The 90’s, episode 310: Prisoners: Rights And Wrongs

Episode 310 of the award winning series, The 90's. This episode is called "PRISONERS: RIGHTS AND WRONGS" and features the following segments:

00:21Copy video clip URL Cold open: A man describes the effects of incarceration: “Every time you go back out and come back in, it takes a piece of your mind with you.”

00:39Copy video clip URL The 90’s opening.

01:24Copy video clip URL “Norval Morris” by Kathie Robertson. University of Chicago law professor and criminologist, Norval Morris, comments on the disproportionately high incarceration rate in the United States and the implications that has about racial equality. He notes that England has about 98 prisoners per 100,000 people; Canada has 107 and the US has 426 – almost 4 times as many! He also points out that there are more blacks in prison in the US than there are in South Africa.

1:55Copy video clip URL “22 Cents An Hour” by Kiro-TV / Jesse Wineberry and Michael King. From Walla Walla State Penitentiary where he is serving a life sentence for murder, Alvin Paul Mitchell describes his incentives for joining a gang at ten years old. Tormented daily by gang members, he decided he had to join one of them for protection, rather than continue getting beaten up every time he went outside. His initiation consisted of killing a person of his choice, gang member or not.

05:01Copy video clip URL “Professor William King” by Jimmy Sternfield. The University of Colorado professor says, “When there are 23,000 murders in this country a year, it is time to reconceptualize murder as a public health issue, rather than a criminal issue. Treating it as a criminal issue puts us in the position of always RE-acting when there are murders.” King feels that if we were to look at the issue as one of public health, we would be able to treat the systematic problems that lead to murders and thus prevent them, rather than simply punishing the end result of those systems .

06:45Copy video clip URL “Nevada State Prison” by John Slagle. An inmate discusses the ways he feels that the criminal justice system goes wrong. In his opinion, most prisoners are in jail because they weren’t reached at a young age and set on the right track. Instead, the system just waits until they commit a crime. “These penitentiaries were built because those people out there were not doing their job when we were comin’ up… There’s a lot of people here that can’t read or write – 33 years old and can’t read or write! Whose fault is that?” The community needs to grab kids off the street and give them something to believe in.

08:18Copy video clip URL “Project Inside Out” by Steven Ivcich and Fred Marx. An intimate look at a therapeutic workshop at Chicago’s Cook County Jail. A group of prisoners describe the issues they struggle with in prison, such as pain, loneliness, regret, etc. in front of a large audience of inmates. Afterwards, they conduct a symbolic ceremony where they write down these problems on pieces of paper and deposit them in a large pot. This vessel is set afire, in a gesture showing the participants are letting go of these painful feelings.

11:57Copy video clip URL “Clarence Lusane” by Eddie Becker. The author of “Pipe Dream Blues” says, “The incarceration of young black people has reached such high proportions that we are witnessing an entire generation wiped out.” Lusane compares the situation in the U.S. to other countries that have been criticized for human rights abuses. Despite our feeling of m oral superiority, we actually have higher incarceration rates than these countries. He suggests that this indicates that America is using jail in the place of social services.

13:14Copy video clip URL “Giang Ho: Crazy Life” by Ahrin Mishan and Nick Rothenberg. Black and white fictional film. A young Vietnamese man describes his experience immigrating to the United States as a teenager. Soon after his arrival, it became apparent to him that white Americans were not accepting him. He joined a gang for protection and landed in prison. He recounts his regrets in voice over as relevant images show on the screen. “I have to listen to the same stupid shit day after day after day.”

14:52Copy video clip URL “It’s About Time” by Joe Balter. An impressionistic view of life in prison set to Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine.”

16:33Copy video clip URL “Barbra Franklin” by Jeanne Finley. Barbara Franklin, a prisoner at Carson City, NV for the last ten years, describes how she ended up in prison and her trouble adjusting to life in an institution. “I had a hard time with the establishment… the cops.” She was able to make it through that rough time because of the kindness of her fellow inmates, who have since become close friends. “These women took care of me like maybe nobody did before… It’s sad you have to come here to feel that kind of love.” She is scheduled to be released soon, and is very apprehensive about losing the relationships she has forged over the last ten years. “Some of my friends, they’re doin’ life… I don’t have any friends out there.” She reads a poem she wrote for her friends in prison called “How do I leave my sisters?”

20:46Copy video clip URL “Alexa Freeman commentary” by Eddie Becker. Freeman, an attorney with the ACLU, says that the majority of women in prison don’t need to be there. “I think our policy of incarceration is insane. As a result of this policy we’re training people to do nothing except go back to the same pattern.” Speaking candidly, she admits that the only solution in her mind is social and economic revolution, which will put women on equal grounds with men.

