Weinstein could face life in prison after new charge

Harvey Weinstein could face life in prison after being charged with sexually assaulting a third woman.
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Kardashian meets woman she helped free from prison

Kim Kardashian West has met the woman she helped free from prison after 21 years.
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‘If We Let Everybody Go, There’d Be Nobody in Prison’

Last year, Ebony Thomas was in jail, unable to afford bail. This year, she’s a spokeswoman for Black Mama’s Bail Out Day.
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Fiction: Rachel Kushner’s ‘The Mars Room’ Offers a Blackly Comic Take on Prison Life

The author’s much-anticipated new novel, a page turner set in a women’s correctional facility, reveals an imagination Dickensian in its amplitude — and in its reformist zeal.
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Meek Mill Celebrates Prison Release With NBA Playoff Game

Hours after his release from prison, the rapper arrived just in time to watch the Philadelphia 76ers game! "LFE" talks what's next for Meek.
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Abby Lee Miller’s Fan Mail Policy Changes as Prison Sentence Wraps Up

Abby Lee Miller, 2016 Teen Choice AwardsAbby Lee Miller has an update from behind bars.
The Dance Moms star took to Instagram on Monday with a message for fans interested in sending their well wishes during the last few months…

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Martin Shkreli Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison

Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive notorious for hiking the price of lifesaving drugs and his social-media provocations, had been convicted of defrauding hedge-fund investors.
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Second Man Will Face Prison in 2011 Murder of Tennessee Nursing Student Holly Bobo

A second man will face prison time in the 2011 abduction and murder of Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo.

John Dylan Adams was one of three men charged in the death of Bobo, 20, whose remains were found in the woods in 2014 not far from her family’s semi-rural Decatur County home, from which she had been taken more than three years earlier as she stepped outside to leave for school on the morning of April 13, 2011.

On Monday, Adams accepted a plea agreement charging him with facilitating Bobo’s murder, a charge that will place him behind bars for 35 years when sentenced, TV station WKRN reports.

The so-called Alford plea arranged by his defense attorneys and prosecutors — which does not admit guilt but carries the same weight, and cannot be appealed — would assess 15 years for facilitation of first-degree murder, and 35 years for aggravated kidnapping, to be served concurrently, The Jackson Sun reports.

Adams’ brother, Zach Adams, 33, was found guilty in September 2017 of eight charges related to the crime. Zach Adams accepted a plea deal arranged by his defense and state prosecutors that allowed him to avoid the death penalty — an outcome that was supported by Bobo’s parents — and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

The third man facing charges in the case, Jason Autry, has pleaded not guilty, and prosecutors have said they wanted to delay resolution of his case while they dealt with John Dylan Adams, according to TV station WBBJ. Autry was a key witness at the trial of Zach Adams.

John Dylan Adams was scheduled to go to trial in May, and had faced a sentence of up to 51 years in prison if convicted at trial.

Bobo Was Raped and Drugged, Third Suspect Testified

During Zach Adams’ September trial, Autry — who has been offered the possibility of reduced charges and federal immunity in exchange for his testimony, according to the Sun — described in detail the alleged events leading to the murder and its aftermath.

Bobo’s brother, Clint, had testified that he heard voices outside of the family’s house on the morning his sister went missing, and then glimpsed a man dressed in camouflage walking Holly to the edge of the woods.

Autry, who acknowledged his addiction to methamphetamine and morphine, testified that on the day Bobo disappeared, he’d called his friend Zach Adams to buy a morphine pill. Autry, who went by the nickname “Train,” later met up with Adams.

“He said, ‘I need you to help me bury this body,’” Autry said.

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Autry first thought the body might be that of someone who owed money to Adams and another man from a drug deal. “He said, ‘Train, that’s Holly Bobo,’” Autry testified.

Autry alleged that Adams eventually told him that he, John Dylan Adams, and a third man all had raped Bobo, who allegedly had been drugged.

A pathologist testified at Zach Adams’ trial that Bobo had been shot in the head, which Autry said occurred during an aborted attempt to throw her listless body into a river after Bobo appeared to stir.

Autry testified that two days after that incident, he asked Zach Adams what he’d done with “the ol’ girl.”

“We threw her out,” Zach Adams allegedly replied, according to Autry.


