The Prison Post is a podcast interviewing leaders in the criminal justice reform, restorative justice, and social justice movements. In addition, we share the transformational stories of the currently and formerly incarcerated and highlight what CROP Organization is doing by reimagining reentry for returning citizens.
The Prison Post Podcast #49 Lauren Kessler, Award Winning Author of "Free"
95 percent of the millions of American men and women who go to prison eventually get out. What happens to them? On this week's episode of The Prison Post Podcast, we have a conversation with immersion journalist, Lauren Kessler. She has taken a deep dive into looking at the Challenges of Life After Prison. Her book: 'Free' Two years, Six Lives and The Long Journey Home" is powerful, moving, emotional, and revealing. Lauren is both clear-eyed and compassionate, as she follows six people whose diverse stories paint an intimate portrait of struggle, persistence, and resilience.What is the road they must travel from caged to free? How do they navigate their way home?
Lauren Kessler is an award-winning author of ten works of nonfiction, all of which combine lively narrative with deep research and in-the-trenches immersion to explore hidden worlds. The creator of two graduate programs in creative nonfiction, she founded a writers’ group for those sentenced to life in prison at a maximum security prison.
There's Arnoldo, who came of age inside a maximum security penitentiary, now free after nineteen years. Trevor and Catherine, who spent half of their young lives behind bars for terrible crimes committed when they were kids. Dave, inside the walls for 34 years, now about to reenter an unrecognizable world. Vicki, a five-time loser who had cycled in and out of prison for more than a third of her life. They are simultaneously joyful and overwhelmed at the prospect of freedom. Anxious, confused, sometimes terrified, and often ill-prepared to face the challenges of the free world, all are intent on reclaiming and remaking their lives.
"FREE" is a gripping and empathetic work of immersion reportage, "FREE" reveals what awaits them and the hundreds of thousands of others who are released from prison every year: the first rush of freedom followed quickly by institutionalized obstacles and logistical roadblocks, grinding bureaucracies, lack of resources, societal stigmas and damning self-perceptions, the sometimes overwhelming psychological challenges.
Here's some of the reentry topics we discuss:
• The common challenges those recently released encounter in the first month that very few people truly understand?
• What being imprisoned means to your sense of self and how to reclaim that?
• What being surveilled, regulated, and managed does to your abilities to trust yourself and others?
• How you learn to function and reconnect, like understanding the latest technology?
• The rocky road of learning how to make so many decisions, big and small, every day?
• The staggering racial inequality behind bars (1 in 6 Latino boys and 1 out of every 3 Black kids will go to prison in their lifetime) and the overall “epidemic of mass incarceration” in the U.S., which accounts for 25% of the world’s prison population?
• What communities can do to help those returning from incarcerated life become a functioning part of that community
To purchase a copy of Lauren's book on Amazon visit this link: https://www.amazon.com/Free-Years-Liv...
Click this link to visit her website titled, "The Lauren Chronicles" and check out Lauren's other books at a...
The Prison Post #48 Thanh Tran, Senior Policy & Comms Fellow with The Ella Baker Center.
Thanh Tran called me from the phones of San Quentin Prison 9 months ago. In my 21 years of incarceration, I have never met a more policy-minded incarcerated person. I was impressed by his perspectives, his language, and the freedom he held on the inside, not to mention his brilliant accomplishments all before the age of 28!
Episode 48 features Thanh Tran, a formerly incarcerated Filmmaker, Podcaster, and Organizer. He is the Co-Creator and Co-host of the Uncuffed Podcast. He is also Co-Creator of the incarcerated film crew Forward This Productions. He was released from prison almost 3 months ago and is now the Senior Policy and Comms Fellow with the Ella Baker Center.
