Washington, D.C. — Holly Harris may wear cowboy boots to work, but the Kentucky mom and Executive Director for the US Justice Action Network (USJAN) is far from your average southerner.
This past Saturday, June 25th, Harris talked about her work to a group of journalists and bloggers who traveled to Washington D.C. from different corners of the country to hear from leaders of the criminal justice reform movement. Harris was the first speaker at FreedomWorks’ #JusticeForAll event, and as the leader of USJAN, she set the tone for what turned out to be a fascinating conference.
The veteran litigator opened her speech by outlining USJAN’s goals, explaining the organization believes “our [criminal] code just doesn’t make sense.” That’s why their “goal is to shrink criminal codes” and “get rid of these unfair, unnecessary duplicative and inconsistent laws.”
But it was something else she told the crowd a few minutes later that got attendees worked up.
“The fastest growing segment of the prison population in America,” Harris articulated, “is women … and nobody is talking about that.”
From a small room in Center City, radio activist Vanessa Graber wants to broadcast the realities of post-prison life to thousands of Philadelphians. Next week, PhillyCam, the public-access media nonprofit, will launch WPPM 106.5. It’s one of three new radio stations created following a grassroots push to carve out more slots on FM dials across the country. Graber’s show — hosted by four women with rap sheets — is one of the programs that will air on the community-centric station, which will also reach parts of North and South Philadelphia, as well as across the river in Camden. It’s believed to be the first radio show about re-entry that’s hosted by women ex-offenders.
We have to build some very strong walls around our marriage to keep it from being inundated due to levee failure. Our word for today from the Word of God, Malachi 2:15, says this about God’s view of our marriages: “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Or the husband of your youth, for that matter. How can we do that? For starters, we can build five walls that to keep your marriage strong. Each marriage “levee” can be summed up in the form of five ironclad commitments that can protect your lifetime love. Continue reading “Storm Proof Your Marriage”
On a crisp February morning, Eshawn Page drops off her 13-year-old son, Amir, at school, gets into her silver Volkswagen and begins her biweekly 45-minute commute to visit her husband. Driving past snow-dusted mountains, Page, an optimistic woman with a perfectly symmetrical face and high cheekbones, is in a cheerful mood. Just the day before, two men were exonerated for three murders they did not commit. The men, Antonio Yarbough and Sharrif Wilson, had spent more than two decades in prison. Page’s husband, Jermaine Page, is in year 18 of a life sentence for a murder he similarly denies committing. “They locked up my husband based on a coerced confession and untrustworthy witnesses, just like they locked up those men,” says Eshawn as she approaches Shawangunk Correctional Facility, an all-male maximum-security prison. Eshawn’s family, like so many others entangled in New York’s criminal-justice system, is optimistic that the new Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth Thompson, will deliver on his campaign promise to revisit convictions marred by prosecutorial and police misconduct in the 1980s and 1990s. The two recent exonerations give Eshawn hope that her prayers will finally be answered.
Eshawn pulls into the parking lot of the prison, which is located on a barren stretch of land just west of the Hudson River in Ulster County, N.Y. She walks up to a door marked “visitors” and enters a foyer that resembles a post office, save for signs on the walls instructing visitors, in all capitals: “no cell phones” and “no weapons.” A woman recognizes Eshawn and waves to her; they inquire about their husbands as if passing each other in a grocery-store aisle.
Eshawn is given a key for a locker, where she deposits her coat. She’s already stashed her valuables in her car trunk, knowing she can’t take anything into the prison, not even a piece of paper or a pen. Another visitor walks by and jokes, “If you need someone to watch your money when you go for the visit, just let me know.”
Eshawn laughs and begins filling out the required forms — name of inmate, prisoner ID number, visitor’s car model, plate number, relationship to prisoner and “reason for visit.” A mother and her two children enter the facility, approach the guard and go through the same silent ritual.
After completing the forms, Eshawn removes her neon pink Nikes and large hoop earrings, then walks through a metal detector as if boarding a flight. On the other side, she collects her belongings and expectantly holds out the back of her hand for a guard, who stamps it with a serial number in invisible ink. He is courteous and helpful. “Different guards treat you differently,” she said earlier. “Some are nice, but others are mean and will give you trouble.”