Most media coverage represents a story from different angles—the victim’s side of the story as well as the alleged offender; the behind-the-scenes view of the movie and the fan’s perspective; the president as seen from the public eye and the president’s family life presented from his own point of view. But there is one subject that does not get this double-sided media attention. The American prison system is consistently portrayed from an outsider’s point of view: the convicted go in, leaving the cameras at the door. Yet, some prisons are trying to remedy this flaw with prison newspapers, the only surefire way to bring the public news of the prison system from the inside to the outside.

A success story in prison newspapers was the Prison Legal News (PLN) of the McNeil Island Corrections Center in Pierce County, Washington. Up until the prison’s closing in April, 2011, it served all 50 states, as well as 23 countries, and boasted of a diverse subscriber base, including “Attorneys General, state-level Department of Corrections officials, wardens, attorneys, public defenders, appellate defenders, journalists, academics and paralegals”; one of the reasons being that it is not entirely inmate-run. The paper comes together through a collaboration of “volunteers, ex-cons, established journalists, and prison inmates.”

The paper represents legal issues on which each of these groups can voice an opinion. For the inmates, it is a welcome opportunity. The editor of PLN, Paul Wright, said “We tend to get a lot of support from other media because, for the most part, even elements of the corporate media still think a lot about the First Amendment and free speech.” For a system so successfully kept hidden, prison has the media starving for the slightest bit of attention.

Following suit is another successful attempt to bridge the gap between the human race and its outcasts: the San Quentin News of San Quentin State Prison. For California inmates, this paper has made a huge difference in not only serving their viewpoints to the public, but in being a positive reinforcement.

Harris, a 47-yr-old man serving 25 to life for attempted murder said of the paper, “Once we started printing the paper … you see this prison come to life in terms of cooperation, in terms of, hey, this is an opportunity to be able to tell the stories from your perspective and also allow the rest of the world to see what’s happening here.”

Another inmate, Tamboura, confirmed its popularity: “Other papers may be struggling for circulation. But not this one…When the paper’s handed out, “guys just run…They want the paper.”

As much as they are successes, prison newspapers are also met with a considerable amount of resistance. One obstacle is the nature of the life of an inmate. Unlike a proper business, prisons do not have the resources available to produce a newspaper.

 Paul Wright, the editor of Prison Legal News, underwent many difficulties as an inmate managing a newspaper.

“Though Wright still works on a typewriter (inmates are not allowed computers, E-Mail, or Internet access), he corresponds regularly with Fred Markham, the manager of PLN’s makeshift offices in Fremont, a Seattle neighborhood. Markham, a 63-year-old veteran of Washington and Texas prisons, oversees the subscriber database, circulation of the newspaper, and incoming phone calls, faxes and messages — essentially, handling any newspaper-related responsibilities that Wright can’t meet from behind bars.”

 In addition, some are still wary of letting the inmates have a voice, an attitude that has kept prisons the mysterious places that they are.

Lt. Rudy Luna, the San Quentin News program sponsor, said, “Some of the strongest criticism comes from correctional officers, who may be skeptical of the inmate reporters’ objectivity or just do not support providing this kind of outlet to convicted criminals.”

Yet, the pros far outweigh the cons.

“I think that a lot of prisoners realize that, unfortunately, this newspaper is our only voice.” said Wright,

With reach like that of PLN, it doesn’t matter who agrees or disagrees with the concept of prison news. The fact is that news is getting out—and it’s coming from the inmates. In California, San Quentin State Prison has made significant strides to promote this positive activity. The challenge now, is to pick up a copy of your local prisoner newspaper, and read.

Sources:

https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/(S(btx4sy45gw3czc55yl0sidic))/displayNews.aspx?newsid=6&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

http://www.thegrio.com/news/inmates-taking-up-journalism-with-prison-newspaper.php

http://www.doc.wa.gov/facilities/prison/micc/mcneilhistory.asp

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A 12-year-old boy in Staten Island, NY has been charged with a felony hate crime after he attacked a female, Muslim classmate and tried to rip off her hijab.

Osman Daramy was reportedly led off school grounds in handcuffs on Wednesday after he allegedly punched and kicked a young 13-year-old Muslim girl. After striking her, Daramy attempted to remove the girl’s hijab, or head covering, while some say he yelled, “Are you a Muslim?” He failed.

The New York Post caught the boy in handcuffs.

According to the New York Post, the girl suffered some bruises and a cut lip.

Daramy is apparently a regular hellion. Sources told the New York Daily News that this is the fourth time in recent months that he has targeted the young girl. Earlier in the week he got in trouble for cutting out a chunk of another girl’s hair. The Post elaborates:

On Monday, Osman raised hell in one class when he ran amok wielding scissors after using them to cruelly lop off a girl’s hair, sources said. But instead of being booted from school or arrested, Osman was merely “suspended in-house,” a teacher said.

Osman’s behavior is so problematic that officials at one point posted a school safety agent in front of that class just “so the teacher could teach,” a staffer said.

