by Ben Adlin
More than two decades ago, Kimonti Carter was sentenced to 777 years in prison for his role in a devastating 1997 Tacoma drive-by shooting that left a college student dead. Since then, he’s become something of a role model — an example of how education and empathy can build bridges between traumatized groups and direct them toward common action.
From inside prison, Carter built a program within the Black Prisoners’ Caucus that teaches for-credit college courses to incarcerated people. Through an emphasis on shared humanity and empowerment through learning, the project has brought together prisoners of various backgrounds and identities, often shattering racial and ideological boundaries.
Carter is the uniting thread in the 2020 documentary Since I Been Down, which will be available to watch online later this month. The free screenings are being organized by a multifaith coalition initiated by the Blacks and Jews Building Beloved Community initiative, a Seattle-based project built in recent years to strengthen connections within and between Black and Jewish communities. The screenings will lead to a community conversation about criminal justice issues in Washington State, including calls to action around sentencing reform, prisoner reentry, prison debt, and housing justice. The organizers also hope the program will inspire people to get involved during the upcoming state legislative session.
Continue reading Multifaith Coalition Will Kick Off Conversation on Criminal Justice Reform With Documentary Screening
by Elizabeth Turnbull
Close to three decades after Oloth Insyxiengmay was incarcerated as a teenager, he has established himself as a youth advocate, while also fighting against the threat of his own deportation.
On Friday, Sept. 10, Insyxiengmay went in front of the Washington State Clemency and Pardons Board to petition for a pardon of his criminal convictions in order to diminish the risk of an order of deportation. Ultimately, the board voted against recommending that Gov. Jay Inslee pardon Insyxiengmay.
Prior to Friday’s hearing, over 60 individuals wrote letters in support of Insyxiengmay and over 350 people, including members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, joined a Zoom call on Thursday, Sept. 9, to advocate for his pardon.
Continue reading Community Shows Support as Local Activist Petitions for Pardon to Avoid Deportation
by Emma Hogan and Hannah Bolotin
One man currently looking at over a year in solitary confinement as he waits to start mandatory anger management programming writes: “Currently, they aren’t doing anything because no one knows this is going on and those who do don’t care.”
Over 200 individuals currently in solitary confinement in Washington State are being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment due to the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) severe mishandling of COVID-19 adjustments. Incarcerated individuals who receive violent infractions have historically been sent to solitary confinement for a year or less as they complete a required behavioral change class — though the DOC was already moving away from using solitary confinement in recent years as evidence builds that this practice increases future behavioral issues, induces trauma, and catalyzes existing or new mental health issues. However, during the pandemic, this issue has taken on a new level of what is widely considered torture: The DOC has responded to COVID-19 restrictions by keeping the same course completion requirements but cutting class sizes in half, resulting in waitlists for required courses over a year long. And as a result, the majority of these individuals are forced to spend extended periods of time in solitary confinement.
This blatant malpractice was detailed by one of the many individuals experiencing it — a man who is trapped in solitary and is expected to remain on the waitlist for at least 13 more months — in a letter to his mother that she has since circulated in an effort to spread his message.
Continue reading OPINION: Washington’s DOC Is Trapping Incarcerated Men in Solitary Confinement
by Paul Kiefer
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
Last Friday, Washington’s Office of Corrections Ombuds (OCO) released the final recommendations from a nearly two-year-long review of the State’s work release program that found an alarming pattern of retaliation and arbitrary discipline by contract staff at work release centers across the state.
Work release centers are housing facilities for people in DOC custody; residents stay for less than a year, transitioning back into normal life by working civilian jobs, visiting family members, and attending counseling sessions.
Since the State legislature created the OCO as the oversight agency for the State Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2018, the office has repeatedly investigated allegations about work release staffers responding to criticism or complaints by returning residents to prison for minor rule violations.
Continue reading Investigation of Work Release Centers Spurs Changes; Advocates Proceed with Caution
by Datyous Mahmoudian
As someone who has experienced incarceration, I see voting rights restoration as a mark of good government. It sent me the message that “I matter” instead of reinforcing the stigma and second-class citizenship that are often experienced when people like me reenter our communities.
The recent passage of House Bill 1078 by our state legislature has cultivated a strong wave of hope and optimism from current and formerly incarcerated communities and their allies in Washington State. This new law will give new opportunity to thousands of politically disenfranchised people who want to make their voices heard by casting a vote for those who create the laws that govern our lives.
Continue reading OPINION: Voting Rights Restoration Bill’s Passage Brings Hope to Our Formerly Incarcerated Communities
by Bunthay Cheam
A collection of proposed legislation working its way through the Washington State Legislature could substantially change sentencing of young offenders, as well as revise sentences for those currently incarcerated.
Continue reading Legislation Looks To Change Youth Sentencing, Offer Retroactive Relief
by Carolyn Bick
King County Jail’s downtown Seattle location has confirmed 16 new cases of COVID-19, according to a press release sent to reporters on the afternoon of Dec. 7.
The press release said that an inmate at the jail “reported flu-like symptoms” on Dec. 6. This person had been at the jail for more than a month, and initially tested negative, when they were first jailed, the press release said.
This means that this person caught the novel coronavirus and developed COVID-19, while they were in jail.
Continue reading BREAKING: 16 Inmates at King County Jail Test Positive for COVID-19
As Hurricane Florence smacks the Carolinas and mandatory evacuations go into effect, one group of people was not evacuated. Despite the flooding and winds speeding at 100 miles per hour, South Carolina prisoners remained in harm’s way. Prisoners at Ridgeland, MacDougall, and Lieber Correctional Institutions have been left behind, and, not surprising, this is not an isolated incident. In fact it’s a common procedure across the prison system. What makes it more insidious is that, when disasters happen, imprisoned bodies are locked in cells, meaning if something starts to go wrong there is nothing anyone can do to get to safety and protect their life.
Continue reading Locked Behind Flood Gates
by Erica C. Barnett
The story of the school-to-prison pipeline is a familiar one: Nationwide, young Black men in both public and private schools are more likely than their White counterparts to be disciplined, tracked into special education classes, and suspended for the same infractions, contributing to higher dropout rates and subsequent incarceration. Seattle is no exception to this nationwide phenomenon. In Seattle public schools, African-American boys are nearly three times as likely as White boys to be referred to special education, and fall far behind their White counterparts on nearly every standard measure of success—from third-grade reading scores, to seventh-grade math proficiency, to graduation rates. Continue reading “Our Best” Fails Black Girls: An Interview with Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
South Seattle Emerald’s Anne Althauser engaged Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein on topics of “lesser-evilism”, the importance of a “Green New Deal”, being an ally in the Black Lives Matter movement and why all politicians should spend a little time in jail on June 5th while she was in Seattle for the “Building an Alternative to Corporate Politics” Rally to support Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s reelection campaign.
A note from the interviewer:
When I was offered the opportunity to interview 2012 Green Party Presidential Candidate Dr. Jill Stein, my first thought was, “not even my liberal-Seattle-pro-choice-anti-war-power-to-the-people self is hippy enough for the Green Party.” There’s always been that stigma around Leftist politics, but my naïveté – nay, the money and power of our two-party political system – kept me from exploring progressive parties. Continue reading “History Favors the Prepared Political Movement” – An interview with Dr. Jill Stein