prison, in Crescent City, is a maximum-security prison. About 3,230 of California’s most violent criminals live there – and those who cause problems within prison walls end up in the Security Housing Unit, or SHU. It’s highly restricted living conditions that some have called solitary confinement. And those stuck in the SHU for years say it be literally maddening. Last month, some of those inmates began a hunger strike, and they were quickly joined by more than a thousand prisoners around the state. With media attention drawn to harsh conditions in Pelican Bay, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation decided to host a tour of the facility. KALW’s criminal justice reporter, Rina Palta was there.

Behind Bars (Hour Long Version)

From With Good Reason | Part of the With Good Reason: Weekly Hour Long Episodes series | 53:50

From Tolstoy to Lermontov, the program that’s putting the Russian classics to work—in a juvenile detention center.

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Written in another time and in another country, the Russian classics—Tolstoy, Lermontov, and all the rest—are still relevant today.  Andrew Kaufman (University of Virginia) and his students are proving that by teaching masterpieces of Russian literature to incarcerated youth.  The readings prompt discussions: What makes for a “successful” life? How I can be true to myself? What is my responsibility to others? Given that I will die, how should I live?  Also featured: Most incarcerated women are single mothers—and sole financial providers of one or more youngsters. Virginia Mackintosh (University of Mary Washington) says no kids are more at risk.  She taught a parenting course for the mothers behind bars and leads some of her college students in a one-week summer camp for the children left behind. And: Southside Virginia Community College has started a pioneering program that enables inmates to obtain college credits, by creating a campus ‘pod’ within prison walls.  It’s called “Campus Within Walls” and is made possible by funding from The Sunshine Lady Foundation . Chad Patton administers the program and says it is the product of an enormous amount of cooperation between the Department of Corrections, the Department of Correctional Education, and the Governor’s office.

Later in the show: Why do people get so much pleasure from movies that frighten them out of their wits? Stephen Prince (Virginia Tech) says horror films allow us to explore the anxieties of our times along with questions about human nature, all from the safety of a darkened movie theatre. Also: Science fiction writer John Rosenman (Norfolk State University) says the genre has come a long way since the early days of Buck Rogers.

- See more at: http://withgoodreasonradio.org/#sthash.iE2xy9zA.dpuf

Incarcerated Parents

From Radio Rookies | 07:43

15-year-old Keith Tingman remembers his tenth birthday better than any other birthday before or since. That was the day he watched his mom get arrested.

Keithtingman_small 15-year-old Keith Tingman remembers his tenth birthday better than any other birthday before or since. That was the day he watched his mom get arrested after being falsely accused of stealing someone's wallet. Ultimately, both of Keith's parents were convicted of possession of stolen property. His dad served ten months in Riker's Island, and his mom was put on probation. Keith is far from alone. A recent University of Michigan study shows that among African-American children born in 1990, more than one-quarter have had a parent serve time by the time they turn 14 years old.

Illegal Mail

From Blunt Youth Radio Project | Part of the Incarcerated Youth Speak Out series | 08:47

For students locked up in Maine's Long Creek Youth Development Center passing notes is a crime... and an art form. Jacorey investigates.

4078111846_32cfb04460_m_small For students locked up in Maine's Long Creek Youth Development Center passing notes to one another - what the facility calls "illegal mail" - is a crime, but it's also one of the most commonly committed crimes at Long Creek.  Jacorey delves into the culture of illegal mail, from the enforcers to the self-defined King of Illegal Mail. 

Joey's Phone Call Home

From Blunt Youth Radio Project | Part of the Incarcerated Youth Speak Out series | 05:05

Joey, an incarcerated teen, calls home.

Lcydcfenceedit_small Listen to Joey, an inmate at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, ME, call home to talk to his mother and sister.

Making Contact: Survivors of Solitary Confinement

From Making Contact | Part of the Making Contact series | 29:00

Tens of thousands are in solitary confinement in American prisons which according to the United Nations is torture. Producer Claire Schoen met nine former prisoners who describe in detail what it’s like to be in solitary confinement.

Hakeem_for__22-09_small President Obama recently declared that "we have banned torture without exception." However, some would take exception to this claim. The practice of isolating a person in solitary confinement for extended periods of time causes severe sensory deprivation and has been denounced as torture by the United Nations. But tens of thousands are locked up in solitary confinement in American prisons. Producer Claire Schoen met nine formerly incarcerated people, who described what it's like not to talk to or touch another person, for years at a time.

