It’s an optimistic headline: “Prison Rape: Obama’s Program to Stop It”. It leads into a comprehensive New York Review of Books article on three recently released Federal government publications. Two of these documents examine sexual abuse in the nation’s detention centers while the other outlines the Department of Justice’s regulations for eliminating prison rape. All three aim to address the appalling number of people—young and old, female and male, citizen and those awaiting…Continue
Added by David Chura on January 25, 2013 at 11:09am — No Comments
Just Detention International has started a holiday card campaign for survivors of sexual abuse behind bars. They ask you to write a very short message of hope which they will then send to a survivor. Please consider participating. Such a simple gift, but a powerful one.
Added by David Chura on December 6, 2012 at 3:13pm — No Comments
When most Americans hear the familiar constitutional phrase “cruel and unusual punishment” they can tell you what it means, at least to them. Hanging. Flogging. Chopping a hand off. Chain gangs.
Putting juvenile offenders in solitary confinement is high on my list of “cruel and unusual punishment.” What else do you call locking up fifteen, sixteen year olds, some even younger, in total isolation for 24 hours a day, in some cases for months at a time, never leaving their…Continue
“You don’t care about the victims. All you care about are those kids.”
It was a comment I’ve heard in one form or another at book events, at juvenile justice talks I’ve given, or in response to pieces I’d written about our national policy of retribution towards troubled kids. I have to admit, though, this guy…Continue
I didn’t expect my talk to a class of criminal justice majors at a local community college to be any different from the other workshops, presentations and classes I’d done. The students had read my book for class. I figured I’d talk about the book, about my 10 years teaching high school kids locked up in an adult county jail, and about juvenile justice issues in general. The usual topics. But when I asked the students to go around and say what area of criminal justice they wanted to pursue,…Continue
Arizona’s legislature recently passed a law charging prison visitors a onetime $25 fee as a way to help close the state’s $1.6 billion budget deficit. Middle Ground Prison Reform, a prison advocacy group, challenged the law in court as a discriminatory tax, but a county judge upheld its constitutionality.
Fees like that, slapped on prisoners and their families, couldn’t be more…Continue
Added by David Chura on February 1, 2012 at 8:49am — No Comments
An Arizona court ruled that a fee charged to prison visitors is constitutional. Once again the burden is placed on poor families already struggling to keep their loved ones connected to a support system that study after study shows is essential for keeping ex-offenders out of jail. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the mean-spiritedness of our penal system and have to work hard to maintain my faith in people's goodness.
If anyone doubts that the young people locked up in our jails are children they should spend some time in one of those prisons around holiday time.
I did just that for the 10 years I taught high school students, some as young as fifteen, in an adult county jail, and every year it got tougher to deny the impact being locked up for the holidays had on these teens.
Jail’s a pretty isolating place. That’s one of the ideas. But in lockup they watched a lot of TV—that great purveyor…Continue
Added by David Chura on December 22, 2011 at 4:19pm — No Comments
The Christian Science Monitor did an interesting story on yoga and meditation in jails and its effects on violence, something that we are all pretty aware of, but I always find it heartening when stories like this appear in the mainline press. It's a great reminder to the general reader that people locked up in our national jails are people capable of change and demanding of respect.
Added by David Chura on December 14, 2011 at 5:00pm — No Comments
It was like a giant switchboard, the kind you see in 30s and 40s movies, a bevy of operators plugging in a crisscross of wires, taking calls, making connections, a cacophony of chatter.
That image came to me recently as I walked into the lobby of the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA. The only difference was that the conversations filling the hall were about the same thing: girls and young women in the juvenile justice system.
We were there—teachers, social workers, lawyers,…Continue
Added by David Chura on December 13, 2011 at 2:44pm — No Comments
There’s been some good news in the media lately for anyone who cares about kids and justice. Federal statistics show that the number of juvenile offenders in jail has dropped by at least 25%. Along those same lines, the New York Times recently reported that New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has called for moving most juvenile cases from criminal court to family…Continue
She was pretty upfront about it: she didn’t want me there.
“It’s not you personally,” Marge explained. “It’s the book.”
Marge was the moderator, researcher, engine, really, of a local reading group. She was good at what she did, I was told, and I believed it. She was pretty thorough at listing all the reasons why she didn’t want to read or recommend to the group my book I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup, about my ten years…Continue
In a six by eight foot jail cell there’s barely room for a bunk, a seatless toilet, and a postage-sized sink. The only other space you have in jail is in your head, and even that gets crowded with all the people you carry around in there who you resent for the things they did to you.
The world is pretty small when you’re locked up, especially if you’re a kid doing time with a healthy body that needs to move, energy sizzling through you like high tension wires, your emotions…Continue
Added by David Chura on September 6, 2011 at 9:51am — No Comments
by David Chura
Now that all the high school graduations are over and the backyard barbeques celebrated, I’m finally coming down from the contact high of all that youthful exuberance and optimism.
It’s easy to get swept up into those good feelings. But now as I move into summer’s quieter months, I can’t help thinking about the high school students I taught in a county penitentiary and what “commencement” meant for them.
Success never came easily to my students. Why…Continue
I’ve worked with “slow” learners all of my 26 years as a teacher. But nothing matches the lack of understanding, insight and plain common sense that many of our politicians and their constituents show when it comes to the treatment of ex-offenders, people who by the law of the land have served their time, paid their dues, made amends, learned their lesson, been punished—whatever language matches your view of justice.
I’m thinking about ex-offenders and voting rights. In many states…Continue
Added by David Chura on January 20, 2011 at 2:44pm — No Comments
The statistics are grim, but the reality behind those numbers is even grimmer for the many young people locked up in US adult prisons. Since publishing I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup, about my years teaching in a New York county jail, I spend a lot of time writing, talking and hearing from families, professionals, and the young people themselves about the failures of our child welfare and criminal justice…Continue
At the beginning of my ten years teaching teenagers in a county lockup, years I chronicle in I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup (Beacon
Press), I was always surprised, and yes, disappointed, when one of my students
Jail’s a sobering place no matter how tough you want to think you are. The deprivation, brutality,…Continue
Statewide test day and Damian was psyched. He didn’t sleep much the night before from worrying. Still, he was there on time, ready to go. Now he sat hunched over his desk, head down, lips moving as he read, his pen
carefully inching across the paper.
He was like any other kid in his grade taking the mandated English exam. The only difference was that he was locked up in an adult county jail in Westchester,…Continue
Sex and power -- forces rampant in our prison system, thwarted and twisted by the jail culture. Lock up large numbers of the same gender and the frustrated sexual energy is palpable.
Likewise, in jail everyone -- wardens, correctional officers, inmates -- wants
power, fights for it, manipulates for it, in a place where everyone is made…
Over any teacher’s career—in my case, 26 years of teaching high school English to at-risk teenagers, the last 10 of those years in an adult county jail—you get asked lots of questions. Some about the topic
you’re teaching; others, well, it’s hard to know where they come from.
But there’s one question I heard a lot, most frequently from my jail
students, “Why don’t you teach in a real school?”
This usually happened when a lesson went well and a kid…Continue
Added by David Chura on September 13, 2010 at 11:48am — No Comments