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In a new genre of criminal justice programming, incarcerated people are the creators


What you’ll read today

  • Spotlight: In a new genre of criminal justice programming, incarcerated people are the creators

  • Justice in America Episode 8: Crimmigration

  • In New York, most parolees can now vote—but many websites say they can’t

  • Ohio state representative blames 11-year-old girl for getting tased by cop

  • In NYC, turnstile jumping arrests down, but race disparities persist

  • Border Patrol agent changes his mind about immigration and quits

  • Another point for the ‘blue wall of silence

In the Spotlight

In a new genre of criminal justice programming, incarcerated people are the creators

Yesterday, the hit podcast “Ear Hustle” began its third season. “Ear Hustle” can be seen as one of a new genre of criminal justice programming, one that goes beyond the lock-em-up retributivism of the “Law & Order” shows as well as the prison voyeurism of shows like “Prison Break” which might involve formerly incarcerated people as consultants, but often play to stereotypes. In this new genre, people directly affected by the criminal justice system share their insights, not only as characters or interviewees, but as creators. “Ear Hustle” is created by Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, two men incarcerated in San Quentin, with Nigel Poor, a visual artist. The show tries to get at “a more three-dimensional view of prison,” according to Poor. [ely kalfus / Crime Report] Today we include three short excerpts from excellent stories of life inside, edited for clarity and brevity.

In the first episode of “Ear Hustle,” which focused on the ups and downs of having a cellmate, two brothers named Emile and Eddie, incarcerated at San Quentin, told their story:

Emile: I’m in there with my brother, and I’m thinking to myself, “We’re brothers. We should live together. We should cell up.” Right? In an environment where nothing is safe, it’s like, “Hey, what could be better and safer than that?” So, he moves into my cell.

Eddie: I was happy. To be able to just exhale for a moment in prison.

Emile: The first few nights were great and then it wasn’t.

Eddie: I didn’t really know my brother like I thought I did.

Emile: He’s still Seventh Day Adventist. And he’s devout. So, the Sabbath, you’re not supposed to watch television, but I watch television. So, he asked me to use my headphones. Which, in theory, wasn’t a horrible request, but my headphones are like 3 feet long, and the space between my bunk and my television is like 3 1/2 feet. “Man, I’m not going to do that.”

Eddie: He was watching soap operas and soap operas was like a trigger for me because I remember hearing “The Young and Restless” tune and there’d be straight violence in the household.

Emile: I didn’t really understand what he was going through. I thought like he was just trying to convert me. I’m a grown man and this is my television. And he turns my television off. I turn the television back on. I’m like, “Have you lost your mind?” So he declares a passive aggressive war on me, and he stopped showering.

Eddie: They say the aluminum in the antiperspirant deodorants and stuff will cause memory loss or Alzheimer’s when you get older, and I was like, “Why would I poison myself like that?”

Emile: He wants to “be natural” and “it’s just a natural smell” and “what’s the big deal.” It’s a big deal. Let me tell you.

They would squabble so much that a neighbor began yelling, “Fratricide!” Eventually, they asked to be moved to different cells because, according to Emile, “living with someone in an apartment is difficult enough, but living with someone in a box, you have to be compatible in a lot of different ways and me and Eddie aren’t compatible.” They get along far better now that they don’t share a cell. [Ear Hustle]

For the Marshall Project’s “Life Inside” series, Jerry Metcalf described a day in his life at a Michigan facility. We feature here the first half of that day. “At 1:30 a.m., I’m jarred awake in my cell by an officer wielding the brightest flashlight in the world. He gives me 10 minutes to throw on some clothes and escorts me to the isolation cells, where I strip down again for a thorough search and begin a three-hour suicide watch. This is my prison job: to sit with inmates deemed suicidal and just talk with them, and make sure they don’t try anything. Shift over, I’m strip-searched again and escorted back to my housing unit, where I take a quick shower, stretch, meditate, pray, then climb back under my itchy wool blanket and hit the sack around 6 a.m. I wake up at 10, thanks to all the hooting and hollering outside my cell.  I then hike down the Rock (our term for the cell block) to the communal bathroom I share with 48 other inmates, [and] brush my teeth between four young kids who are rapping. I jog over to our unit’s kitchen area, where I wait in line to use one of two microwaves shared by 96 convicts. Luckily, I’m able to heat up my coffee before I hear, ‘Five minutes til count time, people! Be on your bunks and be visible!’” [Jerry Metcalf / Marshall Project]