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The day Johnny Cash went to prison

Fifty years ago, Johnny Cash walked through the gates of Folsom Prison. Not because he’d shot a man, but because others might have.
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Andrew Cuomo Getting Small-Screen Treatment in Prison Break Miniseries

Michael Imperioli, a New York native famous for his role as Christopher Moltisanti in the HBO series “The Sopranos,” will play New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a limited Showtime series focused on a 2015 upstate prison break.
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Gypsy Rose Blanchard Says Her Prison Sentence Is Too Harsh for Murdering Munchausen by Proxy Mom

A Missouri woman whose mom made her pretend to be sick and wheelchair-bound for years to attract sympathy for herself tells Dr. Phil that she regrets her role in her mother’s stabbing murder, but that her 10-year prison sentence on a second-degree murder conviction is too harsh given what her mom forced her to endure.

Before Dee Dee Blanchard, 48, was found in a pool of blood in the pair’s Springfield, Missouri, home, in June 2015, the community accepted what she’d told them about daughter Gypsy Rose: that she was a terminally ill teen with the mind of a 7-year-old who suffered from muscular dystrophy, leukemia and other ailments.

But with Gypsy Rose missing from the crime scene, worried authorities went searching for her — and discovered she was a 23-year-old adult fully capable of walking on her own and allegedly enlisting her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, then 26, to help plot her mother’s murder.

Experts say Gypsy Rose was the victim of Munchausen by proxy, a rare form of abuse in which a guardian exaggerates or induces illness in a child for attention and sympathy.

In an exclusive clip from a two-part Dr. Phil interview with Gypsy Rose that airs Nov. 21 and 22, Dr. Phil McGraw asks Gypsy Rose, “Should you be in this prison?”

“To be honest, I have complicated feelings about that,” Gypsy Rose says. “I believe firmly that, no matter what, murder is not okay. But at the same time I don’t believe I deserve as many years as I got.”

“What would be your just punishment?” McGraw asks.

“I’m not really certain on that,” she replies. “I do believe that I do deserve to spend some time in prison for that crime. But I also understand why it happened, and I don’t believe that I’m in the right place to get the help that I need.”

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

“Are you glad your mother’s dead?” McGraw asks her.

“No sir,” Gypsy Rose says. “I’m glad that I’m out of that situation, but I’m not happy she’s dead.”

Gypsy Rose was sentenced for second-degree murder in July 2015. Godejohn, who has pleaded not guilty, is awaiting trial.

Mother Knows Best: A Story of Munchausen by Proxy and Murder, airs on Dr. Phil Nov. 21 and 22. Check local listings.


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O.J. Simpson’s Prison Release Date Is Almost Here

O.J. Simpson, OJ Simpson, Parole hearingThis will likely be O.J. Simpson’s last weekend in prison, as he will soon complete his sentence for his botched robbery case.
It is due to end on Sunday, October 1, jail records…

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Fiction: In ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing,’ a Haunted Road Trip to Prison

Jesmyn Ward’s follow-up to “Salvage the Bones” tells the story of a woman intent on making her fractured family whole again.
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Jodi Arias Might Request Prison Leave to Attend Father’s Funeral: Relative

The father of Jodi Arias has died in California, and the 37-year-old convicted murderer is distraught — and considering requesting a supervised leave from prison to attend a funeral, PEOPLE has confirmed.

William A. Arias died of undisclosed causes on the evening of September 19. He was 68.

According to a relative, Jodi Arias, who is in prison for the murder of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, is distraught and looking into the possibility of applying for a supervised visit so she can attend a memorial service.

“She’s really upset,” the relative tells PEOPLE. “It’s hard for her to know that he’s really gone. She wants to see her family and pay her respects.”

Under Arizona law, inmates can apply for an escorted leave visit to attend the funeral or memorial service of a loved one. If the request is granted, the inmate will be supervised by authorities the entire time.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

However, Arias would very likely be unable to attend her father’s memorial service if it’s held in California. Inmates who are granted an escorted leave visit must remain within Arizonas. Funeral visits are not available for closed casket services, or memorials where the body has already been cremated.

“She wants to go, but it seems impossible now,” says the relative. “The logistics just don’t work out. And yes, it’s sad for her, but it can’t be the family’s problem. They’re grieving the loss of a beloved man.”

Andrew Wilder, the Director of Communications and Media Relations for the Arizona Department of Corrections, tells PEOPLE that Arias “has not requested to attend a funeral.” The approval process can take several days. 

