The Activist Files is a podcast by the Center for Constitutional Rights where we feature the stories of people on the front lines fighting for social justice, including activists, lawyers, and storytellers.
Episode 41: Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook - Exploring the legacy of inside-outside organizing
As its on-going celebration of the updated sixth edition of the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook, Center for Constitutional Rights Co-author and Senior Legal Worker Ian Head speaks with a number of people who have influenced and been influenced by the handbook for the 41st episode: “Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook: Exploring the legacy of inside-outside organizing.”
Ian spoke with:
● Brian Glick, a lawyer, Fordham Law School professor, writer and activist, and original author of the handbook;
● Jenipher Jones Bonio, lead counsel, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak International Law Project and program manager for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Initiatives at Sturm College of Law;
● Lisa Drapkin, director of membership for the National Lawyers Guild, which helps with the distribution of the handbook; and
● Chinyere Ezie, senior staff attorney and co-author of the updated edition of the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook.
● Ian wraps up the episode by playing a recording by Mumia Abu Jamal, political activist, journalist and jailhouse lawyer.
In this episode, Ian goes back to 1973 with Brian, when the first Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook which was published as a manual to demystify the complexities of the law for non-lawyers. Brian provides the history of how the manual came to be. Jenipher discusses the mission of the Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, a group of anonymous incarcerated activists working to abolish prisons and their current advocacy action, the Shut’em Down demonstrations. Lisa talks about the impact—the number of requests for the handbook and how people on the inside use the handbook. And Chinyere highlights what's new in the handbook regarding LGBTQIA+ law, including new case law about transgender healthcare, visitation, and equal protection, and an appendix that provides state-by-state policies.
Ian closes with a powerful recording by Mumia, who lifts up some of the self-taught litigators who have successfully used the handbook.
Hard copies of the sixth edition of the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook are being distributed widely to prisoners and prisoners’ rights groups. The accompanying Jailhouse Lawyer’s website makes a searchable version available to family and friends of prisoners that allows users to browse the lengthy resource and quickly identify the most pertinent information.
Episode 40: Radical freedom through art and activism with Nadia Ben-Youssef & BK King
“The Activist Files” is excited to cross-promote our 40th episode with “The Artivists’ Room,” Donkeysaddle Projects’ podcast, which features conversations with artists, organizers, and activists, whose art serves as a tool for movement building. For this co-branded episode, Center for Constitutional Rights Advocacy Director Nadia Ben-Youssef sat down for an interview with Donkeysaddle Projects’ podcast host, cultural organizer, artist, actor, and writer BK King. Nadia and BK talked about what it means to reconfigure advocacy work in this moment and how to push beyond reactive work to move activism to a place where we are demanding the world we want. The two artists answered the question “What does freedom look like through art?” by highlighting the importance of art in activism and discussing how creatives transform their radical imaginations to dream of a world where we are liberated. BK closes all of her episodes by asking “If you could talk with anyone in your room, who would it be?” Listen to this episode to find out Nadia’s answer.
Episode 39: Abolition, Prisoner Support, and Trans Justice with the Free Ashley Diamond Campaign
On episode 39 of the Activist Files, Center for Constitutional Rights Bertha Justice Fellow Rafaela Uribe talks with Heena Sharma and Katrina Hamann-Azanov, two members of the Free Ashley Campaign, about their work to support Black trans liberation and prisoners’ rights activist Ashley Diamond while she is incarcerated in a men’s prison in Georgia. They discuss why it’s important to organize support campaigns for people in prison and how to get involved, how their support work connects to their position as abolitionists, and how Ashley’s experience offers an important case study for the particular issues faced by trans people both in prisons and through the discrimination-to-incarceration pipeline that criminalizes and punishes trans people for their survival. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center represent Ashley in her legal case, while the Free Ashley Campaign works with Ashley to provide her with support to meet her material needs, advocates for her safety and her release, and organizes events and actions to mobilize the large community of supporters that Ashley has on the outside.
