Prison Reform Sparked By A Mixtape

When the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic in March, the world went into frenzies and lockdowns.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 began to ravage through California’s San Quentin State Prison.

Then in May, San Quentin Mixtapes, Vol. 1 dropped: a 17-track album that was written, recorded and produced within the prison’s walls.

David Jassy is at the heart of the Youthful Offender Program Mixtape Project. In 2010, the Grammy-nominated producer was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced 15 years to life.

Jassy kept music with him as much as he could throughout transfers between prisons. Once he got his hands on a keyboard in San Quentin, he started making beats.

His music was contagious there.

“Regardless of what set or gang they belong to, I just seen how fascinated they were about music and how they all lit up,” Jassy said. “People started smiling. If they heard somebody that was a dope rapper, they just all started smiling and nodding along and encouraging each other. And, it was different. I just knew this was a different energy from everything else that was going on in prison.”

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COVID Crossroads For Prison Abolitionists

The intersection of a pandemic and a public uprising to address police brutality has created a unique moment in history—and a distinct moment for prison abolitionists.

Two arguments now entering the mainstream—that incarceration is an urgent public health crisis and that policing takes needed resources from communities—have long been argued by abolitionist organizers.

“Abolition is about fighting the prison industrial complex as a whole, because these violent systems are interlocking and feed off each other,” explained Mohamed Shehk, national media and communications director for the abolitionist organization Critical Resistance.

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No One Should Have To Die In Prison By Joseph Dole

Every year people die in the custody of Illinois Department of Corrections, the vast majority due in part to overincarceration.

COVID-19 is highlighting this fact because it is attacking the elderly and infirm, many of whom have spent decades enduring harsh prison conditions. They die lonely deaths for no other reason than incarceration politics, and in a vain attempt to satiate the insatiable appetite some people have for revenge.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and others have recently voiced support for early releases of “non-violent offenders,” and insinuate that this shows they still consider public safety as the main priority. Not only is this insufficient to address mass incarceration, but if public safety is the main priority, then they should have no problem releasing “violent offenders.”

That’s because people convicted of violent offenses have lower recidivism rates and even a lower likelihood of committing violence if released.

The thousands of people currently serving long sentences are doing so due to racism, fear-mongering, dehumanization, political exploitation, and the false promise that harsher sentences are needed to deter crime.

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Joseph Dole Is An Incarcerated Writer, Co-Founder & Policy Director Of Parole Illinois

 

Sandra Bland: 5 Year Anniversary Of Her Death In Police Custody

The recent deaths of Black people either in police custody or due to police officers have led to international outcry.

The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor evoke memories of the mysterious death of a 28-year-old Black woman who died in a Texas jail five years ago Monday.

Sandra Bland, who died on July 13, 2015, was one of many who sparked the early Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to find justice in cases of Black people killed or who died in police custody.

Bland was found dead on that day in a Waller County Jail.

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Governor Pritzker Call Governor Newsom

California will release up to 8,000 people from state prisons to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Officials on Friday announced three separate efforts, approved by the governor, Gavin Newsom, that they say will decrease the prison population by 8,ooo by the end of August.

The measures mark the largest release efforts the state administration has taken since Covid-19 began to circulate among prison staff and incarcerated people.

“We are in the middle of a humanitarian crisis that was created and wholly avoidable,” said the California assembly member Rob Bonta at a press conference in front of San Quentin state prison.

“We need to act with urgency fueled by compassion,” he added. “We missed the opportunity to prevent, so now we have to make things right.”

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Sheriff Jon Sandage Plays Judge & Jury

“It’s kind of disheartening,” the sheriff said.

“A lot of good police work went into arresting those people who were intent on damaging businesses in our community and stealing from them,” said Sandage.

McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage is lashing out at Black Lives Matter for posting bond for suspects arrested for looting.

The sheriff said he would have preferred to see them donate money to the Boys & Girls Club.

One of the local leaders of Black Lives Matter, Ky Ajayi, said the sheriff should offer to donate the money he earns from charging fees for inmates making phone calls.

Ajayi noted the sheriff didn’t mention the freed inmates are presumed innocent because they have yet to stand trial.

“He’s already tried and convicted them.”

THE JAIL CYCLE: Spreading COVID-19

New research has found that nearly one in six cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and Illinois can be connected to people moving through the Cook County Jail, which at one point was dubbed the largest-known source of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

According to a new study published Thursday in the journal Health Affairs, cycling through Cook County Jail is associated with 15.7% of all documented cases of the virus in Illinois and 15.9% in Chicago through mid-April.

“As the pandemic began, I realized this was going to be a huge driver,” Eric Reinhart, a University of Chicago researcher who co-authored the report, told WTTW.

“The jail cycle – arresting people, cycling through the jail and back into their communities – was going to be a huge driver of COVID-19 spreading to communities.”

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GOVERNOR PRITZKER CALL GOVERNOR WOLF

After collectively spending nearly 90 years in prison, Freddy Butler and Oliver Macklin will soon be heading home.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf officially commuted their sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

The men will spend at least a year in a halfway house before being released on parole.

Butler, 72, was convicted of first-degree murder in 1970. He has been incarcerated for more than 50 years. The Board of Pardons recommended his commutation.

Macklin, who is 63, was convicted of second-degree murder in 1986. He was recommended during the same session. The board must vote unanimously to recommend someone for a commutation.

Since the tough-on-crime era, the number of people serving life without the possibility of parole has ballooned.

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IN-PERSON VISITATION RESUMES AT COOK COUNTY JAIL

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced that in-person family visits have resumed at the Cook County Jail for the first time in nearly three months due to the continuing trend of low COVID-19 cases at the Cook County Department of Corrections.

“We have worked hard to find alternative methods to allow families to stay in touch with detainees, but nothing can replace seeing loved ones face-to-face, and that only adds to the already significant stress experienced by the families of those incarcerated,” Sheriff Dart said, in a statement. “We believe this is not only beneficial for those in our custody, but also for our staff, since it reduces anxiety among detainees.”

Visitation hours will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day including weekends, weather permitting, and DOC staff expect to facilitate approximately 100 visits daily.

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