Reporter Keri Blakinger has published reflections on her time incarcerated. “Makeup wasn’t just a beauty ritual; it was one of the few remaining outlets of self-expression we had. [E]ach hard-won stroke of makeup was a painted symbol of rebellion.” She includes instructions for jailhouse mascara:

Step one: Break apart a black pen and pour the ink into a bowl.

Step two: Mix in toothpaste.

Step three: Spread this minty fresh mess onto your eyelashes by whatever means possible.

Step four: Remember this is not waterproof and, whatever you do, do not cry all day. (Yes, the no-crying dictum can be a major stumbling block in jail, especially on visitation days.)

“It sometimes looks like circus makeup,” she writes. “But we didn’t really care. Because makeup wasn’t just about appearances—especially in the places where it was banned. It might have looked like a mishap to everyone else, but to us it looked an awful lot like a middle finger.” [Keri Blakinger / Houston Chronicle]

Stories From The Appeal

Protesters rally in July in Bridgeport, Connecticut. [John Moore/Getty Images]

Justice in America Episode 8: Crimmigration. Josie and Clint talk with Alida Garcia, an attorney and advocate at FWD.us, about where immigration and criminal law increasingly overlap. [Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith]

In New York, Most Parolees Can Now Vote—But Many Websites Say They Can’t. A review by The Appeal before today’s primary election found that as of this week, more than half of the state’s county-level Board of Elections websites stated explicitly that parolees don’t have the right to vote. [Emma Whitford]

Stories From Around the Country

Ohio state representative blames 11-year-old girl for getting tased by cop: An Ohio state lawmaker from Clermont County responded to news that a Cincinnati police officer used a taser on an 11-year-old girl by saying that he would be “ashamed and embarrassed” if his child “did something stupid enough to get herself tased.” John Becker, a Republican, wrote in a monthly letter to constituents that if his child resisted arrest, “I’d be blaming myself and endlessly soul searching to figure out how I failed as a parent and why my kid grew up to be a punk.” Becker said he has “had it with all of the finger-pointing at law enforcement officers for shooting a punk in self-defense.” He added, “Every time I hear shouts of, ‘Justice! We want justice!,’ I want to shout back, ‘Parenting! We want parenting!’ [Sam Rosenstiel / Cincinnati Enquirer]

In NYC, turnstile jumping arrests down, but race disparities persist: As broken windows policing strategies are increasingly discredited, many have advocated against aggressive arrests of turnstile jumpers in New York subways, which they say largely punish the poor and people of color. Last year, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said he would no longer prosecute most fare evasion charges. But a recent Marshall Project analysis of data shows that while turnstile arrests have decreased significantly, one thing that has not changed is who gets arrested: “89 percent of those arrested this year are black or Hispanic, virtually the same proportion since 2014,” write Anna Flagg and Ashley Nerbovig. “Across the city, neighborhoods with the most turnstile arrests per subway card swipe tend to be predominantly black or Hispanic.” [Anna Flagg and Ashley Nerbovig / Marshall Project]

Border Patrol agent changes his mind about immigration and quits: Joshua Childress spent seven years as a U.S. Border Patrol in Arizona. Last month, he resigned. He had changed his mind about immigration. At first, he believed in the mission: “My understanding of the laws at the time was that there were proper ways to get into this country legally, and that the people that were coming across were just shirking those laws.” Once, he saw lash marks on a man’s back. He asked the man how he’d gotten them, and it turned out that a drug trafficker had whipped him for refusing to carry drugs over the border. “I didn’t feel good about sending that guy back,” says Childress. “But there are countless others that don’t have a dramatic story like that. They just want a better life. I think most people in their shoes would do the same. And I stopped being able to reconcile that.” He was also influenced by podcasts he would hear while driving around the border, especially a show called “Unregistered.” [Zach Weissmueller / Reason]

Another point for the ‘blue wall of silence’:

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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