[The 90’s raw: Mount Pleasant riot – Alexa Freeman interview]

Raw footage shot for the award-winning series The 90's. This tape features footage of Rev. Jesse Jackson on the streets of Washington, D.C. during the May 1991 Washington D.C. riot, also called the Mount Pleasant riot. It is followed by an interview with lawyer Alexa Freeman of the ACLU National Prison Project about incarcerated women.

00:00Copy video clip URL Footage continues from tape 10926. B-roll of Rev. Jesse Jackson on a neighborhood street in Washington, DC, talking with crowds of followers. Video signal is damaged at the top of the screen. Audio is indistinguishable.

01:50Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Jackson is surrounded by crowds, media. Various street scenes. Units of police officers in riot gear form at one end of a street. Crowds of people are everywhere.

02:45Copy video clip URL A man talks on a mobile phone saying that a curfew has gone into effect and if someone is stopped and can’t prove they live in the neighborhood they will be arrested. Police units are in the street in riot gear. Many citizens walk the streets calmly. Police stand and wait. A man talks on a car phone. A helicopter is heard above. A police motorcade drives through. Many police officers in riot gear stand and wait. Groups of citizens stand by.

06:25Copy video clip URL Three men talk with a police officer. The man is trying to get to his home. He has his driver’s license out trying to prove he lives in the neighborhood. Apparently he can’t get onto the street on which he lives.

08:00Copy video clip URL A man talks on a mobile phone while carrying a gas mask. Crowds of citizens, news crews, and police units mill about. Lots of video and audio drop outs. Various street scenes of people milling about, waiting, news crews run back and forth, citizens in cars who can’t move forward. Citizens talking to police trying to prove they live in the neighborhood.

11:00Copy video clip URL From the back of a police car, a police officer speaks Spanish into a loud speaker addressing the public.

11:47Copy video clip URL Police announce to crowds that a curfew has been declared in the area and they need to vacate he area and go home or be arrested. The notice is repeated in Spanish. Various b-roll of police on the streets. The police motorcade continues down the street announcing the curfew. B-roll of citizens watching from doorways and sidewalks.

14:00Copy video clip URL News crews communicate with one another via walkie talkie: one team member on the street, another up high in a balcony of a building.

15:10Copy video clip URL The videographer conceals his camera with a cover that makes the image completely black. Only the audio of street noise, muffled voices talking, helicopter, cards, footsteps, and rustling of clothes remains.

26:53Copy video clip URL Suddenly, the image re-appears in mid-sentence of a Alexa Freeman of the ACLU National Prison Project being interviewed in an office. She notes that woman are the fastest growing group in prisons, though they are still a minority in prisons. The question is why are women increasingly being sent to prison. She thinks one answer is that judges are trying to do some equal opportunity sentencing. Video quality is poor.

30:13Copy video clip URL She notes eighty per cent of women in prison are mothers. Seventy per cent are single parents and their kids get farmed out to other family members and bounced around. They are the real victims.

32:12Copy video clip URL She notes many women are in prison due to drug or alcohol problems. Black and Hispanic women are disproportionately represented as are poor women. In terms of violent crime offenders, she notes, one thing that stands out are the number of women incarcerated for serving as accomplice to a male offender. Another category of women in prison are those who are abused and fought back.

33:59Copy video clip URL Freeman notes that the US incarcerates at a rate greater than any other country. “You can’t build your way out of this problem.” Prisons are over crowded. She suggests the only way to deal with the issue is to find alternative solutions to prisons. She argues that incarceration itself is not effective in reducing crime.

35:49Copy video clip URL Freeman comments that people in prison have constitutional rights. Under the 8th Amendment they have the right not to be subjected to cruel punishment by the State. “Cruel” is defined as something that shocks the consciousness. If conditions are so shocking that the courts can’t stomach what they see, then the 8th Amendment has been violated.