Thanh was incarcerated at the age of 18. He was sentenced to 17 years. He was commuted by Governor Newsom after serving over 10 years. He survived the horrific conditions of Covid 19 in San Quentin. He had Covid three times and had to scream for medical attention through his door before a nurse finally showed some humanity and got him desperately needed medicine that helped him when he was at his worst. He rang the bell for the fellas on the inside and shared the story of how correctional officers refused to serve the incarcerated food because of their fear of contracting Covid. He shared how he heard the shrieks of men who were dying of Covid in their cells without receiving help for a month. He shared how he saw the dead bodies of those who succumbed to Covid, due to the lack of medical attention at the prison. This is the real trauma that is hidden from the public eye everyday.
We also covered how he transformed his life on the inside to become the podcaster, film producer, organizer, and policy minded man that he is today. Than shares the challenges of reentering society and how he's courageously facing them. I have full confidence that Thanh will lead from the front for prison reform for years to come. Thank you for watching this episode.
Please hit the like button, subscribe, and leave a comment or ask us or Thanh a question in the comments. We respond to everyone!
You can find Thanh Tran on Twitter at @RailroadedUnderground
Learn more about how CROP Organization is reimagining reentry by investing in people over punishment on our website at: https://croporganization.org/
Apply to be in our Ready 4 Life Reentry Programs in Oakland and LA here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdE8zUyZCy2MzL--mnBjYwKgSdr8wZPZvYB5_WlgjnZurfKNA/viewform
Learn more and reach out to The Ella Baker Center at https://ellabakercenter.org/ Ella Baker was a brilliant, black hero of the civil rights movement. Following in her footsteps, Ella Baker Center organizes with black, brown, and low-income people to shift resources away from prisons and punishment, and towards opportunities that make our communities safe, healthy, and strong.
The Prison Post #47 Donald Wiggins Jr., Ohio Families Unite for Political Action and Change
We’re super excited to have our first guest from New York now residing in Ohio on our show today. Donald Wiggins Jr. holds a JD, MPA and is the Co-Founder & Director of Strategic Initiatives & Policy at Ohio Families Unite for Political Action and Change (OFUPAC). He’s a writer, a researcher, reformer, futurist, and abolitionist, but when I asked him to describe himself, he said, “It’s not about me. It’s about we! I’m just doing my part in the grand cog of history!"
In this episode we discuss Donald and OFUPAC's vision to make fundamental shifts in America by creating national legislation that would allow the incarcerated and those who are 16 and older to vote. We have a deep conversation about universal suffrage and restructuring society by caring about our future we could have 20-30 years from now and what it would take to make that happen.
OFUPAC builds and harnesses the political power of impacted families across Ohio, providing them with a space to leverage their power and drive policy to enact lasting change. Their mission is to end state violence against communities in Ohio by uplifting and amplifying the voices of impacted families to transform the criminal and civil justice landscape in Ohio.
They do this by engaging in effective public advocacy, legislative outreach, and public education activities. They center the voices of those most impacted by systemic racism, oppression, police violence, and systemic violence in the criminal and civil justice systems. Our vision is for us all to live in a space where one's income, race, public school, neighborhood, air quality, orientation, spirituality, and very identity do not determine your treatment, your life, and your livelihood by the criminal and civil justice systems in Ohio. OFUPAC holds space, organizes, and mobilizes those directly impacted by police brutality, the carceral system, and the juvenile justice system, to respond to immediate and emergent threats to our lives and our humanity.
Learn more about Ohio Families United for Political Action and Change here: https://www.ofupac.org/
Follow Donald on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/DWigginsJ3
Join their universal suffrage campaign by signing up at https://www.votingishuman.us/
The Prison Post #46 Tommy DeLuna, LWOP Sentence, Now Free!
Welcome to The Prison Post Podcast! Our guest this week is Tommy DeLuna who was sentenced to Life Without The Possibility of Parole (LWOP). Tommy was charged at the age of 17 for a murder robbery, convicted at 18 and sentenced at 19 to LWOP. Being sentenced to LWOP is essentially giving someone a slow death sentence. He served 25 years and has been out for a little over 2 years, holds two jobs, co-owns a business, and attends Sacramento State University. He's a busy man to say the least and I was honored to have my friend on The Prison Post Podcast.