21:45Copy video clip URL “Mumia Abu Jamal” by John Schwartz, Annie Goldson, Chris Bratton and Lamar Williams. An investigation into the incarceration of Black Panther co-founder Mumia Abu Jamal. Jamal was convicted of killing two policemen during a 1968 demonstration in South Philadelphia protesting a visit by Alabama Governor George Wallace. Despite his conviction, many people feel that Jamal was the victim of a corrupt judicial system. An attorney for the Partisan Defense Committee says there is no physical evidence tying Jamal to the crime. “His case is symbolic of the race bias and the class bias that is inherent in the judicial system.”

25:24Copy video clip URL “Super Maximum Security” by Bob Hercules and Rich Pooler. A visit to Marion Federal Prison in Marion, Illinois. Warden John C. Clark explains that Marion Prison helps to preserve order in the rest of t he prison system by taking the most disruptive inmates from other prisons and holding them under tight security. In contrast, the inmates interviewed seem quite benign and mostly complain about oppressive boredom and a feeling of uselessness. One inmate says, “It’s not what it used to be – the types of prisoners have changed, they say it’s dangerous – how many have tried to escape? I’d say the biggest thing about this place is the reputation – real overrated.” Despite the warden’s claims that they have no political prisoners at Marion, all of the men interviewed claim to be in this high security prison because of political activities.

30:58Copy video clip URL “The New Lake County Jail” by Jim McCarthy and Steve Martini. A peek at the new Lake County Jail. While on kitchen duty making french fries, an inmate says he likes the new prison better because the guards are more in control. “If you respect the guards, they respect you back.” This makes the prison safer and less hostile, compared to the old prison, where the inmates were in control. At the old Lake County Jail, a guard gives us a tour of the empty cells. He tells of one inmate who was so dangerous, he had to have his food pushed in to his cell from far away so he wouldn’t attack the guard through the bars.

33:13Copy video clip URL “Jeanne McKinnis” by Jeanne Finley. McKinnis, a female inmate at Carson City, NV, gives a tour of the “kitchen, vanity, and bathroom area” of her shared cell. Unlike stereotypical male jail cells, hers looks like a regular woman’s bedroom, filled with accessories and photographs. She shows us how she’s learned to cook all sorts of meals in one hot pot. “When I get out, I no longer need a stove… I can cook a pot roast in here!”

34:38Copy video clip URL More from Norval Morris. The University of Chicago criminologist says any intelligent citizen, given a map of their city, can easily point out the high crime areas. “It isn’t that we don’t know – we do know. It’s what to do about it.” We need to work on health, welfare, unemployment, etc, in these areas in order to reduce crime. “It’s not an excuse for people committing a crime; I just think we need a reasonable assessment of what the problem is.”

36:01Copy video clip URL “We Love You Eric” by Kathie Robertson. Young black males incarcerated in Cook County Jail attending a special class led by Chuck Rankin, a teacher at the prison. He urges the inmates to “have purpose in [their] lives.” One inmate, Eric, says he was wild. The group circle around Eric and tell him “you can make it; be positive; we love you Eric; we love you brother.”

41:03Copy video clip URL “Jefftown” by Missouri Department of Corrections. Inmates in a Jefferson City, Missouri prison learn how to use a camera, sound and editing equipment to make TV for other inmates. Members of the video crew say they feel like a family, all living and working together. Some of the “viewer inmates” say “TV is my life support system… without TV I don’t think I can maintain my sanity” and “I can go around the world in my cell through TV.”

44:39Copy video clip URL More from “Norval Morris.” Morris tells us that while the crime rate has remained stable for the past decade, incarceration rates have doubled.

45:21Copy video clip URL “John Daleb” by Candid Video / Garth Bacon. 21-year-old ex-inmate says its time to grow up and lead a better life. He started working for the town and got himself a house. He says, “I’ve done something for myself since I’ve been out these past four months. “He feels prison is non-rehabilitative, violates constitutional rights and describes the way “life prisoners” are put together with prisoners just waiting to be transferred to other states.  “Do you think they care what they’re doing to you? They’re doing life… What does it matter to them?”

48:56Copy video clip URL More from “Alexa Freeman.” ACLU attorney says whatever gains were made to make prisons in the ’70s and ’80s in line with constitutional provisions have been eroded by the overcrowding problem. “The public is willing to give the money to build prisons but not for rehabilitation of prisoners… incarceration is not effective in stopping crime.”

49:46Copy video clip URL “Prison Art” by Stephen Tyler and Neil Alexander. Sheriff Charles Foti of Orleans Parish and his art program for prisoners. The inmates beautify the city with their murals. one in particular on the Vietnam War. He describes the program as “symbolic restitution… attempting to give something back to the community so the community feels more at peace.”

53:16Copy video clip URL More from “Super Maximum Security.” Oscar Lopez Rivera, prisoner at Marion for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the governments of the US and Puerto Rico, says the prison system in this country is very difficult to understand unless you are in it. “The level of dehumanization is great and getting worse. Prisoners are not given the tools to be productive in society once they are out.”

55:21Copy video clip URL “Inside a Cell” by Bob Hercules. Prisoners’ eye view of a cell in Marion. The doors open to let the cameraman out.

56:27Copy video clip URL End Credits.

 

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