Read the Fact Sheet here.
The free summer series Incarceration Then and Now: What Can We Learn? kicks off Saturday Aug. 4 with the opening of the exhibit Architecture of Internment: the Build-up to Wartime Incarceration, at 10 AM at Atonement Lutheran Church in Newport.
This powerful exhibit stands as a stark reminder of what happens when a good but uninformed citizenry stand silent as they collide with an autocratic government. Come and find out how you can be informed, involved, and a strong part of the solution as we watch history repeating itself.
For the full experience, see both films, and hear all of the speakers.
INCARCERATION THEN AND NOW: WHAT CAN WE LEARN?
Featuring The Architecture of Internment: Buildup to Wartime Incarceration
LOCATIONS AND SCHEDULE
NEWPORT, ATONEMENT LUTHERAN CHURCH 2315 North Coast Highway
* August 4,6,7,8, Exhibits 10-5 p.m.
* August 4 2-4 PM; Opening Speakers’ Panel: Rep. David Gomberg & Solea Kabakov, “Immigrant incarceration in Oregon today”
* August 5: Exhibits 12-5 p.m.
NEWPORT PUBLIC LIBRARY, MCENTEE ROOM 35 NW Nye Street
* August 6, 7-9 p.m.
* Film and discussion: 14: Dred Scott, Wong Kim Ark and Vanessa Lopez
WALDPORT, MOOSE LODGE 250 NW John Street
* August 13, Exhibits 1-5 p.m.
* August 14, Exhibits 11-7 p.m.
* Film and Discussion: Cats of Mirikitani, 2-4 p.m.
* Japanese Dinner 5-7 p.m. $6.50 per person
* August 15, Exhibits 11-5 p.m. Speakers 2-3:30 p.m.
* Newport residents & siblings Winnie Payne and Earnie Bell share
their experiences living as children in an incarceration camp
YACHATS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH 360 7TH Street
* August 16-18 Exhibits 10-5 p.m.
* August 18 2-4 p.m. Film and discussion: 14: Dred Scott, Wong Kim Ark and Vanessa Lopez
* August 19 Exhibits 12-5
* August 19 2-4 Closing Speakers’ Panel: Sandy Tsuneyoshi Ph.D. and ACLU spokesperson, “Moving forward: toward a more inclusive Oregon.”
* All speakers’ panels and films followed by discussions.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) failed its deadline to reunite all 102 children under the age of five with their parents. Officials supposedly succeeded in only 38 cases by the de…
A large crowd of coast residents gathered outside Newport City Hall Saturday to strongly protest the treatment of Latin American refugees as they are housed in tent cities around the country while children are snatched from their parents as punishment for daring to seek asylum in the U.S. The Trump administration has clearly admitted that the traumatic separation of children from their families is aimed squarely at sending a message to other Latin American refugees, that if they want to lose their children, and maybe never see them again, just try to get across the U.S.- Mexico border. It has created moral and angry outrage among millions upon millions of Americans who contend that such atrocities should not be attributed to the American people – rather it is the tactics of an angry White House playing to it’s political base that would build “The Wall” if called upon to do it.
Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are turning our nation of immigrants into a country of cruelty. They have issued an edict to forcibly remove young children from the arms of their parents, as families seek refuge from dangerous conditions and lethal violence. Children are being torn from their parents, shipped off to ‘foster’ families at the taxpayers expense and we have no idea if these families are licensed, speak Spanish or if these children are being labor or sex trafficked. There is no specific law, no regulation, no political consensus to support this obscene and unlawful policy. It is pure pandering to Donald Trump’s morally bankrupt political base. It is legally indefensible.Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions would take a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty and replace it with barbed wire and guard dogs.In addition to snatching children from their immigrant parents, AG Sessions has now doubled down on the politics of cruelty by undermining hard-won protections for immigrant women and girls fleeing domestic violence. He has single-handedly changed existing policies that protect tens of thousands of women seeking protection from unimaginable abuse, denying their legal right to apply for asylum in the U.S.
This afternoon at 2pm, in front of the Customs and Border Protection Building, NOW is joining other allies to protest the administration’s despicable actions. NOW calls on Congress to exercise its moral duty to protect immigrant families, particularly women and children. Hearings must be held and legislation drafted to end this reprehensible policy. If judges and courts are overwhelmed, appoint more judges. If lawmakers refuse to act, then women will lead the charge to replace them at the ballot box. We must take action NOW to ensure these survivors are protected, not persecuted for seeking the inalienable right to safety and freedom.
