Luna Garcia swipes through the photos on her phone until she finds it — the one of a young man with a slight mustache standing against a wall, his blue shirt neatly pressed, holding a chubby baby girl. It’s the kind of picture someone might snap at a holiday dinner, a grainy image of a girl and her dad. But just out of the frame are armed guards and metal doors. It was visiting day at San Quentin State Prison. It’s a rare photo of Luna with her father. Now 17, she doesn’t have any of him at birthday parties or science fairs. Jose Garcia was serving two years in San Quentin when she was born and has been in and out of incarceration ever since. In the few photos she does have, she can trace the passing years by the colors of his prison jumpsuits.
“He tells me that’s the only thing he knows how to do,” Luna says, her voice flat, resigned. “Prison is all he knows.”
About the film: Incarcerating US is a documentary film illustrating how the purpose of prison has changed dramatically in the U.S. With 2.3 million people behind bars, the U.S. has more prisoners than anywhere else in the world. The rate of incarceration in the U.S. has more than quadrupled over the past thirty years. The social and economic costs of the extremely high imprisonment rate demonstrate the need to reassess and make drastic changes to the current system.
The shift towards longer and more rigid sentencing policies in conjunction with the War on Drugs fueled the explosion in the prison population. Political incentives divert scarce resources away from those who are truly a danger to society to those that commit nonviolent drug offenses.
Through the eyes and experiences of people involved with the prison system, this film will show why many agree that the current system is a counterproductive mess. In a penetrating look, it will include interviews with policy experts, attorneys, judges, corrections officials, current and former inmates, former police officers, and reform advocates. It will explore the vested interests that benefit from the current model and reveal how they obstruct reform efforts. With a greater understanding of the history and policies that created the largest prison population in the history of the world, we can foster a more humane criminal justice system and reduce the social and economic costs to the nation.
Putting Young Students on the Right Path: Ending Discretionary Suspensions in Texas
What’s Happening Across Texas
Texas elementary schoolchildren — some as young as four — are suspended and sent to alternative schools at alarming rates. During the 2013-2014 school year, almost half of all elementary school suspensions in Texas were issued to pre-K through 2nd grade students. Students are often removed from school for minor Student Code of Conduct violations such as horseplay, disruption of class, or dress code violations. These removals are not required under state law — they are ultimately left to the teacher’s discretion (hence the term “discretionary”). Furthermore, school districts have the ability to create their own student codes of conduct that go well beyond state law, allowing suspensions of our youngest students for normal, age-appropriate behavior. Texas Appleseed is working to change this harmful practice. There are better, proven solutions available to teachers and schools than these discretionary suspensions.
How would you react if suddenly hospitals simply replaced in-person patient visitation with video conferencing? Hospital administrators might justify this decision by saying that hospitals are scary places, so it‘s best to protect family members, especially young people, from being traumatized.
The idea that a bureaucracy could so severely restrict a family’s right to see their loved ones might seem unthinkable. However, for the 2.3 million people who were incarcerated in the United States, 744,600 of whom were in jails as of 2014, it could become a reality.
Moreover, there are approximately 5 million children who have an incarcerated parent, and in-person visitation space is essential for these young people to maintain space for family connections and well-being.
In California, the state’s jails have increasingly moved to adopt video visitation in lieu of in-person visitation. Recent estimates put California’s jail population at approximately 74,000. As such, removing in-person visitation has the potential to affect one of the state’s most vulnerable populations: the children of these incarcerated parents.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch chairs the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, which works to identify the barriers to successful homecoming for “our formerly incarcerated family members,” as she said it on April 7, 2016.
The U.S. Justice Department, as part of its attempt to ease the transition from prison to homecoming, has designated the last week in April as National Reentry Week.
“From job fairs to family day, to father-daughter dances, to mock interview programs, all the ways in which we can provide the support so that our brothers, our sisters, our fathers and our mothers — so that when our fellow Americans leave these institutions, they can truly, truly find their way home,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said
More than 5 million U.S. children have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their lives. The incarceration of a parent can have as much impact on a child’s well-being as abuse or domestic violence. But while states spend heavily on corrections, few resources exist to support those left behind. A Shared Sentence offers commonsense proposals to address the increased poverty and stress that children of incarcerated parents experience.