Tommy shares his story, accountability, remorse, and responsibility. Tommy is very remorseful and takes responsibility for the life he took, and although he never had an intention to murder, the results equated to an LWOP sentence. Society expects us to be honest about what we did and what we caused while going through the court system, but why would anyone want to be honest when the results that come from honesty result in sentences like LWOP.
We had a detailed conversation about what it was like for him to be incarcerated for over two decades with LWOP. He shares his current values and beliefs about LWOP and the death penalty. He shares what he believes about the punishment model California's prison system utilizes and what's happening around related LWOP laws today.
If you have a loved one with LWOP, you don't want to miss this episode.
It’s tough to maintain hope with LWOP, but he maintained hope behind prison walls and razor wire. He generously shared how he came to be free and he had shared special messages for family and loved ones of the incarcerated sentenced to LWOP.
Please subscribe, like, and leave us a comment. Please consider donating to our work at CROP Organization so we can continue to provide shows like this and reimagine reentry by investing in people over punishment. Donate here: https://croporganization.org/
The Prison Post #45 Jarad Nava, Sentenced to 162 Years to Life as a Teenager
Jarad was sentenced to 162 years to Life after facing 204 years to Life in the California Prison System. He was in the High Security Compound in Sylmar Juvenile Hall facing this amount of time as a 17 year old teenager. In California, juveniles who commit violent crimes can be tried as adults, while awaiting trial they are kept apart from other minors. Many of them won't come home, but Jarad did. As a 17 year old he was featured in the documentary, "They Call Us Monsters." Many people love to label minors who commit violent crimes as "monsters" but they don't know their whole story. Jarad would be the first to take responsibility for what he did and the harm he caused. He didn't make excuses for his behavior and went to prison and committed his life to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and immersed himself in his faith and his education. Nearly 8 1/2 years later his sentence was commuted by Governor Brown. After being found suitable for parole by the Board of Prison Hearings Commissioners, he walked out of prison after 9 years.
I heard of his story from a mutual friend and he wanted me to meet Jarad. I had to meet him. I had never heard of anyone with such a long sentence being released before serving a decade. I had to see him with my own eyes, congratulate him and hear his story. He's been out of prison for one year now and he's one of the kindest and most humble young men that I have ever met. I invited him on The Prison Post Podcast to share his story. He keeps a strong support team around him and his friend, David Rey, joined us at the studio. Impromptu, I asked David if he'd be willing to join us in a conversation. David Rey was also sentenced to life as a juvenile and has thrived in every way in his 8 years of freedom.
Many would like you to believe that transformation isn't possible for juveniles or young men who make the worst decision of their lives and end up in the carceral system. Legislators quoted on "They Call Us Monsters" said this about juveniles like Jarad, "There are no violent offenses for a juvenile. You commit crime, you're an adult." "If you commit an adult crime, you do adult time." "The age of the assailant is of no consequence." "These are evil menacing people, mini Charlie Mansons, this is absolutely outrageous that we're going to release these little psychopaths to the streets to yet murder again." These statements are meant to put fear into the public and perpetuate long sentences for juveniles, even when the evidence shows that transformation is possible.
I am so thankful that Governor Brown and Jarad's employer didn't feel that way about him. Today Jarad is a Committee Assistant for Senator Steven Bradford, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee. He's not only employed at the State Capitol, but also attends Sacramento State University and is majoring in criminal justice. His goal is to become a lawyer in the next several years. He loves God, attends church and shares his story to inspire others going down the path he did to change direction. His church has loved and embraced him. Jarad is a shining example of what transformation looks like and what's possible when we give a young man an opportunity to be someone new. It was an honor to have Jarad on The Prison Post Podcast and since we live in the same town, I hope to hang out with Jarod and be a part of one another's support system.
