Today we welcome artist Nadira Simone, who wrote the breath-stealing new play The Killing of Kings. The drama weaves a tapestry of Black families in America dealing with mass incarceration and police brutality, grappling with Black Lives Matter, and surviving racism. Simone achieves this by homing in on the King family, as patriarch Patrick King returns home from a second stint in prison. But what kind of life awaits Patrick King now that he is out?
We dig into the struggles of transitioning out of incarceration. Experts Anthony Dixon of the Parole Preparation Project and Esther Matthews of Gonzaga University rewind to the conditions that lead to imprisonment and recidivism—the tendency of a formerly incarcerated person to become reincarcerated. We learn why words like “re-entry,” “rehabilitation,” and “reintegration” are inaccurate and counter-productive and reset terminology to use the word “transition.” Simone, Dixon, Matthews, and host Ruthie Fierberg discuss possible reforms inside prisons to transform residents and how we as the receiving communities can facilitate the transition for people who get out to become integrated members of society.
Create the change
- Watch The Prison Within
- Question your own biases about incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons
- Approach all people with compassion and humanity
- Advocate for prisons that help people change; not just lockup
- Support the use of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and peer support in prisons
- Find short-term, medium-term, and long-term proposals from Brookings Institute
- If you are an employer, consider “banning the box” – raise the bar for disqualification of employment
- If you are a landlord, raise the bar for disqualification of rentals
- Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Go to Brennan Center’s “End Mass Incarceration” > Click on an “Issue” > Click “Work & Resources” > Read “Policy Solutions” > Advocate for these, Vote for representatives who include these in their platforms
- Support and amplify the “Reverse Mass Incarceration Act”
- Read “A Federal Agenda to Reduce Mass Incarceration”
- What to look for in activists and candidates
- Improve physical conditions in prisons (the jurisdiction of each state’s Department of Corrections)
- Support Last Prisoner Project, reach out to them if you are in need
- Learn about HOPE for Prisoners
- Donate to Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
- Learn more about the War on Drugs and the number of people imprisoned for non-violent crimes (ACLU, AP, Brennan Center)
Referred to in this episode
- Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, where Anthony spent time in his childhood
- Goshen Annex
- The War on Drugs and its effect on the Black community
- The Prison Within documentary
- Washington Post article by Esther Matthews
- 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the U.S., 40 % no public safety reason (Brennan Center stats)
- DOC: Department of Corrections
- Data on obstacles to transition (housing, employment, etc.)
- Reuben Miller’s book Halfway Home
- Megan Kurlycheck research (specifically Comparing the Distributional Properties of Arrest Risk Across Populations of Provisional Employees With and Without a Criminal Record)
- What is “Ban the Box”?
Ruthie Fierberg, Host
Nadira Simone, playwright
Nadira was raised in Brentwood, New York. She is a playwright, poet, and graphic artist. She has studied film and theatre at Cornell University. Nadira was a 2016 Top 10 finalist Warner Bros./HBO Chase Your Dreams Filmmaker Competition, a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference 2018, and an Advanced Playwright at the National Theater Institute Spring 2020.
Anthony Dixon, Director of Community Engagement, Parole Preparation Project
For the past three decades Anthony Dixon has helped secure the release of people serving long sentences in New York State. He has prepared people for their transitions home from prison, and supported them in the months and years after their release. His critical advocacy work includes pushing key policy reforms and building strategic partnerships. As an activist and organizer, Anthony is also a prominent national speaker on issues of long and life sentences. While in prison, Anthony received commendations for developing an anti-violence program, Breaking Free from Criminal Thinking, and a therapeutic anti-drug program called ASAP Life Areas. The former has had a zero percent recidivism rate in the last seven years. For his extraordinary efforts on behalf of marginalized groups, Anthony was issued the 2015 RISE Award by the Community Minded Organization. He is also a recipient of the 2018 Freedom Fighter Award issued by Citizens Against Recidivism. He is also a National Lawyers Guild distinguished scholar. Anthony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. She was also selected as the 2020-2021 Neil and Ann Kerwin Doctoral Fellow.
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