Where the Death Penalty Still Lives. In the U.S., 20 states and the District of Columbia have abolished capital punishment and four others have imposed a moratorium on executions. Of the 26 states that remain, only 14 handed down death sentences last year for a total of 50 across the country — less than half the number six years before. California, which issued more than one-quarter of last year’s death sentences, hasn’t actually executed anyone since 2006. A new geography of capital punishment is taking shape, with just two percent of the nation’s counties now accounting for a majority of the people sitting on death row. [more inside]
This past May on Metafilter, we looked at “Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls”, a wildly popular variety show that was broadcast every Wednesday night in the 1930's and 1940's from the state prison in Huntsville, TX. It featured performances by male and female prisoners. No recordings of the show have ever been found. In the early forties, eight inmates of the Goree State Farm prison unit formed one of the first all-female country and western acts in the country and their performances were broadcast on Thirty Minutes. The Goree All Girl String Band captured the hearts of millions of radio listeners but never cut a record or went on tour and have thus been ignored by music historians. When they were paroled, they nearly all vanished forever. [more inside]
How to Love Your Father When He’s in Prison for Child Porn, an essay by Lindsay Popper. SFW. Some may find the content disturbing.
On Wednesday, William Van Poyck was executed by the state of Florida for murdering a prison guard during a botched 1987 attempt to free an imprisoned friend. Poyck spent 25 years in solitary confinement on death row, during which time he wrote to his sister about his life in prison. Since 2005 she has published those letters to a blog called Death Row Diary. 'Poyck used to write about everything from the novels and history books he was reading and shows he watched on PBS to the state of the world and his own philosophy of life – punctuated by news of the deaths of those around him, from illness, suicide, and execution.' Excerpts. His final letter.
"'If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.' So goes the old saying. Yet conditions in some American facilities are so obscene that they amount to a form of extrajudicial punishment." Mother Jones is profiling "America's 10 Worst Prisons." Facilities were chosen for the list based on "...three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with reform advocates." [more inside]
William Blake has been held in solitary confinement at Elmira Correctional Facility in New York State for nearly 26 years, after he murdered a Sheriff's Deputy and wounded another in a failed escape attempt back in 1987. Sentenced to 77 years to life, he will be eligible for parole in 2064. But Blake has no chance of ever leaving prison alive, and almost no chance of ever leaving solitary — a fate he considers "a sentence worse than death." (Via) [more inside]
In 2009, Ctrl.Alt.Shift, the "youth initiative of Christian Aid," held a national competition in the UK for aspiring filmmakers aged 18 to 25. Their mission: create a short film treatment based around three key issues: "War + Peace," "Gender + Power" and "HIV + Stigma." The results were then screened to an audience at the 2009 Raindance Film Festival. The films: 1000 Voices, HIV: The Musical, Man Made, No Way Through and War School. (All YouTube links. Vimeo links and descriptions of each film are inside this post.) These films deal with adult subject matter and may be disturbing for some viewers. Some may also be nsfw. [more inside]
The Someone You're Not: "Our packed prisons are starting to disgorge hundreds of mostly African-American men who, over the last few decades, we wrongly convicted of violent crimes. This is what it's like to spend nearly thirty years in prison for something you didn't do. This is what it's like to spend nearly thirty years as someone you aren't. And for Ray Towler, this is what it's like to be free." Via. [more inside]