The Uphill Battle to Make Prison Safer for Trans Women

Christopher Zoukis is a huge supporter of the struggles of trans gender people in prison, especially after a recent incident with a prisoner in Virginia.  That’s why I was so happy to contribute this article in Vice:  http://www.vice.com/read/the-uphill-battle-to-make-prison-safer-for-trans-women If you

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Prisoner Visitation and Support: A Unique Ministry

Prisoner Visitation and Support (PVS) is the only nationwide, interfaith visitation program with access to all federal and military prisons and prisoners in the United States.  Sponsored by 35 national religious bodies and socially-concerned agencies (consisting of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish,

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Average Prisoner Receives Two Visits While Incarcerated, New Study Finds

Image courtesy theguardian.comBy Christopher Zoukis  

No one needs convincing that prison is probably a lonely place, filled with hostile guards and dangerous inmates.  At least from the Hollywood point of view, the only comfort for most convicts is a letter from home or the occasional visit from family or friends.  Sadly, though, a new study indicates that many prisoners do not even have the solace of visitors from outside, and that the average inmate receives only two visits during their entire length of incarceration.

Prisoner Visitation’s Connection to Recidivism

Consistent with previous research, a recent study published in the journal Crime and Delinquency indicates that Florida prisoners who regularly receive visitors do better during their stay behind bars and upon re-entry into the community than those who don’t receive frequent visits.  “Visitation helps individuals maintain social ties during imprisonment, which, in turn, can improve inmate behavior and reduce recidivism,” the authors of the study wrote.  “Not being visited can result in collateral consequences and inequality in punishment.”

Those Who Receive Few to No Visits

Necessarily implied by the study’s findings is that many prisoners receive no visitors at all.  Those who are older, black, or have been incarcerated numerous time had the fewest visitors.  White, Latino, younger, and newly incarcerated inmates received the most visits.  Economic status and the length of a prisoner’s sentence did not factor into the likelihood of visitors.

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Texas Prison Burials Surprisingly Well Done

By Prison Legal News  Photo courtesy of www.txprisonmuseum.org

If a Texas state prisoner dies or is executed, relatives or friends can pick up the body. If they don’t, he or she is buried in the largest prison graveyard in the United States – the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas. Such burials occur around 100 times each year.

Named after an assistant warden at the Huntsville Unit who helped clean and restore the 22-acre graveyard in the 1960s, the cemetery is still associated with the prison unit known as “The Walls” for its 19th century brick walls. The warden or assistant warden from the facility attends each funeral.

A prisoner’s body may be unclaimed for a number of reasons. There may be no surviving friends or relatives, but a more likely explanation is that the friends or relatives are too poor to afford the burial expenses.

“I think everyone assumes if you are in a prison cemetery you’re somehow the worst of the worst,” said Indiana State University assistant professor of criminology Franklin T. Wilson, who is writing a book about the Byrd cemetery. “But it’s more of a reflection of your socioeconomic status. This is more of a case of if you’re buried there, you’re poor.”

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New Hope At Christmas

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Most people can remember when Christmas meant getting up at dawn and running to the Christmas tree in our pajamas excited to see what was under the tree and in the stockings hanging on the mantel.

For children who have parents who are incarcerated, Christmas is not filled with visions of lollipops dancing in their heads; in fact, December 25th is just another day without their parents and can be even more depressing than any other day of the yeImage courtesy www.oklahomawomenscoalition.org ar.

Children who are missing a parent because they are spending time in prison are not only left to deal with loneliness they feel from having an absent parent, but also face ridicule and stereotyping. Many of these lost children are told they are going to turn out just like their parent that is incarcerated.

New Hope, a program created about 20 years ago by the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma is taking a more positive approach for addressing the needs of children who have at least one parent in prison. Instead of reminding children they have no chance of turning out to be productive citizens, they are encouraged to pursue an education. The children are led down a different path than their parents followed.

On Dec. 21, New Hope hosted a Christmas party at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa. Children whose holidays would have been filled with sadness gathered around a table arranged with decorative trimmings and assembled their own wreaths.   

The church hall was filled with fun, playfulness, and laughter.  Toys, gifts, and food were plentiful. The kids were entertained by making their own reindeer and treats.

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