Just in time for the holidays–pen pals, prisoner support, and books!!

In order to encourage spreading love and friendship this holiday season, we have re-posted our pen pal connection page for our friends on the inside. Many of the people listed are in solitary confinement and/or have no family support. Here are three people who have recently been added or updated:

Kenneth-Conrad Vodochodsky

Gerald Marshall

Ronald Hamilton

We also recommend checking out the links to other pen pal sites on the right hand side of our page!!

Since this is our holiday season post, here are a few more things:

We have two holiday wishes this year; the first is that you join abolitionists in Houston for a yearly holiday card signing and get-together. We will have pen pal info here as well.

See the event here: Holiday cards to Death Row

The second wish is that our contributor Nanon Williams will come home soon. Ballistic experts have stated that Nanon was not the shooter in this Houston case from 1992, and his conviction has been overturned several times, but the appeals court has blocked his release. We are asking you to help show that his life matters and encourage Texas politicians and the new Houston DA Kim Ogg to bring him home. Nanon should not die in prison, or spend another year, month or day wrongfully incarcerated!! See petition below:

Bring Nanon Williams Home

Two great books worth buying this month:

.Brian Stolarz, who helped innocent man Alfred Brown get off of TX death row, has written an incredibly interesting book about the case, trial, and struggle to bring him home. It is frankly hard to put down: Grace and Justice on Death Row

. Gerald Marshall and several other Texas death row inmates recently contributed to a book of poetry and art that is now available: Creativity in the Midst of Chaos: Poetry and Art from Texas Death Row

Look out for some more posts coming soon!


Film: The Darkest Hour

This short documentary film is most definitely worth 50 minutes of your time. Even the first 10 or 15 minutes gives you some profound knowledge and thoughts, and there are numerous spoken word and musical interludes from Brooklyn artists that are great too. This film is based on the writing of a Texas prisoner, who is still currently incarcerated despite having been ordered released several years ago, and Dr. Betty Gilmore who has written about the psychological effects of imprisonment. Nanon was put on Death Row as a juvenile and has since been moved off due to the court ruling against executing juveniles. He is incredibly intelligent, author of numerous books, and has worked on a prison newsletter for many years. Several people in Houston plan on getting together to read their book in the near future. Please watch and share:

The Darkest Hour Film (click to view) from GoodMedia Press on Vimeo.

“We live in the age of racialized mass incarceration. An age in which tens of thousands of human beings are caged in solitary confinement every day. Some for decades at a time. “The Darkest Hour” exposes the inhumane impact of extreme isolation experienced by those incarcerated nationwide.

Through intimate interviews with death row survivors like Nanon Williams, now serving life in general population, and the last words of men like Napoleon Beazley before execution by the state of Texas, these stories reveal the savage inner workings of our justice system.

Narrated in hip hop and spoken word by artist/activist Bryonn Bain, creator of the groundbreaking multimedia production “Lyrics from Lockdown” (executive produced by Harry Belafonte), the film’s soundtrack, the “Life After Lockdown: Digital Mixtape,” features founding hip hop DJ Kool Herc and an all-star cast of legends.

“The Darkest Hour” is a call to action for a complete paradigm shift. We will either be ruled by passionate cries for punishment, or heal ourselves with the compassion required to repair a broken nation. ”

Want to read and discuss with us?

Find the book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Darkest-Hour-Shedding-Isolation-ebook/dp/B00N51PW3Q

and contact us to let us know you want to join!

Discussion of Maya Schenwar’s book “Locked Down, Locked out” from Jorge Garcia

I have been receiving letters and submissions from Jorge G., and decided to post part of one letter I received this week. Jorge is in ad-seg(isolation) at the Eastham unit, and is currently looking for a pen pal. He says about his writing: “I would like for people to see that even though I am not perfect, I am still human and still have a heart.” Contact us if you want to write to Jorge!

From a letter dated 07/13/2015:

“I was wondering if you’ve heard of a lady named Maya Schenwar? She is a journalist and prison abolitionist and she wrote a book called Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better. I haven’t read her book, but I read an interview done by Tracy Frisch of Sun Magazine where Ms. Schenwar shares her views on the future of the prison system, which I found fascinating and enlightening. In one instance she was asked, “Why do we have so many people in prison in the US?”, to which she responded by saying, “One reason is that we see prison as a solution to the problem of crime. Instead of preventing crime by allocating resources for health care, early-childhood education, food, housing, and other basic needs, we’re sending people to prison.” Which is true!

The first time I was locked up was when I was in the 6th grade, for possession of marijuana. I had a couple of  joints which I thought I could sell to save some money to buy me some new shoes, which my single mother couldn’t afford to buy me cause she had bills, rent, and needed to feed me and my brothers and sisters. But they didn’t bother asking me why or try to find a way to help me. All they did was place me in a cell by myself til I went to court and was released to my mom’s custody, scared and ashamed because my mom had to miss a day of work for my stupidity. I wonder what would’ve happened if I had been asked why I had the joints and offered help, maybe counseling and an after school job? I might have learned a better lesson. This is something I would like to see change for the benefit of the youngsters going through similar circumstances so that they get a better chance at a decent life, because it’s not their fault to have been born into poverty or to a struggling single parent, and they shouldn’t be made to pay for it.

Another thing is how hard it is for us ex-convicts to get a decent job upon our release. This is something that keeps me up late at night; the closer I get to getting out, the more I’m scared of not being able to find a good job to help my family. There is so much new technology I know nothing about, and I’ve heard from friends that have gotten out how even if they find a job, once the boss finds out they had a criminal record they would get “laid off”, even though they were qualified for the job and doing a good job. So when I start thinking about it, it’s too scary… ”

To buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Locked-Down-Out-Prison-Doesnt/dp/1626562695

To read the full interview: http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/474/criminal_injustice_maya_schenwar

Comment below on your thoughts about what Jorge has to say!