Arias was convicted of first degree murder in the 2008 stabbing and shooting death of Alexander. She was sentenced in 2015 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


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Dance Moms’ Abby Lee Miller Begins 1-Year Prison Sentence

Abby Lee Miller, CourtThe time has come.
Abby Lee Miller has begun her prison sentence after reporting to FCI Victorville prison in California.
Earlier today, Miller posted the following message on…

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Free Discount Cards Donated To Texas Prison Ministry By Charles Myrick of ACRX

ACRX Recognition Gallery: American Consultants Rx

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Andrea Constand’s Story: Will It Send Bill Cosby to Prison?

Though more than 40 women have accused Mr. Cosby of sexual assault, the task of convincing a jury that he is a predator will largely fall to just one.
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Free Discount Cards Donated to Ga. Dept. Of Corrections & Rogers State Prison by Charles Myrick of ACRX

ACRX Recognition Gallery: American Consultants Rx
http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.

The American Consultants Rx discount prescription cards are to be given free to anyone in need of help curbing the high cost of prescription drugs.

Due to the rising costs, unstable economics, and the mounting cost of prescriptions, American Consultants Rx Inc. (ACRX) a.k.a (ACIRX) an Atlanta based company was born in 2004. The ACRX discount prescription card program was created and over 25 million discount prescription cards were donated to over 18k organizations across the country to be distributed to those in need of prescription assistance free of charge since 2004.

The ACRX cards will offer discounts of name brand drugs of up to 40% off and up to 60% off of generic drugs. They also possess no eligibility requirements, no forms to fill out, or expiration date as well .One card will take care of a whole family. Also note that the ACRX cards will come to your organization already pre-activated .The cards are good at over 50k stores from Walgreen, Wal mart, Eckerd”s, Kmart, Kroger, Publix, and many more. Any one can use these cards but ACRX is focusing on those who are uninsured, underinsured, or on Medicare. The ACRX cards are now in Spanish as well.

American Consultants Rx made arrangements online for the ACRX card to be available at http://www.acrxcards.com where it can also be downloaded. This arrangement has been made to allow organizations an avenue to continue assisting their clients in the community until they receive their orders of the ACRX cards. ACRX made it possible for cards to be requested from online for individuals and organizations free of charge. Request for the ACRX cards can also be made by mailing a request to : ACRX, P.O.Box 161336,Atlanta,GA 30321, faxing a written request to 404-305-9539,or calling the office at 404-767-1072. Please include name (if organization please include organization and contact name),mailing address,designate Spanish or English,amount of cards requested,and telephone number.

American Consultants Rx is working diligently to assist as many people and organizations as possible. It should be noted that while many other organizations and companies place a cost on their money saving cards, American Consultants Rx does not believe a cost should be applied, just to assist our fellow Americans. American Consultants Rx states that it will continue to strive to assist those in need.

Troubled ex-Lions player gets prison for street fight (Yahoo Sports)

Troubled ex-Lions player gets prison for street fight. (AP)

Titus Young, who had a tumultuous NFL career, will serve four years after pleading no contest to a 2016 assault charge.



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Teresa Giudice Soaks Up the Sun in Bikini Ahead of Joe Giudice’s 1-Year Prison Anniversary

Teresa Giudice, BikiniA little Vitamin D never hurt anybody!
As Teresa Giudice nears the one-year anniversary of husband Joe Giudice entering federal prison, she flew to Boca Raton, Florida for some fun in the…

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Boy Oh Boy, Is Masculinity a Prison or What?

No one has to “talk sports” to like sports.

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Antique Print The Poor of New York Receiving Food at Tombs City Prison

Antique Print The Poor of New York Receiving Food at Tombs City Prison


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Charles Manson Had Over 100 Infractions in Prison Before Recent Hospitalization: ‘Not a Model Prisoner’

Charles Manson, the 82-year-old serial killer serving nine life sentences for the grisly killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people during a two-day spree in 1969, is “not a model prisoner,” says a California prison official.

“He has had over 100 violations since he was incarcerated, which has been a very long time,” Kristina Khokhobashvili, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, tells PEOPLE.

On Sunday, Manson was taken from California’s Corcoran State Prison and transported to a hospital in Bakersfield for gastrointestinal bleeding, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Times reports that Manson is seriously ill.

Manson’s most recent rules violations at Corcoran — where he has been since 1989 — have included getting caught with three contraband mobile phones, failing to provide a urine sample for random drug testing, threatening prison staff, possession of a weapon and assault.

“He was a nasty prisoner,” retired Los Angeles County prosecutor Stephen Kay, who helped convict Manson, tells PEOPLE. “He threw hot coffee on a guard and spit on a guard’s face. He had a saw blade in the sole of a shoe. He was making little dolls, but they were like voodoo dolls of people, and he would stick needles in them hoping to injure the live person the doll was fashioned after. He said his main activity was making those dolls.”

