[The 90’s raw: prison reform]

Raw footage shot for the award-winning TV series The 90's. Eddie Tape #63. Interview with Charlie Sullivan, Washington, DC, lobbyist. Followed by an interview with an unidentified man on prisons and prison reform at the National Zoo, Washington, DC.

00:00Copy video clip URL B-roll going down a steel and cinder block staircase of an apartment building.

00:12Copy video clip URL Charles Sullivan exits the building in a suit and tie and a helmet, carrying a bike. The videographer asks about a blue card dangling around his neck. He says its his lobbyist ID card that allows him to get into the Capitol Building. When asked about his unusual helmet, Sullivan says it’s an old construction helmet he found in the street. He uses it because he generally keeps the helmet with the bike when it’s parked, and he figures if it was fancy it would be stolen. The same with his bike.

01:23Copy video clip URL B-roll of Sullivan riding his bike down an urban residential street. The videographer follows on his own bicycle.

03:45Copy video clip URL As he rides, Sullivan notes he used to carry a briefcase but one time it fell off his bike and he never found it. Now he uses a back pack.

04:50Copy video clip URL Sullivan notes that the key to lobbying is having a lot of contacts, and letting people know that you’re around and that they know what your cause is. He says when people see him or his wife, Pauline, he wants them to think of prison reform, his main issue. Continued b-roll of Sullivan biking to the Capitol Building.  He says the most frustrating part of the job is that prison reform seems to be the lowest issue on the political agenda.

08:11Copy video clip URL Sullivan notes that despite all the rules at the Capitol Building people can still ride right onto the grounds on their bicycles. But you can’t do that in a car. He rides into the Capitol Building property. He rides straight up to the Capitol Building and notes that some dignitary is just arriving. A police officer asks for a staff ID and has them circle around the building.

10:45Copy video clip URL Around the side of the Capitol Building Sullivan notes that this is the best place to catch senators because they go back and forth between these two buildings when they are casting a vote. He says many lobbyists feel they have to throw elaborate parties in order to lobby a congressman, but for him all he needs is a half-hour of the person’s time. That’s why he simply goes to the spot the senator or congressman goes. “That’s what you do. You’re not catching them to talk small talk, you’re doing it when you need them.”

12:27Copy video clip URL Lots of video signal failure.

12:40Copy video clip URL Sullivan notes that they just passed Congressman Frank Wolf as proof to his point that members of Congress cross back and forth along this path throughout the day. The approach the Longworth Building and Sullivan notes that of the three House buildings this is the one where new congressmen start out because it’s the oldest building; the veteran representatives want offices in the newer buildings with bigger offices. They enter the building and go through security.

13:57Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Audio signal disappears.

14:11Copy video clip URL Audio signal returns. Sullivan is talking with Representative Charles Rangel about attending an upcoming hearing on drug treatment in prison. He notes as a lobbyist that’s what you do, instead of spending time tracking people down, you hang around and catch them as they walk. B-roll of people in a foyer waiting to board an elevator.

16:27Copy video clip URL They enter the elevator chit chatting about a new member of Congress who replaced someone who was killed.

16:50Copy video clip URL Video and audio signals deteriorate. B-roll of Sullivan walking through a corridor passing various offices. They continue talking about prison reform, but the deteriorating audio signal fades in and out. He enters an office. Video and audio signals deteriorate.

18:01Copy video clip URL Sullivan announces himself to Congressman Craig Washington’s executive assistant and asks for permission to let the videographer in. They begin their meeting talking about an upcoming convention, a proposed bill that would allow prisoners to request prison transfers to be closer to their families. Various audio and video signal drop outs. The assistant places a phone call to try and get Sullivan in to meet with Congressman Washington.

23:37Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/Re-start digitizing. Sullivan chit chats friendly with another office worker while the assistant is on the phone. The assistant announces the congressman will be out shortly.

25:50Copy video clip URL The executive assistant casually describes his role in the congressman’s office as they all walk to meet Congressman Craig Washington. They enter another office and meet with the congressman, chit chatting friendly.

27:32Copy video clip URL Sullivan and the congressman talk about an upcoming prison art exhibit, various update on the prison reform issue, upcoming bills.

29:55Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Continued meeting with Sullivan lobbying for Washington’s support on various bills and issues: prisoners being closer to their families, continuing to fight the good fight, the victories in prison reform to date, reallocating resources to find alternative forms of prison reform. Washington says that his interest is in finding the root cause of criminal activity and not simply spending money to build more prisons, focusing on education, social problems, and community-based corrections, meanwhile making present prison conditions livable. They note that their goal is to seek alternative means of reform and more effective rehabilitation.

36:58Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing.

38:09Copy video clip URL Sullivan notes that he and Congressman Washington have known one another since 1973, close to twenty years. He comments that back then, Washington was focused on aiding reform of juvenile delinquency.

38:28Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing.

39:18Copy video clip URL B-roll “Addiction is Slavery” poster. B-roll name plate on Congressman Washington’s office door. Sullivan recaps the meeting as he walks down a corridor. Video dips to black as the videographer adjust the camera’s aperture. Sullivan comments on his agenda for the rest of the day.

41:00Copy video clip URL B-roll name plate denoting the office of Congressman George Miller, California. They meet with Diane Shust, the congressman’s legislative councilwoman.

41:45Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Sullivan and Shust continue talking about WIC, a program that cares for women. She talks about the advancements in Massachusetts and Arizona and the hope she sees for the program in the future. They comment on the history of working together to lobby this issue and the struggle in gaining support in Congress. Shust notes she was surprised by not getting support from people she thought would like the idea.