38:10Copy video clip URL Freeman adds that overcrowding is a big issue and that prison systems suffer inadequate medical care, and sanitary needs. People sleeping on the floor helps breed disease. The problems overcrowding create lead to constitutional violations.

39:36Copy video clip URL Freeman refuses to comment on the psychological effects of overcrowding.

40:36Copy video clip URL When asked what the ideal prison system would look like, Freeman refuses to answer on the grounds that she is not an expert on that subject. Her personal view is that prisons should be abolished.

41:28Copy video clip URL Freeman says she’d like to talk about the issues that affect women in prison. She notes that women’s health needs are neglected. Women enter prison pregnant or in postpartum and in need of care. Some women get pregnant in prison. They don’t have adequate care and are sometimes shackled while in child birth.

43:43Copy video clip URL She explains the WIC program: Women, Infants, and Children food and nutrition service. It provides dietary supplements to women in prison.

46:50Copy video clip URL Freeman adds that substance abuse is a problem for women in prison. When prisons are financially strapped, treatment programs go away. If women could get care for their habit they could lead productive lives. She notes that many women are obese. The diets in prison meals are full of fat and no nutrients. She says also that depression among women in prison is a real medical problem.

48:30Copy video clip URL Freeman says that another problem for incarcerated women is HIV. More women then men in prison are HIV positive and they don’t have adequate medical care.

49:42Copy video clip URL She says in California there is a mother-infant program for low risk women prisoners. This allows women offenders to leave prison, raise their infant children, get treatment and vocational training. Women in this program show a recidivism rate of twenty percent less than others. They are not going back to prison. They are reformed.

53:00Copy video clip URL Freeman notes that she is a lawyer and she represents women in prison in various parts of the US. Her front line experience has primarily been in Idaho and Montana though her office litigates on behalf of women across the US. Many of the cases are system-wide. Many of her cases relate to the fact that women prisoners do not receive equal treatment to their male counterparts. Their first case was won in 1983, but the Department of Corrections did not comply with what they said they were going to do to give women equal protection rights. The woman’s firm filed another law suit stating that the department was not in compliance. She says they recently settled that suit and that this second law suit will bring improvement to the women prisons.

56:31Copy video clip URL She says that her view is that the majority of women in prison don’t need to be incarcerated. She believes the solution is to find other ways to reform and, essentially, have a social and economic revolution.

58:00Copy video clip URL She talks about what it’s like going into a prison and that for her there’s an extra emotion going into a woman’s prison. She feel can extra level of empathy and connection for her client. “If it weren’t for my luck in getting an education I could be there too.”

59:30Copy video clip URL Freeman notes that everyone in her circle has committed some kind of crime at some point, but if you’re of color or of a certain social class you’re more likely to end up in prison. They’re not that different from anyone else, she says, they just don’t have access to resources.

01:01:16Copy video clip URL Freeman offers a note to the video editor that any time she says on tape that she doesn’t want to talk about something then don’t edit it in the show or she will be angry.

01:01:49Copy video clip URL She says that as a lawyer it takes a while to see results. She notes the case in Idaho she was just talking about is one that she didn’t file, another lawyer in her office filed it. “I’m the third lawyer on the case.” She’s told the lawyer who worked on it before her about the decision because she knew the woman would want to know about it. “I hope  that when I leave [the ACLU] someone will call me and tell me that a case I started has had something good come of it.” She tells of a case she had in Alabama representing women with HIV. It was one of the most excruciating cases of her career. She spend two years actively litigating the case, traveling back and forth to Alabama every week and coming home only for the weekends. It was a hard case because her clients were dying from lack of adequate medical care.

01:06:05Copy video clip URL She notes that she may not be with the ACLU when that case comes down and they have a victory.

01:06:44Copy video clip URL Freeman notes that the US President [George H.W. Bush] is ignorant about prisoner issues. “We treat animals better than we treat human beings in this country.”

01:08:11Copy video clip URL The interview ends. Freeman and the videographer chit chat.

01:08:33Copy video clip URL END

 

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