BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


Shut down
June 6, 2008, 2:50 pm
Filed under: book club jail | Tags: ,

this is what my basement looked like yesterday, after a very biblical show of torrential rain and angry storming. i find i somehow function well in crisis, so i just got it together and tried to remedy to it as best as i could.

after a long day cleaning though, i was looking forward to going to the jail to watch” the color purple”, which is the book we just read with the women there. as me and corinna arrived it was obviously tense (not the the jail ever feels exactly relaxed).

we got asked why we wanted to watch that movie, what activity we were going to do and on and on. they finally called the supervisor, which, after asking for an additional time what the title of the movie was, and why we were watching,shut us down, claiming it was not educational enough.

i don’t want this to just turn into a rant about the injustice of the correctional system, because that’s a known fact. what disgusted me was the sense of that decision being a mere show of power, as if to say: we can let you in the jail, you can do your thing, but never forget where the authority lays.

incidentally when i got home PBS was showing “writ writer”, a documentary about prison rights in texas in the 50s and 60s. it’ all about reliance. you just can’t stop because it’s too hard, or the system seems to powerful and complicated. it’s nice to know change is not impossible.



can you tell how many kindergardeners will end up in jail?
June 2, 2008, 11:07 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

yesterday i went to see Amber and Amina’sperformance of their audio documentary “i want to do this all day“. they went around the country and interviewed people involved with alternative education, and with exploring a way to teach and learn that is imaginative. i am very glad they did this, even simply because so many times punk identity and focus is so reduced to simply music or juvenile politics of resistance.

it was daunting though, to be there and listen, to really try to think about education and the damage public schools are perpetuating. it terrifies me. i see it as a parent negotiating Oona and Florence’s journey through the public school system and as an educator going in the public schools for discussions and presentations. what i see is disheartening and disturbing.

i was talking to Oona and Florence’s teacher,Heather, a couple of days ago and she told me about a study the Department of Corrections did in D.C.’s kindergardenclasses. Their aim was to project how many jails they would need to build in the next 15-20 years. To find that out they went to kindergarden classes, and apparently picked out how many kids would end up in jail as teens and young adults.how is that possible? how can we just give up on the life of a 5 year old and foresee the choices they will make?

the thing is, with the way society is structured right now, we can. the same kids that are labeled as troublemakers and problematic at 5 will most likely be still labeled with the same sticker at 15. and no, it’s not about genetics, or innate inclinations to criminality. it has a whole lot to do with race and class. if teachers, administrators, social workers and the like keep on expecting  a certain behavior from specific groups of people, that’s what they will get.

the biggest shock for me in getting to know the public school system in the past few years, is the utter distrust adults have in children, and the fear hidden in their desire for control and rules. having better educational programming, better funding and curricula is all great, but the shift has to happen more fundamentally ,and the issues that are problematic are connected with the systems of oppression present in society at large.

the good news is , the ingredients for change are simple and basic, whether is respect or openness, trust or communication. the hard part is that the racism and classism perpetuating it all are still very pervasive. but that does not mean they can’t change.



book club report- what do people need?
May 22, 2008, 9:28 pm
Filed under: book club jail | Tags: ,

today was the second session of the reading club in the jail. we were in there for about an hour and a half, and we talked about the books for maybe 10 minutes.
we spent the rest of time sharing thoughts about family experiences, and the building of the new jail planned for bloomington.
i can’t decide myself what to think about the new jail being built for a number of reasons. the structure at place now is in many ways inhumane and inadequate. it’s way overcrowded and there is no space for rehabilitation. on top of that the visitation room is completely inadequate.
but is a new building going to solve that? oh hell no.
it’s gonna just be filled with more people, and none of the things that are really problematic will be addressed.

the women had really good ideas that i just wanted to share:
1. more public defenders are needed, and competent ones. right now they have way too many cases on their hands and have no chance to give the needed time to anyone

2. probation fees. a number of people there were in for the violation of expensive probation fees they could not afford. wtf? not having money is not a crime

3.visitation problems. from no space or privacy, to the policy that only three kinds are allowed at the time.

4.shower times, only once a week. clean clothes, also only once a week.

5.they are supposed to get one hour of air per day. they never do. they said in average they get to go outside once every couple of weeks.

also the women were very insightfully sharing that bloomington is much stricter than other towns, which they attributed to bloomington being more affluent, and the university politically pushing for ” tough on crime” policies, so that students and parents feel safe and keep pumping money into the college.
lastly they mentioned that treatment and rehabilitation is costly and prohibitive, and so is healthcare.

i am so glad they were open to share their thoughts with me, because as an outsider i really was in the dark about what is needed. i hope i can advocate for them a bit as the jail construction will be discusses in town meetings.



jail book club
April 28, 2008, 12:09 pm
Filed under: book club jail | Tags: , ,

so, through pages to prisoners me, corinna and tess are starting a book group club at the women’s jail.

we have been racking our brains for good books and articles, and for a way to conduct the readings and discussions that can be thought-provocking and not patronizing.

our short list of books includes

without a net- the female experience of growing up working class,

octavia butler “the parable of the sower”

dorothy allison ” bastartd out of south carolina’

maya angelou

michelle tea ” the chelsea whistle”

bell hooks

it’s hard to try to find a balance between going in there with an attitude of “i am here to be a vehicle for you to read things you like, think, alleviate boredom and grow as a person” without crossing into some fucked up ” i know more then you about literature so i am gonna tell you what to read and how to think”.

being a teacher is hard. hopefully we can facilitate and atmosphere where people can tell us what they want and need and we can help them get there.

i wil keep posting about this