Halfway Home: A Beautiful Book By Reuben Jonathan Miller

Miller writes about the aftereffects of mass incarceration in his new book, Halfway Home. The book is based on 15 years of research in which he followed the lives of about 250 incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women, and spoke with their family and friends.

Among the families Miller writes about is his own; Miller grew up poor on Chicago’s South Side and spent four of the first five years of his life in foster care after his mother abandoned him and his brothers. Two of his brothers and his father have been in prison.

Miller hopes that his work will help break down some of the barriers that affect so many people in America.

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Petition For Prison Reform

The tragic death of George Floyd is but one piece of a much larger picture.

We cannot begin to talk about systemic racism without also addressing the epidemic that is mass incarceration throughout America, and, the disproportionate number of black and brown people who occupy the beds within these facilities.

Comprehensive prison reform needs to be an issue that becomes synonymous with police brutality, misconduct, prejudice, and reform.

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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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AN END TO LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE?

After spending more than half his life behind bars, George Mullins can tick off what he sees as sorely needed programs: economic literacy, conflict resolution, learning how to recognize trauma and triggers, connecting with family, positive reinforcement.

It’s too easy to languish otherwise, watching each year roll by like heavy fog.

A quote from Bryan Stevenson, president of the Equal Justice Initiative, struck a chord: “You are more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.”

We cannot create a system that serves people adequately—people suffering from trauma, people who are victims of violence themselves—we can’t serve them if we’re not listening to them. Not just listening to them, but centering them.

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