Free Ashley Campaign: https://www.freeashleydiamond.com/ / IG:
https://www.instagram.com/freeashley_now/ / Twitter: https://twitter.com/freeashley_now
/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/freeashleynow/
Survived & Punished: https://survivedandpunished.org (national) /
https://www.survivedandpunishedny.org (NY) /
Guide to Organizing Survivor Defense Campaigns: https://survivedandpunished.org/defense-campaign-toolkit/
Mariame Kaba: http://mariamekaba.com/
Ky Peterson: https://www.freedomoverground.org/ky/ / https://linktr.ee/KyPeterson
Ruth Wilson Gilmore: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/magazine/prison-abolition-ruth-wilson-gilmore.html / https://theintercept.com/2020/06/10/ruth-wilson-gilmore-makes-the-case-for-abolition/
Episode 38: Motherhood on Trial - Pregnant and incarcerated
In, “Motherhood on Trial: Pregnant and Incarcerated,” Legal Administrative Associate Afrika Owes spoke with De'Jone Watts about her experiences as an incarcerated mother and shed light on the traumatizing experience of preparing to give birth while incarcerated. De'Jone, a women's support and social services manager at Root & Rebound, whose mission is to restore power and resources to the families and communities most harmed by mass incarceration through legal advocacy, public education, policy reform and litigation, shared her powerful journey that led her to work at an organization where she uses her pain as power to inspire and uplift formerly incarcerated women of color.
Episode 37: Dismantling Jim Crow Juries – A conversation with Angelo Guisado and Jamila Johnson
On April 12, 2021, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed petitions on behalf of clients who were sentenced to Death By Incarceration by non-unanimous juries in Louisiana, where they remain in the Louisiana State Penitentiary colloquially known as “Angola,” despite the Supreme Court’s clear ruling that their convictions were unconstitutional. We joined more than 700 volunteer attorneys across the country in filing petitions in the cases of more than 1,000 people, mostly Black men, imprisoned in Louisiana from convictions by non-unanimous juries. They are known as “Jim Crow Juries” because they are a relic of the Jim Crow era that has systematically discounted the votes of jurors of color, led to a significant number of wrongful convictions, and helped maintain disproportionately high rates of incarceration of Black people in Louisiana. In this episode of the Activist Files, Angelo Guisado, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, speaks with Jamila Johnson, managing attorney for the Jim Crow Juries: Unanimous Jury Project at Promise of Justice Initiative in New Orleans, who coordinated the massive effort, about what comes next.
● The Promise of Justice Initiative
● State v. Henry / State v. Allen (Jim Crow Juries)
Episode 36: Decriminalize Sex Work - Freedom Dreams of Black Trans Liberation
How can we honor the leadership of Black trans sex worker communities in struggles for gender and LGBTQIA+ justice this Women’s History Month? Black Trans Nation executive director and Decrim NY steering committee member TS Candii and Women with a Vision Sex Worker Advisory Committee member Paris Jackson speak with advocacy associate maya finoh and communications assistant Alex Webster about their work to pass legislation ending the criminalization of people in the sex trades and trans people in New York State and Louisiana, as well as their freedom dreams for Black and trans liberation. They explain why decriminalization is the legislative proposal that can best guarantee the safety of marginalized people working in the sex trades, why sex work must ultimately be recognized as the labor that it is and be provided labor protections the same as any other work, and how the criminalization of work in the sex trades is part of a larger and centuries-long project by the state to target and criminalize Black and trans communities. They also discuss how the histories of sex workers organizing to support each other appear in current mutual aid projects, and how to support and promote their crucial work.
New York legislation:
Walking While Trans Ban Bill (New York Senate Bill 1351 /Assembly Bill 3355) (signed into law)
Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act (New York Senate Bill 3075 /Assembly Bill 849) (pending)
Louisiana House Bill 67 (pending)
Deep South Decrim Toolkit
Sign-on form to support Louisiana House Bill 67
The host of the Activist Files highlights all aspects of social justice and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!
I’ve only listened to episode 36. It was fantastic!
Worth every minute. #Anytown