Kite Line is a radio program devoted to prison issues around the Midwest and beyond. Behind the prison walls, a message is called a kite: whispered words, a note passed hand to hand, or a request submitted to the guards for medical care. Illicit or not, sending a kite means trusting that other people will bear it farther along till it reaches its destination. On the show, we hope to pass along words across the prison walls.
January 15, 2021: In the Fray
This week on Kite Line, we have a wide variety of ongoing prison news- ranging from the recent executions of prisoners in Terre Haute to a prison disturbance in St. Louis. Afterwards, we share a conversation that was sent to us from an outside supporter of the ongoing Saskatoon Correctional Facility hunger strike. In this conversation, Cardinal explains what led to the hunger strike, and how outside support has been helpful to those inside.
January 8, 2021: Built on a House of Cards – Environmental Justice and Incarceration
This week, we share an urgent statement from the Free Alabama Movement about their ongoing hunger strike and economic blackout. Afterwards, we speak with David Pellow, Fabiana Lake, and Camber Wilson, who recently coauthored a report on ‘Environmental Justice Struggles in Prisons and Jails Around the World,’ via the Prison Environmental Justice Project. Environmental justice is an even more important question now, as toxicity and health deficits render prisoners even more vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic.
You can find their report here.
You can find more information about the Free Alabama Movement at freealabamamovement.org/
January 1, 2021: New Year’s Kites
Happy New Year! This week, we broadcast kites from Strawberry Hampton in Illinois and Daniel Dawson in Saskatchewan, who both called in this week to update us on their conditions. Strawberry Hampton, a Black transgender woman and niece of Fred Hampton, shares the horrific abuses she has suffered inside. Hampton received a rare transfer to an all-women’s facility after she was abused in a men’s unit. She is back inside, and continuing to face verbal and physical abuse. Content warning for descriptions of assault.
In our second conversation Daniel Dawson gives important updates on their hunger strike in Saskatchewan. It was originally called last month as COVID-19 spread uncontrollably inside the facility. Prisoners were simultaneously denied any effective quarantine support and were cut off from contact with family members.
You can support Strawberry at her Patreon here.
Special thanks to Perilous Chronicle for sharing the conversation with Dawson. You can see their work at perilouschronicle.com
December 25, 2020: A System That is Quite Frankly Unjust- Compassionate Release, Part Two
Today, we broadcast Part 2 of our series on Compassionate Release. Compassionate Release is the principle that sentences should be adjusted given “particularly extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing”.
We now continue to hear from Alison Guernsey, who tells us about the barriers thrown up against this form of sentence reduction, such as excessively long sentences due to mandatory minimums.
While it is usually considered from the perspective of individual prisoners suffering, for example, from a terminal illness, compassionate release has become an urgent, collective demand in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it spreads within crowded, poorly ventilated prisons across the US.
You can listen our first episode on Compassionate Release here.
You can hear Dr. Garrett Felber’s Kite Line episodes on the history of Black radicalism in prison here and here. Felber was fired this week from his position at University of Mississippi due to his anti-racist work.
December 18, 2020: Compassionate Release, Part One
We begin this week with a follow-up conversation with Cory Cardinal, who has spoken with us on our past two episodes regarding a hunger strike at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre in Saskatchewan, Canada. Previously, Cory detailed his experiences during and after the hunger strike. And now, he gives us some updates and tells Perilous about the inmates’ rights issues that led up to the hunger strike, and how these changes in the system have been impacting prisoners.
Afterwards, we talk about Compassion Release, as Alison Guernsey tells us about the history and barriers involved in this form of sentence reduction. Compassionate Release is the principle that sentences should be adjusted given “particularly extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing”. While it is usually considered from the perspective of individual prisoners suffering, for example, from a terminal illness, compassionate release has become an urgent, collective demand in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it spreads within crowded, poorly ventilated prisons across the US. Many of the authorities’ claims of pursuing compassionate release on a meaningful scale last spring have fallen flat, with release only being doled out for a tiny proportion of prisoners. Even many prisoners held for technical violations of their probation or parole are still being denied conditional release.
WFYI reported earlier this week that only 27 people have been released in Indiana’s state prison system due to COVID concerns, out of a prison population of 26,000. Thanks again to Perilous Chronicle for their conversation with Cory Cardinal- you can find out more at perilouschronicle.com.
December 11, 2020: Like a Horror Movie- COVID’s Spread in the Prisons
This week, we hear from two people who explain the rapidly deteriorating COVID-19 situation in facilities in both Saskatchewan and Indiana.
As we reported last week, prisoners at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre in Saskatchewan, Canada organized a hunger strike last week to protest the rapidly-spreading COVID-19 outbreak at the facility. The hunger strike lasted several days and ended Monday, November 30th. Cory Cardinal, an Indigenous prisoner and a leader in the hunger strike, spoke with us again about the facilities response to the hunger strike.
Afterwards, we speak with Kelsey Kauffman, who details how the various IDOC protocols are seeding COVID-19 outbreaks in facilities across Indiana. In addition, Kauffman reads a letter from a prisoner, who describes the stress of being isolated in a cell with a potentially infectious cellmate as “something from a horror movie”. Kauffman lays out potential options for freeing a large percentage of vulnerable prisoners, as COVID-19 continues to run rampant through Indiana prisons and their surrounding communities.
You can find out more about the data Kauffman’s team has been collecting about the pandemic in Indiana prisons here.
The letter she mentions, addressed to Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, can be signed here.
We also cover Thursday’s tragic execution of Brandon Bernard. You can find out more about Brandon here.