Dee Donavanik , email@example.com , 951-547-1241
Lawyers and medical providers visiting Rio Grande Valley shelters describe play rooms of crying preschool-age children in emotional crisis
“Prison got me sober, but it didn’t get me anywhere.”
TULSA, Okla. — The women’s wing of the jail here exhales sadness. The inmates, wearing identical orange uniforms, ache as they undergo withdrawal from drugs, as they eye one another suspiciously, and as they while away the days stripped of freedom, dignity, privacy and, most painful of all, their children.
“She’s disappointed in me,” Janay Manning, 29, a drug offender shackled to a wall for an interview, said of her eldest daughter, a 13-year-old. And then she started crying, and we paused our interview.
Of all America’s various policy missteps in my lifetime, perhaps the most catastrophic was mass incarceration. It has had devastating consequences for families, and it costs the average American household $600 a year.
The United States has recently come to its senses and begun dialing back on the number of male prisoners. But we have continued to increase the number of women behind bars; two-thirds of women in state prisons are there for nonviolent offenses. America now incarcerates eight times as many women as in 1980, and only Thailand seems to imprison women at a higher rate.
And the situation may well worsen under the Trump administration; the president-elect’s nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has in effect defended mass incarceration.
The global capital for female incarceration may be right here in Oklahoma, which incarcerates 142 out of every 100,000 women, about 10 times the rate of low-ranking states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts. I wouldn’t argue that mass female incarceration is worse than mass male incarceration — they’re both counterproductive — but the imprisonment of women has heartbreaking collateral damage, because women are disproportionately likely to be primary caregivers, and 60 percent of American women in state prisons have children under 18.
“There’s a devastating impact on the children,” said Amy Santee of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which supports an alternative to imprisonment for women. “They’re put in chaotic homes, they’re more likely to be sexually abused, they’re more likely to be imprisoned themselves.”
Research shows that prison routinely fails at helping women straighten out their lives — although it does mess up their children.
“I felt my life was going to repeat my mom’s, and it did,” said Alisia Hunter, 37, who said her mother was imprisoned for financial offenses while she was a child. Hunter then ended up having a baby at age 16 by one of her father’s buddies, and she soon began doing stints in prison for drug offenses.
“Prison got me sober, but it didn’t get me anywhere,” Hunter told me. Each time she went to prison, she would get clean, and then once out she would return to drugs.
She did try to get into a drug rehabilitation program. But the state, while willing to pay to imprison her, was unwilling to pay for drug rehab except for the most serious addicts; she didn’t qualify.
One reason mass incarceration doesn’t get fixed is that society regards felons with a mix of fear and contempt. In fact, the women should evoke sympathy; even more than male prisoners, they have been through the wringer.
A quarter of women in state prisons reported having been sexually abused as children, one 1999 Justice Department study found. A different study found that 43 percent of women in jails that were examined had serious mental health problems, and 82 percent had drug or alcohol problems.
Anessa Rabbit, 31, says she grew up in a family of addicts and was born with drugs in her system. I can’t confirm her life story, but she told how she was molested by her father beginning when she was 7, began smoking methamphetamine daily when she was 11, moved in with a man when she was 13 and dropped out of school in the ninth grade.
Like many female felons, Rabbit seems to have gotten in trouble because of a boyfriend who manipulated her into committing crimes.
“He always put me in the position of doing the dirty work,” Rabbit said, speaking of a boyfriend who used to choke and beat her when he wasn’t coercing her to commit crimes. She says they committed robberies and other offenses, sometimes she at his behest; he ended up with a sentence of four years probation and she faced a possible sentence of 26 years in prison.
Prosecutors often understand what’s going on but threaten the women with long sentences (sometimes based on conspiracy laws) to get them to testify against their men. That’s how the criminal justice system works, but when the women refuse to cave, they go to prison for many years — and the guys then drop them.
When men are in prison, they seem to get visits frequently from girlfriends, who also add money into their commissary accounts so they can buy small items and make phone calls. But the prisoners and social workers I spoke to said that when women are imprisoned, they get fewer visitors and their accounts are often empty.
Mass incarceration also has an abysmal record. Recidivism is high, and imprisonment breaks up and impoverishes families. A newly published study from the Russell Sage Foundationfound that incarceration of a family member is associated with a 64 percent decline in household assets, magnifying poverty and the race gap in America. And the 2.6 million American children who have a parent in prison or jail pay an enormous price — which, as Rabbit’s story shows, isn’t always necessary.
Rabbit was diverted from prison to a model program in Tulsa called Women in Recovery. (Hunter also is in the program.) It reduces the numbers of women in prison, saves money and has had remarkable success helping troubled women shake drugs and restart their lives.
