BONUS: THE KILLING OF KINGS continued with Esther Matthews

In This Episode

Building upon last week’s episode “THE KILLING OF KINGS and the Transition of Incarcerated Persons From Prison,” host Ruthie Fierberg speaks one-on-one with expert Esther Matthews, PhD, about the practical steps to take to achieve the prison and transition reforms we spoke about in our main episode.

As a professor of sociology and criminology with research expertise in re-entry solutions for formerly incarcerated people, Esther answers questions in four key areas: 1. Physical safety inside prisons, 2. Shifting prisons towards transformation and away from retribution, 3. Holding your Department of Corrections (DOC) accountable, and 4. Anti-Discrimination for transitioned citizens. 

Create the Change:

  • Physical safety inside prisons 
  • Examine and lessen frequency of strip searches
  • Make strip searches more private 
  • Expand training for personnel who perform strip searches to require humane treatment
  • Counseling and education—not punishment
  • Shift your ideology to see inmates as people
  • Amend training of correctional staff so that safety of the people inside (not the institution) is their protective priority
  • Minimize force 
  • Reach out to head of Department of Corrections—usually called the Secretary—or reach out to the Governor (who appoints the Secretary)
  • Reach out to state legislators
  • Find your federal and local representatives
  • Hold the Department of Corrections and Bureau of Prisons accountable
  • Through Secretary of DOC, who oversees DOC policies
  • Reach out to superintendent or warden of local prison for implementation of those policies
  • Know your Governor/gubernatorial candidates’ position as they appoint the head of the DOC
  • Department of Justice appoints head of BOP policy in federal facilities
  • Reach out to your U.S. Senator for federal facility concerns and state legislators for state facility concerns
  • Anti-Discrimination Work
  • Tighten policies: Reach out to state and local legislators because they implement laws like Ban-the-Box and state and federal agencies who enforce those laws
  • Enforce laws that are already on the books (i.e. Ban-the-box)
  • Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you have been the victim of discrimination
  • Move burden of proof to employer and landlord when trying to deny a job or housing (rather than burdening the person with the record to prove worthy) 

Referred to in this episode

About Our Guests:

Ruthie Fierberg, Host 

IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater

Esther Matthews, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminology, Gonzaga University

Esther earned her PhD in the Justice, Law and Criminology program from American University. She holds a Master of Science in Justice, Law and Criminology from American University, and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Oregon State University. Her research focuses on identifying and investigating successful re-entry solutions for returning citizens. She has a particular interest in how race, gender, poverty and mental health intersect, are criminalized and affect reentry efforts. Her research projects include: 1) a field experiment testing outcomes of ban-the-box policies, 2) detection of implicit bias against justice-involved individuals and determining if, and how, it can be altered, 3) ethnographic inquiry of restricted housing units and reentry programs in two Northeastern prisons and 4) qualitative examination of employment programs for returning citizens in the DC area. Esther has been published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation and has two book chapters scheduled for publication in the Routledge Handbook on American Prisons and Prisons and Community Corrections: Critical Issues and Emerging Controversies.

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