Democracy Now!

Prison

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  • We are joined by two leading voices in the fight against mass incarceration: Michelle Alexander, author of the best-selling book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," and Susan Burton, founder and executive director of A New Way of Life, a nonprofit that provides housing and other support to formerly incarcerated women. Burton is the author of the new memoir, "Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women," in which she describes her journey from a childhood filled with abuse to drug addiction as an adult, and then to the fight to address the underlying issues that send women to prison. Alexander writes in the book’s introduction, "There once lived a woman with deep brown skin and black hair who freed people from bondage and ushered them to safety. She welcomed them to safe homes and offered food, shelter, and help reuniting with family and loved ones. She met them wherever they could be found and organized countless others to provide support and aid in various forms so they would not be recaptured and sent back to captivity. … Some people know this woman by the name Harriet Tubman. I know her as Susan."

    See Burton and Alexander speak in New York City Friday night at 7pm. More details here

  • On Thursday, racial justice groups began bailing women out of jail as part of a nationwide "Black Mama’s Bail Out Day." The effort, taking place in nearly 20 cities, raises money to free as many black women from jail as possible in time for a Mother’s Day celebration with their families. Organizers for Black Mama’s Bail Out Day are calling for an end to the cash bail system, which keeps hundreds of thousands of people who have not been convicted of any crime imprisoned in jails every day nationwide while they await trial. For more, we speak with Mary Hooks, co-director of Southerners On New Ground, or SONG, an Atlanta-based regional LGBTQ nonprofit and one of the organizers of Black Mama’s Bail Out Day.

  • We speak with The Guardian’s chief reporter Ed Pilkington about the shocking double execution Arkansas carried out Monday night, marking the first time in nearly 17 years that any state has killed two people on the same day. At 7:20 p.m. local time, 52-year-old Jack Harold Jones was pronounced dead in the death chamber at the Cummins Unit state prison. Infirmary workers had spent more than 45 minutes unsuccessfully trying to put a central line into his neck. According to a court filing, during Jones’s execution, he was "moving his lips and gulping for air," which suggests he continued to be conscious during the lethal injection. Lawyers for the second man, Marcel Williams, filed a last-minute appeal for a stay of execution following Jones’s killing, arguing Williams could also experience a botched, painful death. A district court judge initially granted a temporary stay of Williams’s execution but then allowed the execution to go forward. Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. The executions came after legal challenges reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected a stay for Williams. The only justice to dissent in this ruling was Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The last double execution carried out in the United States was in 2000 in Texas.

  • As more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have entered their ninth day on a massive hunger strike inside Israeli jails, we are joined by the Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, who has come to the United States to receive the 2017 Gandhi Peace Award for his work as co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement. At the award ceremony, Barghouti dedicated the prize to Palestinians on hunger strike. He was almost prevented from attending after Israeli police arrested him, seizing his passport and forbidding him from leaving the country. An Israeli court eventually temporarily lifted the travel ban.

  • In 2013, Steven Odiase was convicted for the shooting death of 15-year-old Juan Perez in the Bronx. At the time, the only evidence against the 31-year-old Odiase were the words of a lone eyewitness, who admitted to being intoxicated at the time of the murder. Odiase was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Then, Odiase’s younger sister, Kalimah Truesdale, set out to prove her brother’s innocence. She scoured the scene of the crime and eventually found a woman who said that she saw the shooting. Most shockingly, the woman said she had already spoken to a detective at the time of the murder and described the shooter as a man not matching Odiase’s description. However, there was no mention of the woman’s testimony in the version of the police report that was presented to Steven Odiase’s defense attorney. For more on the mystery of this altered police report, we speak with Jonathan Edelstein, one of the lawyers who represented Steven Odiase, and with Jennifer Gonnerman, a staff writer for The New Yorker. Her most recent piece is titled "A Woman’s Quest to Prove Her Brother’s Innocence Leads to a Discovery."

  • In what may be the single largest dismissal of wrongful convictions in U.S. history, Massachusetts prosecutors announced Tuesday they would throw out 21,587 criminal drug cases. The cases were all prosecuted based on evidence or testimony supplied by a former state chemist who admitted to faking tests and identifying evidence as illegal narcotics without even testing it. The chemist, Annie Dookhan, pleaded guilty in 2013 to tampering with evidence during her nine years working at a state crime lab in Boston. During that time, thousands of people were convicted based on her false statements. For more, we speak with Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, and Mallory Hanora of the group Families for Justice as Healing.

  • Among the tens of thousands of people whose lives have been affected by the massive evidence testing scandal in Massachusetts, where chemist Annie Dookhan has admitted to falsely claiming evidence was illegal narcotics before even testing it, was Timothy Taylor. He was arrested in 2009 and went on to serve five years in prison on drug trafficking charges. Annie Dookhan handled the evidence in his case. For more, we speak with Timothy Taylor.

  • We discuss the demands of hundreds of undocumented immigrants who are on hunger strike at the for-profit Northwest Detention Center.

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