“Midway” Examines the “Afterlife” of Prison: NPR


Halfway Home, by Robin Jonathan Miller

Halfway Home, by Robin Jonathan Miller

For people who spend time in jail or jail, the sentence may appear to end on the day of the release. In reality, thousands of restrictions impose conditions on life after prison as well.

University of Chicago professor Robin Jonathan Miller estimates that there is 45,000 “law, policy, and administrative penalties” in the United States target people with criminal records. Some ex-detainees are barred from jury service. Others prevent people with records from obtaining employment.

For example, in Illinois, a statute was required to allow people with criminal records who were trained as barbers in US prisons and prisons to obtain a cosmetic license – and this law did not. Change until 2016,” He says.

Miller says the most insidious restrictions are those that prevent people with records from accessing homes – or that allow landlords to turn down requests based on the fact that people have criminal records. It is noted that the former detainees are Seven times More vulnerable to displacement than members of the general population.

Miller wrote about the effects of mass incarceration in his new book, Halfway home. The book is based on 15 years of research in which he tracked the lives of about 250 imprisoned and formerly imprisoned men and women, and spoke with their families and friends.

Among the families that Miller writes about is his family. Miller grew up poor in Chicago’s South Side and spent four of the first five years of his life in a nursing home after being abandoned by his mother and siblings. Two of his brothers and his father were in prison. Miller hopes his work will help break down some of the barriers affecting many people in America.

One in two people In this country, you have a loved one who has been jailed or jailed. Why did we make a world? 49 percent Of black men will be arrested before they turn 23, and 38 percent Which white men will be arrested before they turn 23? I want us to think about all these traps that we made and produced and want us to dismantle them. This is my hope. “

Interview highlights

When deciding to include his family’s story in the book

I decided to write about it because it affects so many families and because judges and prosecutors don’t think about the fact that when they imprison a man or a woman, they lock a family with them – that they are someone’s son, brother, father, uncle, or child. … this is not in calculus when they decide to banish someone for 20, 30, 40, 50 years, because they are afraid of them. So I decided to write for myself for these reasons.

Robin Jonathan Miller teaches at the University of Chicago at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. He began his career counseling children in foster care, then worked as a volunteer chaplain at the Cook County Jail.

Jonathan Miller / Little Brown

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Jonathan Miller / Little Brown

Robin Jonathan Miller teaches at the University of Chicago at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. He began his career counseling children in foster care, then worked as a volunteer chaplain at the Cook County Jail.

Jonathan Miller / Little Brown

On laws and policies that prevent holders of criminal records from finding housing

I followed about 250 people over the years – I spent time with them, trying to understand what life was like for them when they got home – and not everyone, without exception, was able to initially rent an apartment on their own without the help of others. And the [in] In most leases, there is a clause that prohibits people with criminal records from living in the apartment. Since changes in liability law – which occurred around the 1980s – have occurred, we see that landlords take responsibility for crimes, for example, that occur in the building’s premises, and their response to this has been to evacuate people with criminal records and, in fact, to evict families That allows people with criminal records to stay home.

In cases of conditional release, curfews and appointments

My brother had a curfew … between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. [when his curfew began], My brother had to go to drug treatment or AA meetings, and he had to do weekly checks with the parole officer. He had to go to workforce development training, which is training to prepare people for the worlds of work. He had to find and check with the case manager. And then he had to look for a job and find a job – all within a certain period of time. So for him, he had 30 days to search and find a job. All of this had to be done before 3 PM and missing any of these appointments – so suppose he had four appointments in one day – not having any of these appointments would be considered a “violation” of his parole. This is dangerous, because when we think about going to prison in a certain year, about quarter Of all the admissions to prison, parole violations are like this: Missing an appointment with a probation officer; Failure to inform workforce development or workforce training; You may miss one, two or three AA meetings to attend; Missing an appointment with a counselor or something like that. That’s a quarter of our annual prison incursions, these little things.

Prisoners incurred debts at legal fees, even with a public defender

So my brother was sentenced to $ 600 to be represented by a public attorney who met him on the day of his conviction for 20 minutes. … he’s charged an additional $ 1,600 in other court fees. So my assumption is that these things go to cover the cost of bailiffs, these kinds of things that are only associated with general court costs. He was charged with a delivery fee. I think that was around $ 400. He was arrested in Chicago and transferred to Michigan. So it’s the cost of the pickup truck that’s going to get him there. He was charged about $ 60 for the cost of filing his criminal record with the state archives. And so most people, by the time they go to jail or jail, have already accumulated thousands of dollars in legal fees like this.

About how jail costs families too

On average, talking to my brother for 15 minutes cost $ 6.55. That was for every phone call. … but then there was the cost of sending notes. So there are letters that you can write, but there is also a service called JPay, which lets you send something like an email and they charge you $ 1 per page to send an email to your imprisoned loved ones. These little things not taken into consideration, families bear the brunt of these expenses.

And then, of course, there’s the food cost. So the prisoners are not fed enough. I cannot tell you how many people are talking to me from the inside. I followed about 250 people over these years who were in prisons and prisons, and they all told me without exception that they were always very hungry because no matter how much prison food I ate, you didn’t get enough … nor was the food nutritious enough. … so families are responsible for subsidizing the food. … so you send in money every month to cover the cost of your ramen noodles. But there are also things like toiletries, soaps, toilet paper, writing instruments, and calendars, and then there are their shoes. Clothes and shoes that prison gives everyone will cost you a pimple, and a pair of sneakers that you can buy at Marshall, Target, or any supermarket will cost you about $ 30, $ 35, $ ​​60, or $ 65. Or $ 80 at the prison commissioner store and you have to buy it at the luxury store. So these little things, these little expenses add up and these little things I think are stressful for you.

What did prisoners ask him about while he was a volunteer chaplain at the prison?

Most of people ask me to call them. This was Order No. 1. “Are you going to pray for me? My case is coming.” “Are you going to meet my mother and tell her that I am here and care? I love you. I miss you.” “Are you going to meet my kids and tell them that I think of them?” Most of the requests were for bits of human kindness. No one asked me for money. No one asked me to do anything unethical. I was not even required to testify on anyone’s behalf. The request I received was mostly for prayers and visits. …

I pray for their strength, and I pray for their peace. I pray that justice will be served, whatever its form, and I pray that they have the wisdom, patience and understanding to transcend it. Sometimes, every so often, I pray for their freedom, because so many men and women in this country are getting arrested for standing up. Many men and women in this country are accused of crimes they did not commit. We know it was there [nearly] 2,800 acquittals Since 1989, many people will be imprisoned for crimes that we might not consider a crime if we stopped and thought about it for a short time.

About criminal justice reform that he would like to see

I’ll start with 45,000 Policies and administrative penalties targeting persons with criminal records. And I’m going to ask myself a very simple question, do we need 45,000? Is this what you need to feel safe? Is this what we need for “safety”? This is the first place. This is a very important place and this is a practical thing to do. But in truth, the question is not just a matter of specific laws and policies. It’s a question of making a world that people belong to. This is the place to start. The question should not be: What do I need to do to feel safe? The question could be, and I think it should be: What does this guy who got out of jail, out of jail, need to thrive? Because if we get people to a place of human flourishing, we will be safe.

Lauren Krenzel and Tia Chaloner produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper, and Meghan Sullivan have adapted it for the web.

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