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Manson, Kay says, had a particular dislike for female prison guards. “He was especially nasty to the female guards,” he says. “He never had any respect for women. Women were to be used.”

On one occasion in 1982, prison guards searching Manson’s cell at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville found a hacksaw blade, marijuana and LSD, according to the Times. Also discovered were a nylon rope and a catalogue indicating how to purchase a hot-air balloon, objects that made officers believe he might have been planning a prison escape, the paper reports.

Kay says Manson, who was known for his outlandish and violent behavior behind bars, had enemies in prison.

“They were in the model shop and Manson got into a religious argument with a Hare Krishna, and the Hare Krishna poured lighter fluid on him and lit him up,” Kay says about the Vacaville assault.

• Pick up PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: Cases That Shocked America, on sale now, for the latest on Casey Anthony, JonBenét Ramsey and more.

Kay adds, “He has a lot of scarring on his upper body. I don’t know if he started it but he didn’t finish it. He was in the general prison population, and after that incident they decided they couldn’t have him in general population anymore. He was at risk of being severely injured.”

Manson first came to the public’s attention after he was arrested for the series of gruesome murders that he and his followers committed in 1969. The murders were part of a twisted plot by Manson to start a race war he called “Helter Skelter,” after the Beatles song. Manson and his so-called “family” of followers were convicted in 1971.

He has been denied parole 12 times and has spent time in San Quentin, Vacaville and Corcoran prisons.


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Teresa Giudice, One Year Later: How She Rebuilt Her Life After Leaving Prison

Teresa Giudice, Daughters, Kids, Gia Giudice, Gabriella Giudice, Milania Giudice, Audriana GiudiceIt’s been a year since Teresa Giudice was released from prison, and a tough one at that.
While getting out of prison after serving what was originally supposed to be a 15-month…

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Hoeness returns as Bayern Munich president after prison term (Yahoo Sports)

Former president Uli Hoeness arrives for the annual general meeting of FC Bayern Munich soccer club in Munich, Germany, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Hoeness is back in charge of Bayern Munich 270 days after his early release from a 42-month prison term for tax evasion. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Uli Hoeness is back in charge of Bayern Munich 270 days after his early release from a 42-month prison term for tax evasion. Some 7,152 Club members voted overwhelmingly for the 64-year-old Hoeness, who was the only candidate, to become president again on Friday. ”To be standing here today, I thank my two families, mine and that of Bayern,” said Hoeness, who was applauded into the club’s AGM.



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Jacob Wetterling’s Killer Gets 20 Years in Prison — as He Apologizes to Jacob’s Family

The man who abducted, molested and then killed 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in 1989 was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison, PEOPLE confirms — and he could spend the rest of his life in state custody.

Daniel Heinrich was sentenced on one count of receipt of child pornography in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, nearly three months after his confession in Jacob’s disappearance resolved a decades-old cold case, court officials tell PEOPLE.

At the hearing, Heinrich was confronted by Jacob’s family and friends, according to multiple reports. They shared decades of grief over Jacob’s loss.

“He hurt my heart, my soul, every fiber of my being when he murdered my son Jacob,” Jacob’s mom, Patty Wetterling, said at the sentencing, according to the Star Tribune.

“I miss Jacob so very much,” said Jacob’s dad, Jerry Wetterling, according to the paper. “It wasn’t just Jacob’s physical body missing these last 27 years. More importantly, I miss the things I never got to experience.”

Jacob’s brother, Trevor, said, “Any person that does not value another person’s life — and at any time they feel that their back is against the wall and is willing to kill a child for no reason except to save themselves from being caught — does not deserve to be free.”

“This monster was able to live free with his secret for almost 27 years, 9,815 days free, without paying for what he did to my brother,” Trevor said.

Jacob’s sister Carmen said, “I am taken back to this nightmare every time the leaves start to change. The time I have spent hoping, praying, searching for my brother cannot be measured.”

And Jacob’s sister Amy said, “While I have no idea what my life would be like if Jacob had never been taken, I do know that it would have been without 27 years of pain directly caused by Danny Heinrich.”

Heinrich read a brief statement himself, apologizing for his crimes, according to the Associated Press and Star Tribune. “Mr. and Mrs. Wetterling, the heinous acts of selfishness are unforgivable … I’m so sorry,” Heinrich said.

