Institutional Clash

Comments on web sites often make me sad, but it’s good to see how complicated and often conflicting the experiences and perspectives of people are, like this exchange between 2 Wisconsin DOC employees from a pretty one-sided article about contraband in WI prisons.:

Joined: 02/15/2009
Total posts: 2

It is Taycheedah Correctional INSTITUTION, not CENTER. The State Journal needs to fact check. THIS IS YOUR JOB!

This is a poorly written, overly biased article. Being locked in a cage all day, for months or years does breed violence. And many of our inmates do sell drugs and weapons. But where is the mention of the black-market sale of athletic shoes for use in the gym? Or the manufacture of small toys to be sent home for a child’s birthday? Wisconsin’s inmates are people too and upon release they DO deserve the chance to prove themselves and rejoin society. ARTICLES like this simply perpetuate and foster more hate and discrimination for ex-cons. Not all of our prisoners are murders and rapists…some are children who have made mistakes or adults who want to change their ways. Let them return to society and restart their lives in peace, without making it more difficult for them by encouraging prejudice.

Joined: 02/15/2009
Total posts: 1

You know, DocEmployee, people like you are what’s wrong with the Department these days. I’ve been in this business for a long time now, I honestly didn’t think there was one thing in this article that was out of place or inaccurate. By your logic and remarks it appears that you are the type of officer, that when my two brothers in blue got their heads smashed in 2 months ago by an inmate with a hammer, you’d be quick to blame us for giving him the hammer! Or maybe it was an error on clinical services for allowing the inmate to have the job in the first place? If you are going to speak like that, do us all a favor and do so under your own name and keep the rest of your BROTHERS and SISTERS out of it.

H-T coverage of juvenile justice forum

I don’t have the time or energy right now to process yesterday’s community meeting on the building of the county juvenile facility.  I learned a lot, was pretty disheartened, and realized, more than anything, that perceptions and realities of limited resources force people with similar interests and goals to become adversaries.  This is how the local paper covered the event.


To clarify my position, I feel that the current Youth Services Bureau should not be relocated or its services replicated on the site of any secure detention facility (adult or juvenile).  I also feel like the current dual role of the YSB as a safe space and as a place where youth are sent by schools, police, courts, or parents is problematic.  There needs to be seperate spaces and adequate funding and staff for both roles.   Ultimately, neither should be on the same site or share staff with any kind of secure detention facility.  Furthermore,  our community needs to expand existing, and develop new  recreational, cultural, counseling, therapeutic, and healthcare opportunities that are youth-initiated, youth-feedback-responsive and voluntary to all the youth of the county.  We must respond to the needs and desires of youth before entering the juvenile justice system, during supervision, and after supervsion, as well as the needs of youth who do not come into contact with the justice system or other services at all.  The proposal of a justice campus would effectively lock much-needed resources and oppotunities for programs behind bars.


Juveniles focus of first meeting on justice issues
Reasons for, against building local juvenile center discussed

By Bethany Nolan 331-4373 |
October 17, 2008

Reducing the number of repeat offenders, expanding the range of sanctions available to local justice officials and centralizing services have been identified as “guiding principles” for Monroe County as it looks toward building its own juvenile center.

That’s what members of the public learned at the first of four public forums related to potential construction of new criminal justice facilities, hosted by the Monroe County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and Noblesville-based consulting firm PSMI Inc. The county commissioners hired the consulting firm back in April to develop facility, site space and operations programs for a new jail, sheriff’s office and juvenile center, plus help identify capital and operating costs and choose contractor, architectural and vendor services.

Other meetings will be held in the upcoming weeks that will focus on a jail and community corrections and work release programs. After those, consultant Bill Shepler said the firm will present the commissioners with a master plan.

Monroe Circuit Judge Steve Galvin — who handles juvenile cases — pointed out he’s sat in on 20 years’ worth of discussions about a juvenile center, and said Monroe County is the only one of the state’s 15 largest counties that doesn’t have its own facility.

“We have to do it,” he said of constructing a center. “It is our duty. It is our responsibility.”