Featuring: Hakeem Shaheed, Laura Whitehorn, Robert Dellalo, Bilal Sunni Ali, Munirah El Bumani, Ray Luc Levasseur, Tommy Escarciga, Diano King ArchAngel Rodriguez, and Robert King Wilkerson, solitary confinement survivors; Teresa Vaughn, mother of son who died in solitary confinement.

Life of the Law #02 - Jailhouse Lawyers

From Life of the Law | Part of the Life of the Law series | 14:10

In California, there are hundreds if not thousands of people practicing criminal law though they’ve never passed a bar exam. They don’t wear suits. They don’t have secretaries. And they can’t bill for their time. They’re called Jailhouse Lawyers. They’re inmates who pursue the equivalent of a lawyer’s education and who work as lawyers from within prison walls.

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“As a non lawyer, you cannot pretend to be a lawyer for somebody else,” said Charles Carbonne, a prisoners rights attorney based in San Francisco. “If you’re a free citizen, you got to go to law school, pass the bar if you wanna pretend to be a lawyer. Except if you’re in prison. Jailhouse lawyers usually begin by investigating their own cases. That’s usually how most jailhouse lawyers cut their teeth. They dig into their case, usually reading volumes of cases, criminal cases”

Carbonne is one of the few lawyers outside of prison who will represent people behind bars pro bono or for free after they’ve been convicted. “It is a professional and personal interest of mine. I take it very seriously in terms of the quality of representation that I provide.”

Carbonne explains that in America, once you’ve been tried, convicted and sentenced to prison, at that point, you lose your right to an attorney who is provided by and paid for by the state. If you’re on death row, the state will still pay for an attorney to represent you for an appeal. But if you’re not on death row and you want to challenge your sentence, you have to come up with the money yourself to hire a private attorney.

“There are very few lawyers or firms that provide pro bono parole appeal representation,” Carbonne says, sitting in his second floor, bare brick office, “very, very few. You can count them on one hand. The number of cases brought every year by a pro bono attorney or firm. It’s very difficult if not impossible.”

So, Carbonne adds, short of turning to people like him, prisoners have to teach themselves the law. And, he says, many do.

Reuben Ruiz Martinez is serving time at Pelican Bay, a “supermax prison” in the far north of California. I have to get through eleven locked doors and sally ports just to interview him.

Ruiz’s cell is about 6’ x 9’. There’s a fixed cement pad for a bed and it looks like it’s full of papers and books, at least from what I can see of it.

Walking up to his cell door, I introduce myself and explain to Ruiz that it is difficult to see him looking through the rust colored sheet of metal covering his cell door. Martinez is a middle-aged man with military style cropped hair, deep set brown eyes and a full, gentle mouth.  “I had no idea a legal world existed. I didn’t even know the law that I was charged with and convicted of. I was 17. I just turned 17 and I went into a liquor story to buy some beer. I was a kid. I thought, ‘Hey. We can get away with it,’ from that moment on.”

Today, Martinez says he is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, “It was a fight in a liquor store. We didn’t see no clerks around and we were going to try to run out with the beer, which you’ve probably heard as a beer run. In our attempt to do so we were confronted by the clerks of the store. They physically confronted us. We didn’t have no weapons. One of them had a baseball bat. Hit us with the baseball bat and in that fight, we took the bat and one of them subsequently got hit in the head with the bat and later died. Cause of death was a blow to the head.”

Martinez was convicted of felony murder. That’s when you’re out with someone and you commit a felony together. If anyone dies or is murdered, then you are responsible for that murder, even if you didn’t actually commit it. “I had no concept of what felony murder was,” Martinez says, “Self defense is not a defense against the felony murder rule. Under normal circumstances, it was a much better likelihood I would have been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and [I would have] done four to six years.”

Martinez says he understands that now, but didn’t 21 years ago when he was charged, convicted and sent to prison, “I was represented by a couple of different attorneys. I learned the arguments they were making were arguments that had been made in other instances and failed. I started to follow up on all the lawsuits, researching it  in a backwards fashion.”

Eventually, Martinez decided to file is own appeal, “I started to look for ways to reintroduce claims of my own.” When I ask if he was successful, Martinez shakes his head, “No. Not on my behalf.”

He says he partly blames his failure to win his appeal on the bad access he has had to legal materials while he’s been locked up inside Pelican Bay. “I rarely if ever go to the law library,” Martinez says, looking out at me through the small round holes of his cell door, “Most of the legal research I do is throughout the paging system. There’s forms which you could request in particular case law. If I submit a request to go the law library, it could take two to three months and that just doesn’t suffice to do the necessary research in whatever you’re doing.”