“I am truly sorry for my evil acts — for the victims and their families — and the shame that I brought on to myself and my family,” he said, according to the Pioneer Press.

While Heinrich may reportedly be eligible for release after 17 years, he could be civilly committed as a sex offender in Minnesota and remain in state custody. If he is released, he will be required to register as a sex offender and be under a lifetime of court-ordered supervision, according to the Star Tribune.

(Neither federal prosecutors nor Heinrich’s defense team immediately responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment on the sentencing. The Wetterlings have not responded to inquiries since Heinrich’s confession.)

Speaking from the bench on Monday, Judge John Tunheim, who sentenced Heinrich, said, “The long nightmare is not over, there is no closure to the ‘why?’ No one is ever going to forget Oct. 22 of 1989. But we will move forward.”

“We are in a better place as a society because of the commitment the Wetterling family has made to Jacob and to other children,” Tunheim said, according to the Star Tribune.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Indeed, as Jacob’s loved ones remembered the pain of his death, they also spoke of his inspiring life and spirit.

“In eleven years, I think Jacob taught us all so much about life, how to make a difference, how to be happy, how to make others happy,” Jacob’s best friend, Aaron Larson, said at the hearing, according to a transcript obtained by PEOPLE.

“Life is hard, but Jacob showed us how great this hard life can be,” Larson added.

Jared Scheierl, who Heinrich sexually assaulted months before Jacob vanished, when Scheierl was 12, also read a statement in court, according the Star Tribune. “He should know that the words that he had spoke to me on that evening haunted me for years, and I don’t chose to hear anything he wishes to say at this time,” he said.

In a statement following the sentencing, the Wetterling family said, in part, “We are so grateful for the collaborative effort that it took to find answers.”

“We are getting stronger every day and we will deal with the finality of the search for answers, but like many other realities of life, healing has its ebbs and flows,” the Wetterlings said. “We are feeling good one moment and may be in tears from hearing a song that touches our hearts the next moment.”

In an unorthodox bargain with prosecutors that was approved by the Wetterlings, Heinrich admitted to Jacob’s abduction, assault and slaying, as well as Scheierl’s sexual assault — and he at last led investigators to Jacob’s remains.

In exchange, he was only sentenced on one count of child pornography, following his 2015 arrest.

Heinrich was named as a person of interest in Jacob’s disappearance in October 2015, when authorities say they also recovered 19 binders and several hard drives containing images of minors in sexual situations from Heinrich’s home. But the lack of other evidence pointing toward him, including a body, hindered the investigation and any possible prosecution.

As a federal prosecution source previously explained to PEOPLE,  “ is not getting away with murder. It wasn’t a choice we really had. It was a bittersweet moment, but we got there.”

“The choice wasn’t to try him for murder or not,” the source said. “It was to bring Jacob home or not.”

And so in September, Heinrich confessed in full, in court, to having abducted Jacob at gunpoint near his home, molesting him and then fatally shooting him in the head on Oct. 22, 1989.

Speaking at Monday’s sentencing, Jacob’s father thanked Heinrich for finally revealing what had happened to their son and leading police to his body, according to the Star Tribune.

Patty also addressed Heinrich directly.

“You didn’t need to kill him,” she said. “He did nothing wrong. He just wanted to go home.”


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Real Housewives of Orange County’s Josh Waring Charged With Possession of Contraband While in Prison

Joshua Waring, Lauri Waring, Lauri PetersonJosh Waring is facing more legal troubles behind bars.
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When Parents Are in Prison, Children Suffer

A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation describes the many ways parental incarceration affects families and communities, and recommends that courts and policymakers consider the needs of children.
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Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal


Revolutionary love, revolutionary memory and revolutionary analysis are at work in every page written by Mumia Abu-Jamal … His writings are a wake-up call. He is a voice from our prophetic tradition, speaking to us here, now, lovingly, urgently. Black man, old-school jazz man, freedom fighter, revolutionary-his presence, his voice, his words are the writing on the wall.- Cornel West , from the foreword

From the first slave writings to contemporary hip hop, the canon of African American literature offers a powerful counter-narrative to dominant notions of American culture, history and politics. Resonant with voices of prophecy and resistance, the African American literary tradition runs deep with emancipatory currents that have had an indelible impact on the United States and the world. Mumia Abu-Jamal has been one of our most important contributors to this canon for decades, writing from the confines of the U.S. prison system to give voice to those most silenced by chronic racism, impoverishment and injustice.