To watch "The Call Us Monsters" on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/un8Uwg6SWG0https://y...
Also on Amazon Prime here: a...
The Prison Post #44 Terah Lawyer-Harper, Executive Director, CROP Organization featuring Ken Oliver
Super excited for today’s show with Terah Lawyer-Harper and Ken Oliver. Two leaders who have tremendous stories of incarceration, transformation, resilience, social impact, and entrepreneurial leadership. They are the workforce development gurus and and are transforming the landscape of reentry. The results are transformed lives and healing communities. Ken was CROP's former Executive Director and passes the torch of leadership to Terah on the show with profound respect and trust.
Terah Lawyer-Harper is CROP Organization’s new Executive Director. She was previously an Associate Director at Impact Justice. At Impact Justice, Terah developed and led the organization’s groundbreaking Homecoming Project, a $3.5M housing innovation project that paired people returning home after long prison sentences with welcoming community hosts. She received national and state recognition for her innovation and impact in the Bay Area. Lawyer-Harper is a Young Professional of Color Fellow with the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, an alumnus Next Generations Fellow with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, and a former elected chairperson for the Beyond Incarceration Program inside CDCR’s Central California Women’s Facility. She spent 15 years incarcerated during which she became a certified peer health educator, a drug and alcohol counselor, earned two bachelor’s degrees and started a national nonprofit to provide correspondence courses to people incarcerated in prisons.
I’ve gotten to know Terah over the last three months and I can tell our audience that our team is excited to have her as our new Executive Director: She’s passionate, ambitious, innovative, solution-orientated, forward thinking, and a social connector/networker. She’s warm, attentive, and approachable. She has a strong moral compass and is courageous. She’s professional, articulate, and a born leader. She takes pride in her efforts with great energy and focus. Our team loves her inclusive leadership style. She’s driven by her purpose and all the while she still finds time to invest in the most important aspects of her life: her family, her friends, and her community.
Terah is active in the leadership of numerous civic and community organizations. She is spokeswoman for the Drop the Life Without the Possibility of Parole campaign and a member of California’s Prison Focus Board of Directors. She is featured in A New Way of Life testimonial series and actively volunteers with local organizations, including Fair Housing Initiative, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, All of us or None, Prison Focus, Project Homeless Connect, and Restorative Justice Reentry Conference.
Originally from the Bay Area, Lawyer-Harper holds three undergraduate degrees in business administration, management and social and behavioral science. Terah Lawyer-Harper will be based at CROP’s headquarters in Oakland, CA.
We just dropped a Press Release that share more of her story. Learn more about Terah on the front page of CROP Organization's website: https://croporganization.org/
Ken is the former Director of Business Development and former Executive Director at CROP Organization. Today, he is the Executive Director of the Checkr Foundation and Co-Chairman of CROP’s Board. Ken was incarcerated for over 25 years including spending over 8 years in solitary confinement. Today, he is a proximate leader in criminal justice reform, reentry architecture, workforce development, and inclusive impact strategy. He’s passionate about...
I was recently released after serving 15 years on a 15 to life sentence. I was 19 years old and lost, consequences of brokenness. I seen my brother Jarad share truth. Keep up the great work. 33 days out!!!! Thanks to platforms like this that speak the reality of minorities and endless possibilities. I’m blessed to be home, god bless
I’ve been teaching for over 30 years in public and private school with learners at nearly every age level from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. From experience, I know classrooms like this are as excellent as they are rare. Why? Because they articulate honestly moments of transformation—the alignment of head and heart, synchronicity and even epiphany. The right questions name and frame a way forward for one and for all. Thank you Prison Cast for the hope that heals.
Wow, I'm so glad I stumbled across this amazing podcast. I'm absolutely fascinated by the topic of prison reform and think it's so important to talk about. I'm so glad this podcast exists and I'm a fan!!