46:46Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. The meeting continues about preventative services, child welfare. Sullivan notes a move is being carried out to give ex-prisoners the right to vote.

48:47Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Shust notes there are not many people willing to push these controversial issue of prison babies. It took a lot to educate people, but an article in the Washington Post favoring the idea of WIC turned the naysayers’ opinion. Sullivan says he knew a journalist at the Post and he and his wife, who is also a lobbyist, called the writer, who said that he helped get information about the issue to the editorial department. He adds that WIC is not a mandatory program for women and that they as lobbyists need to put pressure on the individual states to make the program a reality.

54:33Copy video clip URL The meeting ends. Sullivan, Shust and the videographer chit chat friendly about the PBS show “The 90’s.” Shust mentions the happenstance that led to her meeting Sullivan and his wife and how Sullivan’s wife’s groundwork to initiate discussion about the WIC program proved an important first step in getting the program where it is today. Sullivan notes how important tenacity is for a lobbyist. When asked what’s in this for the Congressman, Shust answers: “Good legislation, good policies, helping children and families.” She says she came here as a public defender aware of the difficulties. She notes that she has contributed to the passing of legislation that allows children of homeless families service in school meal programs. She notes that members of Congress aren’t necessarily experts on all the issues. You are constantly having to educate the members.

01:01:51Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Sullivan notes that it’s important for lobbyists to focus on one issue at a time so that the members of Congress can identify the person with that issue. “When they see me and my wife, they need to think ‘prison reform.'” He adds that his wife became “the prison baby lady” while lobbying for WIC. It’s what you have to do. The meeting ends and Sullivan and the videographer exit into the corridor.

01:03:54Copy video clip URL Videographer stops recording. Black tape.

01:03:57Copy video clip URL Change of location. A man and a woman are working in a secluded community garden in a heavily wooded area. An unidentified man with glasses overlooks the fenced garden and comments on what he sees. “The most productive area is the least organized.” When asked where he wants to begin, the man with glasses says, “Maybe this is where prisons began. That is, how do we control access to food?” He says that’s what prisons are really all about. You control the power if you control access to the tribe’s food supply. “You have the beginnings of a prison system, you can punish, banish, restrict. What begins as an individual way of protecting food becomes a collective organization of protection against outsiders who won’t play by the rules.”

01:09:20Copy video clip URL The man notes that people built these fences around the garden because it’s the best way they know to protect their crops. It’s the same with society and prisons. He argues that society needs better choices for prison reform. He suggests that in a sense we’re making planet Earth a prison. “We pat ourselves on the back for our technology we advance, which at the same time is destroying the planet we depend on.” He points out that we put people in prison to make society feel safe from crime, but the crimes still continue. Prisons don’t protect and they don’t rehabilitate, they just create the need for more prisons. He talks about how society imprisons itself by allowing one group or country to remain rich while others are imprisoned by poverty.

01:16:21Copy video clip URL Change of location. The unidentified man with glasses walks through the National Zoo in Washington, DC. B-roll of the man wandering through a crowd looking at three seals working with a trainer. B-roll of the crowd watching, the man, and the seals performing tricks.

01:21:04Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. Stop/re-start digitizing. Continued b-roll of the seals performing and the crowd watching.

01:22:10Copy video clip URL The unidentified man notes that the crowd sees the spectacle but doesn’t see the connection between man in prison and animals in imprisoned in a zoo.

01:22:50Copy video clip URL They continue walking through the zoo stopping to observe a wolf in a natural habitat cage. The man notes that the wolf’s pacing is akin to how a man paces in prison.

01:24:02Copy video clip URL The man notes that the modern trend in zoos is to make the cages resemble the animals’ natural habitat. Yet we do the opposite in human prisons. Various b-roll of other exhibits. The man pontificates about endangered species and comments on the hypocrisy of how they are endangered because of what man is doing to the environment and yet man carefully reconstructs their habitat to preserve what’s left of the thing they are destroying in the wild. The man admits to feeling conflicted. He has friends in prison and knows that he cannot do much to help them or others who are unnecessarily locked away. We either look away or we get involved. And if we get involved that means sharing some of the knowledge and some of the suffering. “I can’t ignore what I know and I can’t be satisfied with what I understand about changing it. What do you offer as an alternative to this that makes sense?”

01:29:25Copy video clip URL Video signal loss. Stop/re-start digitizing. The man considers what it would be like if a zoo imprisoned a murderer with his victim, a thief with her petty goods, a person locked up in a pointless institution with a silly smile on her face. We’d be entertained because it’s not us. But we can’t do that with human beings. Now that prisons cost too much we need to figure out a way to control people with electronic devices. He says that when an animal steals our food we don’t blame it, but when a poor person steals food we find him guilty and that makes it okay to lock him away.

01:31:30Copy video clip URL The unidentified man continues walking through the zoo past various outdoor exhibits. He stops at a bald eagle in an outdoor cage.

01:33:15Copy video clip URL The man enters the Bird House and walks around.

01:34:08Copy video clip URL The man and the videographer enter the Great Ape House. The man quips, “I have relatives in here.” Various b-roll of the apes, orangutans, gorillas, the human crowds watching, and the man.

01:38:44Copy video clip URL Two orangutans play together.

01:44:00Copy video clip URL B-roll, exterior of the Ape exhibit. The man and the videographer continue watching the orangutans.

01:44:40Copy video clip URL Video signal loss. Stop/re-start digitizing. One orangutan a blanket like a robe and climbs to the highest point of a jungle gym carrying a piece of PVC pipe. The man laughs that it makes the orangutan look like he’s got status, playing King or the High Priest.

01:48:23Copy video clip URL END



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