Writing on the Wall is a selection of more than 100 previously unpublished essays that deliver Mumia Abu-Jamal''s essential perspectives on community, politics, power, and the possibilities of social change in the United States. From Rosa Parks to Edward Snowden, from the Trail of Tears to Ferguson, Missouri, Abu-Jamal addresses a sweeping range of contemporary and historical issues. Written mostly during his years of solitary confinement on Death Row, these essays are a testament to Abu-Jamal''s often prescientinsight, and his revolutionary perspective brims with hope, encouragement and profound faith in the possibility of redemption.

Greatness meets us in this book, and not just in Mumia''s personal courage and character. It''s in the writing. This is art with political power, challenging institutional injustice in the U.S. while catalyzing our understanding, memory and solidarities for liberation and love. Writing on the Wall can set the nation aflame-yes, for creating new possible worlds.- Mark Lewis Taylor , Professor of Theology and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary

Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning journalist and author of two best-selling books, Live From Death Row and Death Blossoms.

Johanna Fernandez is a Fulbright Scholar and Professor of History at Baruch College in New York City.

Cornel West is a scholar, philosopher, activist and author of over a dozen books including his bestseller, Race Matters. He appears frequently in the media, and has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, The Colbert Report, CNN and C-Span as well as Tavis Smiley.
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Iraq Documentary Filmmaker Turns His Lens on the US Prison Pipeline

The above is a work-in-progress for a documentary film about rehabilitative theater with incarcerated young men of color called The Odyssey Project.

“I wanted to tell the story of the criminal justice system”

Iraq, the BP oil spill, the rights of union workers, food insecurity, and the juvenile incarceration system aren’t necessarily the first things that come to mind when one thinks of a summer afternoon in Santa Barbara. However, they’re what documentary filmmaker and longtime Santa Barbara resident Mark Manning concerns himself with. I walk down a red brick path through a verdant garden to arrive at Manning’s office at Conception Media, which is in the back cottage of a nice town house. Inside, a husky sleeps on the floor, a few screen-savers swirl on several monitors in the background, and Manning goes about brewing herbal tea after kissing his beautiful wife goodbye for the afternoon. He probably went surfing this morning, but he spent all last summer filming incarcerated youth.

After journeys across the country and world for his documentaries, what about the Odyssey Project — a partnership between UCSB and the juvenile justice system that brings incarcerated young men into a theater workshop — caught Manning’s eye? Why this, for his newest film?

“I always look for a way to tell a real important social issue through characters. To humanize the issue,” Manning says, leaning back in his chair.

“I wanted to tell the story of the criminal justice system…and I did it because I was a little bit afraid. I had some fear about meeting them. I realized I don’t know anything about young people of color who are locked up. I’m living a life of white privilege here; Santa Barbara is one of the centers of white privilege in the world. To tell the story of the prison pipeline here is a good juxtaposition.”

So, last summer, Manning and his crew followed the “personal odysseys” of the incarcerated young men participating in UCSB professor Michael Morgan’s Odyssey Project theater class. Those young men created pieces of personal creative writing and art, performed their own spoken word raps, and acted and danced alongside UCSB undergraduates in a public performance retelling The Odyssey as an epic tale of contemporary homecoming. The Odyssey Project film, if it gets produced, has the potential to change the way juvenile incarceration works in America by demonstrating how successful the arts can be as a tool for rehabilitation and reducing the recidivism rates of jailed youth. Manning’s company, Conception Media, collected the footage without certain knowledge of where funding would come from to finish the film.

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An incarcerated youth performs in The Odyssey alongside UCSB undergraduates (photo credit Clarissa Koenig)

It’s a labor of love, but Manning wasn’t paid to make the award-winning Road to Fallujah, either. Social justice is what makes Mark Manning tick, and what I find most fascinating about him is that this wasn’t always the case: he came to Santa Barbara when he was still a teenager to go to diving school so he could work for Big Oil out in Louisiana. Born and raised in California’s bay area, Manning was a surfer from early on, and wanted to make a living on the ocean. “There was an oil boom going on at the time,” Manning recalls. “I did underwater welding, burning, construction, explosives, whatever it took. Working 60 to 600 feet down underwater. Fun job, made a lot of money.”

But somewhere in those two decades of working for offshore oil companies, Manning slowly grew a conscience. “I didn’t like the way things were going,” he says simply. So by the time he signed up for an eight-week night class in filmmaking, he knew firsthand “how powerful those corporations actually are. How big they are.”