It has a two-generation approach that works with both the women and their children. The program offers counseling, intensive support, coaching on budgeting and conflict resolution, and help getting high school equivalency diplomas, housing and jobs.
The upshot is that Rabbit has now been clean of drugs for nine months — the longest since she was a young child — and has a job in a warehouse with some prospects for promotion. She has custody on weekends of her son, 12, and daughter, 11, and is trying to rebuild relationships with them.
Women in Recovery programs last 17 months and cost $19,700 on average; after that, the woman is in a job, and recidivism over the next three years is just 4.9 percent. Without the program, the state might imprison the women for years at a much greater cost — and end up with a much higher recidivism rate.
So if we want to reduce female incarceration, we have a solution here in Tulsa that will also reduce crime and pay for itself.
I know some of you are glaring at this article and thinking: It’s their own fault. If they don’t want to go to prison, they shouldn’t commit crimes!
That scorn derives partly from a misunderstanding of drug abuse, which is a central reason for mass female incarceration in America (and a major reason for mass incarceration of men as well, although to a lesser degree). As Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the surgeon general, noted in releasing a major report this month: “It’s time to change how we view addiction. Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness.” In short, we should think of drugs not primarily through the criminal justice lens but as a public health crisis.
If you think all this is just coddling criminals, consider for a moment Michelle Vavrick, 24. I can’t independently verify her story, but her counselors believe it, and it tracks what many other women in her position have experienced.
Vavrick says she was raised in a chaotic and violent home with alcohol and drugs. Beginning at age 7, she says, a pedophile named Sean began picking her up at her house and taking her away to rape her on an almost daily basis. She responded by acting out, self-mutilating and becoming violent.
“At 10, I became uncontrollable,” Vavrick remembered. “Sean and his friends would shoot me with heroin so they could do what they wanted to me. Six of them.”
Vavrick self-medicated with alcohol and drugs, went through rehab programs that didn’t work and ran away at 18. She lived on a park bench, sold sex, connected with a gang and robbed people. “I was a big ball of anger,” she recalled. “I couldn’t stand being in my own skin.”
Last year she was finally arrested for drug running and faced a sentence of 15 years to life. Fortunately, she was diverted to Women in Recovery, underwent intensive cognitive processing therapy — and transformed. She has now been clean for 10 months and is warm and hopeful. Instead of sitting sullenly in a prison cell, she works in a bakery, loves it, and hopes to run her own bakery some day.
At one point when I was interviewing her about her past, she began crying. Alarmed, I quickly apologized, but she shushed me up. “This is progress,” she said, beaming through her tears. She wants to let herself feel again.
Reporting these kinds of topics is often tough: I see people stuck in cycles of poverty, drugs and incarceration, with their children often headed in the same direction. Even well-meaning help is sometimes rejected, for we humans have an astonishing capacity for self-destructive behavior — just as society does, with policies like mass incarceration. That backdrop makes it exhilarating to see a program like Women in Recovery succeed, and an individual like Michelle Vavrick blossom through it into a new future.
“I know how precious my life is, and I never want to stick a needle in my arm again,” she said. “I want to live.”
The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor SEPT. 29, 2016, NY Times
Chicago — “Are you tired of taking the time to drive to the jail and wait in long lines for your visit?” asks the website of Securus, a private company that manages phones in jails and prisons throughout the United States. “Visit your loved one from the comfort of your home using a computer.”
Computer-based video visitation, a service that Securus provides for a fee, can indeed be a helpful option: It allows people in jail or prison to see loved ones who can’t visit in person for whatever reason — the long distance, disability, illness, a busy schedule or responsibilities at home. However, what Securus doesn’t advertise is that, in many cases, you’re not allowed to visit any other way.
In county jails, when video visitation is introduced, in-person visitation is typically banned. (Securus’s contracts with jails have sometimes mandated this ban, though recently the company announced that its contracts would no longer include the requirement.) Jails are embracing the practice, in part because video visitation is less time-consuming and requires fewer staff members than in-person visits. More than 13 percent of local jails in the United States now use video visitation, and at most of those jails, in-person visits have been abolished, according to research by the Prison Policy Initiative.
When my sister began serving a sentence at the Lake County jail outside Chicago in July, I experienced this practice firsthand. When she first called me from the jail, I planned to drive over immediately to see her. My sister had been incarcerated before, and I’d always relied on regular visits to help show my love and support. But I discovered that in-person visits were not allowed. All “visits” were to be conducted via video, through Securus’s system.