Sunday, July 8, 2012

Solitary Confinement, Video Visiting, and Ward 6

The Post published its own editorial against solitary confinement yesterday and published a letter to the editor further criticizing the practice today. Both document the grave consequences of solitary confinement on individuals and on society. Here in DC, WPFW has an interesting radio show called "Crossroads," which talks about prisons and criminal justice more generally from the perspective of the formerly incarcerated. The perspective on this show is quite unique. I have taken sections from a show on "video visiting," which is replacing in-person visits to prisoners mediated by phones and plexiglass with off-site visits mediated by video. The show very critically discusses this new system at the DC Jail and elsewhere in the country because it makes it difficult for families to maintain a connection with their relative who is in jail/prison and to keep an eye on their relative's health and mental states. The show also turns to solitary confinement. The perspective from prisoners' family members who call in and from the formerly incarcerated is quite illuminating. Below is one section from this show and then a much shorter clip from the same show in which the radio program host gives his personal view:





A more recent "Crossroads" show discussed the Visitors' Services Center, located right here in Ward 6 on 1422 Massachusetts Avenue SE. They provide help to prisoners and their families, in a wide variety of ways, including:
Bedtime Stories for Children

Call on us to have a bedtime story recorded for your children. We provide the recorder, the tape and a selection of books to the inmate mom or dad - or your can supply your favorite story to us to be read. The story will be sent to you immediately after it is recorded.
They are looking for further help from locals. How many Ward 6 residents are or have been in jail/prison? What are their and their families' concerns? How might their concerns differ from those who have had little personal connection with the prison system?

P.S. The radio show on video visiting mentioned the following book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander. I talk about her book in my new post "The Impossible Debts of Inmates."

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