Two weeks ago, Osman was present when five other young punks at the school robbed a deliveryman who was dropping off pizza and soda at an after-school study program, insiders said.

The crooks demanded food and cash from the deliveryman before fleeing with just the food, authorities said. They were busted the next day.

“This child is a terror. He goes around terrorizing staff and students,” a teacher at the school told the Post.

The boy‘s mother condemned her son’s actions to the Post. “I know my son is a good boy. He’s a kid, he made a mistake. [But] it’s not right for him to bug anybody for their religion.”

The Department of Education told the Daily News that disciplinary action is pending. His case will be handled in family court because of his age.

Will Smith from Fresh Prince used to call Philadelphia the City of Brotherly Love. But is it really the City of Brotherly Love? How can it be such a city with so much crime. In 2007 the crime rates in Philly rose so high, so high that its nickname was “Kiladelphia.” In 2007, the murder rate was more than a murder a day. “88 % of the cities in the US are safer than Philly, which is a high percentage. Annually, there is a total of 20,902 violent crimes in Philadelphia (phillycrime.org) and 60,931 property crimes. So many of the crimes were cold blooded murders, rape crimes, robbery and assault.

Last week, April 20th, a man suspected of a string of Philadelphia robberies was murdered. Though unarmed, the man was shot in the Upper Darby region after a confrontation with the police. Aikee Holloman, 23, was shot after hours prior allegedly stealing two vehicles and holding up five people at a location. In speaking about the standoff, which occured at an ATM, the Upper Darby superintendent of police, Michael J. Chitwood said “His day was filled with violence and robbery, and ended with his subsequent death”.

The account reads that after three attempts to get Holloman to show his hands, he was shot by Upper Darby Officers Dave Snyder and Randy Desrosiers. However, a report also finds that when confronted that Holloman dropped to the floor and attempted to crawl behind the courter, where he was later shot. Now the Delaware County has begun investigations, while Snyder remains on desk duty and Desrosiers remains on active duty.
See CBS take and reporting of the story for more information.

The reality of the death penalty is one that continues to plague and hurt the American criminal justice system. This week in Philadelphia at the third US circuit court of appeals revealed the issues with capital punishment. The third circuit court found that the instructions for the sentencing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther party member and death row inmate, were unclear. However, the focus did not revolve around innocence or guilt, the case did focus on race and the death penalty.

The details of the prior case are the following:

  • December 9, 1981 Abu-Jamal’s was pulled over by Philadelphia officer Daniel Faulkner in his brother’s car William Cook
  • Shots were fired and both the officer and offender were shot; however, the officer died and later Abu-Jamal was found guilty of murder.

The issue later with this case was and is that the judge, Judge Albert Sabo, who presided was known to be an outright racist. In fact, in a court stenographer found that Sabo said, “ I’m going to help them fry that n***r.” Since then, there have been various investigations that have led to appeals and re-trial for Abu Jamal. Unanimously, the US Supreme Court did find that he did not receive a fair and just trial. Yet, Philadelphia District Attorney, Seth Williams has decided to appeal the decision, finding that, “the right thing for us to do is to ask the US Supreme court to hear this and to make a ruling on it.” Due to this newest ruling, Abu-Jamal may receive a new sentence, where he would most likely be moved from solitary confinement on death row.

One last interesting twist to this case has been Abu-Jamal’s past and present. As a journalist, the ex-black panther has found many of his rights denied the same as he would in the outside world. In one instance, Abu-Jamal called into a program to describe his own personal story; however, the phone was quickly removed, as were his rights. Nonetheless, he continues with journalism with radio weekly broadcasts and even lectures and speeches at universities through the prison. The case remains open and Mumia Abu-Jamal’s fate remains unclear. 

Check out this blog for more details and commentary on this major case.

Northeast Washington DC man, James Paylor, pleads guilty to killing a Southwest Washington DC man, Darrell Sheppard in November of 2007.

Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz sentenced Paylor, 20, to 14 years in prison after he plead guilty for the murder of Shappard, 24. The charge was voluntary manslaughter while being armed.

Sheppard was shot when walking home from a store in the 1500 block of First Street in Southwest DC. A video of the shooting was captured by police surveillance cameras. Based on the videos, prosecutors can draw the conclusion that the shooting was due to robbery carried out by Paylor.

Video evidence really seems to be the ultimate way to prove some one is guilty.

Jennifer Green is a 5 year veteran of the DC police department who was just ordered to resign from the force due to the fact that she pleaded guilty of 2nd degree burglary charges. She was arrested in March because the department’s internal affairs unit performed a sting operation. She now faces up to 5 years in prison. Green met up with an informant who was facing an impending assault case and told the informant of an apartment that had a large amount of cash and drugs (crack cocaine) stored in it. Green said that she had no use for the drugs but could use the money. On the night of the robbery, Green with the informant went to the apartment. Green used her police radio to monitor police activity. There was money that was planted in the apartment, and soap shavings to resemble the drugs. When Green and the informant left the apartment, Green ordered the informant to drive while she counted the money. The two arrived at Green’s apartment later that night where Green was arrested.