“A sophisticated machine”

By chance, Manning heard a program on the radio about a documentary about Palestinian children. He quit his oil job, took that filmmaking class, and started making nonprofit PSAs in Santa Barbara. It was 2001, and he couldn’t believe 70% of Americans supported the war in Iraq. “Go up and down State Street and ask people why,” someone suggested.

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Mark Manning (photo credit Clarissa Koenig)

Manning followed that suggestion — except he didn’t just go to downtown Santa Barbara, he went all over the country, talking to Wall Street bankers, members of the Ku Klux Klan, farmers, urbanites, in the South, the Midwest, Los Angeles. He asked them all the same questions, “and no matter the class, race, gender, or location of the person I asked,” Manning says, “they all said the same thing. If they were for the war, they said it was because terrorists hated us for being free. If they were against it, they said it was about oil.” But whenever he asked the interviewee for a fact to back that up — even one — from the Wall Street bankers to the KKK members, no one really had any. Thus Manning made the film American Voices, and in doing so, he learned that the mainstream media is as powerful as the big corporations he’d been working for. “It’s a sophisticated machine out there, influencing all of us.”

Manning’s current work on The Odyssey Project film grows out of the belief that relying on that “sophisticated machine” of mainstream media to tell the truth about incarcerated young men of color would be an exercise in futility. This belief was informed not only by his experience working for Big Oil and making Voices of America, but his firsthand experience in Iraq. As Manning interviewed people for the documentary that would become American Voices, he met Nadia McCaffrey, the mother whose son Patrick was killed in Iraq and who became famous for standing up to the Bush administration (which had claimed it banned the press from documenting military caskets coming home for the sake of the families’ privacy) by inviting the press to view the return of her son’s casket. Nadia asked Mark if he’d come with her to Jordan on her subsequent peace-building mission, where Iraqi families and American families who had lost children in the war were going to meet. That’s how Manning made Journey to Peace. “There was a lot of press there, just not American press. I was the American press,” Manning says wryly. “Some people needed to vent. Some needed to testify. Some people had lost their kids just days before that meeting. I mean, it was raw.”

And in challenging the fear Manning himself had around youth of color in the prison pipeline by embarking on this new documentary about The Odyssey Project, he discovered a similar rawness in the extraordinary space that professor Michael Morgan creates every summer with incarcerated youth in his very own Santa Barbara county. “Just getting to know these incarcerated young guys,” Manning recalls, shaking his head, “and seeing the friendship and relationships and seeing the beauty involved there, the willingness of everybody involved to drop preconceived judgements together, reminded me of watching the American and Iraqi families come together. They just let it go, and that’s where peace happens.”

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Incarcerated youth rehearse for The Odyssey alongside UCSB undergraduates, summer 2014 (photo credit Clarissa Koenig)

“The Truth is in the Voices of the People”

While making Journey to Peace with Nadia, Manning befriended an Iraqi woman name Rana, who regularly stopped US Marines from dropping bombs by telling them where she was running to among their targets and emerging with women and children. When Manning went into Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and lived in the city of Fallujah, he did so alongside Rana as one of the only outsiders to live un-embedded in Iraq. Rather, he lived simply as another human in the holy city, which had been the site of the Iraq War’s bloodiest battle in 2004 after four American contractors were killed there. Manning made it a point to tell the story of Fallujah from the perspective of the Iraqi people, and when the resultant film, Road To Fallujah, was released in 2009, it hit the festival circuit with a life of its own, garnering a few awards to boot.

“What’s generally missing in the media,” Manning explains, “are the voices of the people in the stories. You have paid-for pundits, paid-for research, but not those voices. With the Odyssey Project, that’s the missing element of the prison pipeline: where are the voices of the people who are in the pipeline? Where are those voices? That’s where the truth is. The truth is in the voices of the people.”

We conclude our interview by talking about courage, which it takes to make documentary films that might make a difference, sure, but Manning is talking about that of the incarcerated men themselves: “their courage to explore their emotional side, which is difficult when you have to be vulnerable with the new peers you just met, and then with the other people you’re incarcerated with and deal with whatever the framework is there. The courage was a constant blessing to be around. To get along with each other, to drop judgements, to listen, takes courage. And they have it.”

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Incarcerated youth perform The Odyssey alongside UCSB undergraduates, summer 2014 (photo credit Clarissa Koenig)

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Fela Kuti in an Unpublished Interview Conducted After His Release From Prison

The release of Alex Gibney’s new documentary on the late Nigerian pop star Fela Kuti spurred me to sift through my own personal journalistic archives to find an audiotaped interview I conducted with Fela in 1986.