“There are people who are very well versed in the law,” Charles Carbonne says, “inmates who are fairly well studied in the law. Pretty good at research and writing and legal drafting and then there are other inmates that are absolutely atrocious at it and the courts don’t receive it well. Their cases get denied. You really only get one bite at these apples. You don’t get three or four. You show up on your own. You present garbage. You often can’t revisit that later.”

And that, Carbonne says, is the problem for Reuben Martinez and thousands of other inmates trying to appeal their convictions. If the judge says the appeal doesn’t have merit, that’s it. The inmates can’t file another appeal based on the same challenge. He says prison law libraries are supposed to help inmates get that one bite at the legal apple, “Most of the law libraries inside prison are filled with old law books that have been torn up and are very difficult to use. They have very little resources and sometimes that effects the quality of the work. Sometimes, miraculously, it doesn’t.”

Under California law, all inmates in state prisons are supposed to get at least four hours a week of access to a prison law library. Obviously, that’s not been working out so well for Reuben Martinez who says he waits two to three months to get inside the law library at Pelican Bay.

San Quentin State prison just outside San Francisco is supposed to have the best law library in the whole state. One Tuesday morning, San Quentin’s Public Information Officer, Sargent Gabe Walters, agrees to show off the library. As we get closer to the front door, we see more than a dozen other inmates standing outside. They’re holding worn file folders stuffed with papers and booklets.

“It’s locked again,” says Juan Haines, one of the inmates standing outside the locked library door, “They cut the hours.”

The public information officer is a little embarrassed, “I didn’t know it was closed.”

A few days later, the law library is open. The law library may be new, but it’s cramped. Prisoners sit, huddled at small round tables taking notes and pouring over legal documents. One man sitting in front of a stack of manila envelopes looks up, “It’s unfortunate most of us who get in trouble with the law don’t know much about the law after we got into a situation we need help to get out of.”  Lequan Hayes says he’s been coming to the law library, “for the last ten years that I’ve been incarcerated. They discovered that my sentence was an error.”

Recently, a judge found in Hayes favor and overturned his case on appeal. Now, because of a writ that Hayes wrote on appeal, he’s going home. “We begin to read our own cases. We come to the library. We ask others for advice. We rely on one another. We begin to get an understanding of the law. I think it’s very important to know some law. I’m more than willing to help as much as I possibly can.”

But before Hayes gets out of prison, he’s trying to help as many of his fellow inmates as possible with their legal documents.  The most successful jail house lawyers get themselves and fellow inmates freed. But then what? As a jail house lawyer, Hector Oropeza was able to help a lot of people tell their story. Today he sits at the kitchen table in his new apartment just south of San Francisco. Thirty years ago, Oropeza was sent to prison for murder. But while he was in prison, he wrote his own appeal and got himself out.

“Whatever the truth is,” Oropeza, a dark, muscular man in his mid fifties says, “You got the D.A.’s truth. You got the defense truth. You got The Truth that comes in the middle of it.”

Oropeza says it wasn’t easy to articulate that truth. He says when he first went to prison, it was all about sitting in his cell and doing time. Then one day, an attorney slipped him a legal self-help book. He says he devoured it, “I’m not just a guy in a box,” Oropeza says, “I’m a guy in a box educating myself.”

Over time, Oropeza says the book changed his life. Not just because it helped with his own case. He says he also learned how to represent other inmates, “By doing jail house lawyer work, you give somebody the opportunity to tell their truth. What they believe happened. And hopefully win and go home.”

Oropeza says he got 12 of his fellow inmates out of prison on parole. But now that he’s on the outside, he legally can’t represent anyone and he says, the guys who are still locked up, have no one else, “I left a hundred cases pending somewhere. You come out here and they don’t give you a car. They give you $200 and that’s gone the first day.”

Now on the outside of the prison walls, Oropeza can’t practice the law without being admitted to The Bar, and with a felony conviction on his record, that’s highly unlikely.

“I need to get paid,” Oropeza says, “I need to pay my bills. It’s sad because they want more. They want more from you. I know they want the education, the degree. They don’t understand. They don’t see the experience. All that hands-on experience that you get, you know how to deal with people. It’s hard. The experience should count for something.”

Eventually, Oropeza says he would like to go to college and get an education that would prepare him for a law degree. But that’s expensive. For now he’s getting part time work wherever he can, “It would be nice to get some formal training. Once I get that, I know I could compete with these guys.”

By ‘these guys’, Oropeza means lawyers, just lawyers. No ‘jail house’ attached.