And here it is, a transcript and audio clip of my mostly unpublished interview with Fela, perhaps the first one-on-one he granted after being released from prison in ’86.

On June 17, 1986, seven weeks after his release from Nigeria’s toughest prison, Fela spoke exclusively with me. And, bravely, he remained defiant against the military regime in Nigeria that had imprisoned him.

As is the case with many interviews that I conducted as a writer for music trade weekly Cash Box, the Q&A remained unpublished (except for a few lines published in the June 21, 1986, issue of that magazine).

Kuti is probably best-known today as the inventor of Afropop, a massively influential musical form that mixed jazz, rock, funk and revolutionary politics.

Fela was also famous for having fought against oppression in Nigeria. In the early ’80s he was imprisoned by his country’s autocratic regime for three years on what appear to have been politically motivated charges.

After he was released from prison in April 1986, he visited New York City, appearing at a Manhattan press conference on June 13, 1986 (my interview was not a part of that conference) before performing for Amnesty International at Giants Stadium in New Jersey on June 15.

Here’s an edited version of the conversation I had with Fela on June 17, 1986. (And here’s a link to audio clips of my conversation with him.)

Paul Iorio: It must be a big change for you to be out of prison now.

Fela Kuti: Yeah, it’s a big change for me. It’s a good change.

Iorio: Did you write a lot of songs in prison?

Fela: No. I just kept my brain blank. I left my mind blank in prison.

Iorio: You were transferred to Kirikiri. Was that, as they say, Nigeria’s toughest prison? And was it tough on you?

Fela: [Kirikiri] is one of the toughest prisons, but it was not tough on me. I lived through it. It was tough on the body. I lived through it….

Iorio: Do you think your spirit is stronger because of this experience?

Fela: Much more stronger.

Iorio:There was a period when you were in the hospital and they transferred you over to Maiduguri prison. At that point nobody heard anything from you for about six weeks. What happened to you?

Fela: They just took me to the prison … and it was very, very uncomfortable, very far away from everybody. And visitors weren’t allowed for me for about five months.

Iorio: Were you afraid for your life?

Fela: No, no, no, I was never afraid for my life…. We just try to face the government….

Iorio: Are you still going to speak out against the Nigerian government? … You’re not going to back down?

Fela: No, I’m not going to back down. I still intend to [protest the government]. I’m not backing down….

Iorio: Would you ever consider getting involved in Nigerian politics … ?

Fela: Yes, definitely.

Iorio: You mentioned that some of the military people have your records and like your music.

Fela: Oh, yes. Everybody in Nigeria likes my records.

Iorio: Do you think Amnesty International had a lot to do with getting you out of prison?

Fela: Not much. They tried to make people aware of it. But there’s not much they could do….

Iorio: While you were in prison, what was the worst thing that happened to you?

Fela: The worst thing that happened to me [while I was in prison] was that my record was produced by somebody else, Bill Laswell. And that really fucked me up in prison.

Iorio: That was “Live in Amsterdam”?

Fela: No, no, “Army Arrangement” … destroyed me completely, fucked my mind up…. When you’re in prison, you can’t do anything about what’s happening outside.

Iorio: But at the same time, people were being carted out dead every day; there were beatings.

Fela: Oh, yes.

Iorio: But it never happened to you?

Fela: No.

Iorio: Was that because everybody knew who you were?

Fela: Yes, exactly.

Iorio: You were more than disappointed with “Army Arrangement.”

Fela: Yes, Bill Laswell’s production. I had a production [before I went] to prison. So they abandoned my production and put in a new one…. They knew that [I’d given] instructions that it not be produced by anyone. They knew how I felt about it.

[I was unable to contact Laswell for comment on this claim. Of course, Laswell is welcome to give his side of the story in the comments section here.]

Iorio: How about “Live in Amsterdam”? Do you harbor any bad feeling that EMI released that instead of releasing “Perambulator”?

Fela: EMI did so many bad things. They didn’t look out for my interest at all…. They just wanted to rush something out…. “Live in Amsterdam” wasn’t a good recording. I only [made] it happen because the system wanted it, because the company complained … and demanded a live album.

[Any executive from that era of EMI is free to rebut Fela’s statements in the comments section.]

Iorio: Is there a Fela record that you consider is your best?

Fela: No, I don’t.

Iorio: Do you think that you could live a better life as a musician if you were to leave Nigeria?

Fela: I could never leave my home…. It inspires me a lot.
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