Changing on the Inside

From Salt Institute for Documentary Studies | 07:26

The US has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any country. At the Maine State Prison, inmates are being taught skills to care for their sick and elderly prison population.

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 The US has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any country. More people are dying behind bars every year. At the Maine State Prison, inmates are being taught skills to care for their sick and elderly prison population. Colleen Vasu has the story from Warren, Maine.


A Youth Perspective on the School-to-Prison Pipeline

From On Blast | 07:28

The School-to-Prison Pipeline is a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Members of the Philadelphia Student Union created the Campaign for Nonviolent Schools (CNS) to work towards improving school climates and ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

On Blast youth radio producer, Julian Roessler, explains a youth perspective on the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Julian interviews Josh Glenn, an organizer with YASP (Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project) and Decarcerate PA. Josh is also a member of CNS. Together, they explore the deeper roots of the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

More_classmates_small_small The School-to-Prison Pipeline is a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Members of the Philadelphia Student Union created the Campaign for Nonviolent Schools (CNS) to work towards improving school climates and ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline. On Blast youth radio producer, Julian Roessler, explains a youth perspective on the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Julian interviews Josh Glenn, an organizer with YASP (Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project) and Decarcerate PA. Josh is also a member of CNS. Together, they explore the deeper roots of the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Prison Poetry Workshop (Series)

Produced by Nick Szuberla

Sending radio waves through prison walls we reach an audience with content that may change their life. The Prison Poetry Workshop is the only national radio series linking prisoners to the outside world through the power of poetry. Each program has an interactive writing exercise lead by a nationally renowned poet that invites all listeners to submit a poem to the Prison Poetry Workshop.

Sit in any prison classroom or recreation room and ask: How many writers are in the room? How many people are writing rhymes or poems? Carefully-folded pieces of paper come out of pockets – words written in tightly stylized hand-writing. As we listen to these poems we realize they hold a deep significance to our understanding of American culture and its tradition of democratic arts.

Most recent piece in this series:

PPW - Indiana: Etheridge Knight

From Nick Szuberla | Part of the Prison Poetry Workshop series | 54:09

Etheridge-knight_small Prison Poetry Workshop 
Indiana: Etheridge Knight

Host: Rend Smith 
Producer: Andrew Parsons and Nick Szuberla 

Segment - A: Early Days
Knight spent his boyhood days on a farm in Corinth Mississippi. There, he lived the idyllic life, working and playing alongside a large brood of brothers and sisters, we learn from Knight’s surviving siblings. But he also pined for adventure, stealing off  to rowdy pool halls whenever he had the chance.  In such establishments, Knight would’ve found men “telling toasts” (performing memorized, African-American folk poems), a skill he picked up and mastered. By 16, Knight was off on a more fraught adventure, as he enlisted to fight in the Korean war.

Segment - B:PRISON & A WORKSHOP

Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-
fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st and 2nd),  

Returning from the war, Knight began what he called his “mad years.”  We hear about how, having picked up a heroin addiction in the army, the veteran found himself  in and out of trouble with police.  In 1960, Knight was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 10-25 years in prison. While behind bars, his love for telling toasts grew into a general appreciation for poetry. Knight wrote prolifically, was discovered by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, and released not long after he published his first book.  Former Michigan poet laureate Norbert Krapf considers Knight’s story inspirational, and crafts a writing exercise for listeners based on a poem dedicated to him.

SEGMENT C THE FAMOUS ETHERIDGE KNIGHT

We meet Dwayne Betts. If Etheridge Knight has a young literary heir, it might be him. Betts went to prison at 16 after being convicted of carjacking, but has since launched a successful writing career. He, like some other poets we hear from, credits Knight as a strong influence. We also meet Francis Stoller, who spent time with the poet during his last days. “I will write well. I will be a famous writer. I will work hard and my work will be good. I will be a famous writer. My voice will be heard and I will help my people,” Knight once wrote. The voices we hear prove he succeeded.

 

Broadcast Window Begins 01/13/14

The First Season of Prison Poetry Workshop will be available beginning January 13, 2014, on PRX without charge to all public radio stations, and may be aired an unlimited number of times prior to January 13, 2015. The program may be streamed live on station websites but not archived. Excerpting is permitted for promotional purposes only.

Prison Poetry Workshop is produced by Nick Szuberla and Andrew Parsons, with host Rend Smith.  Visit www.prisonpoetryworkshop.org for useful tools and ways to get your audience involved.  Major funding for PPW is from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Contact Nick Szuberla for more information: nick@workingnarratives.org