He said the county spends about $1.4 million annually on both the Youth Services Bureau — which has a shelter and provides other services to young people — and to house local juveniles in secure detention at other facilities throughout the state. On any day throughout the year, approximately seven local youths are in secure detention and between 10 and 12 are in shelter care, he said.

Youth Services Bureau director Ron Thompson said he’s not so sure about a new facility, pointing out his current programs are underfunded and wondering if local officials would do the same in the future. He also wondered if his facility would be rendered moot by a new juvenile center. Galvin replied he’d like to leave the current shelter as is, but admitted it could be difficult to fund both.

Geoff Hing, with newly organized advocacy group Decarcerate Monroe County, said the county’s Safe Place site shouldn’t be at the same place as troubled youth, as it is now with the youth shelter. Others spoke about their concern of a “kiddie jail,” arguing that locking up troubled kids isn’t going to help anything, while others pointed out locating youth services next to an adult prison could send a troubling message.

“It’s never been our intention to have a youth jail here, but rather a part of a continuum of care,” Monroe Circuit Judge Kenneth Todd said. “We’re not about incarcerating kids.”

The idea for a justice campus and a corrections campus took root last October, when the plan was backed by all three county commissioners, the sheriff, five of the seven members of the county council and the county’s board of judges.

The project calls for building a new county jail, sheriff’s office and juvenile center on 85 acres off South Rogers Street. The county already owns the site, but it has no infrastructure.

After the new facilities are built, the plan calls for renovating the Justice Building — which houses the jail on its top floors — to make more space for courts and other county offices there.


Questions/demands for juvenile detention center in Bloomington

This is a sketch of my thoughts on the at-this-time-ambiguous proposal for a juvenile detention center in Monroe County in preparation for the public meeting about this on Thursday.  I’ve organized my thoughts in terms of questions and demands.

QUESTION: Is building our own facility the best way to keep our youth close to their families and communities?  I think that there is a community consensus that we want to keep youth from being sent out of the county for incarceration and that we want to make sure that youth who enter the juvenile justice system get the support that they need to have agency in their lives and to avoid further incarceration.  I question whether incarcerating youth  in the county is the best way to do this.  I believe that if we set the right goals as a community; collectively engage youth, families, the schools, and the community-at-large; develop programs and a culture that empowers and supports youth (even those facing challenges with mental health, addiction, and poverty) we can eliminate youth entering the justice system altogether and not just keep them incarcerated in their community, but have them be recognized as the leaders and contributors that so many have the potential to be (and already are).

DEMAND: The Monroe County community needs to discuss a concrete proposal for a juvenile center, not agree that we will build one and then debate what it will look like.

DEMAND: We  need to include youth, particularly youth who have been in the juvenile justce system in the planning and decision making.  They are experts about the system and what has worked or failed or been deeply problematic with other facilities.

DEMAND: Just because we’re proposing building a center in Monroe County doesn’t mean it will automatically avoid the problems of other facilities.  We need to first understand why there were failures or abuses at other facilities and concretely explain how Monroe County would be able to avoid them.  Our track record with the jail has been less than stellar and we must be able to demonstrate a commitment to youth of the county that does far better before we even talk about building a youth facility.

DEMAND: The Youth Services Bureau (YSB) should not be on the same site or share staff with a juvenile detention center.  The YSB already has the difficult role of being both a refuge for youth escaping violence or homelessness and youth who are sent their as a disciplinary measure.  The YSB needs to have a strong, separate identity from the juvenile justice system.  Even now, the perception that the YSB is a punitive space makes some youth seeking safer spaces avoid using the YSB’s resources.

DEMAND: A youth facility will not take youth from distant counties.  One of the reasons for building a facility in this county that has been most vocally expressed has been the issue of sending youth far away from their families and communities.  Doing this to youth from other counties only displaces the problem, it doesn’t solve it.

QUESTION: What kind of treatment programs will te facility offer?  Who will provide them?

QUESTION:  Why are we tying up programming with the juvenile justice system?  Many of the programs that have been alluded to do not exist for youth in Monroe County, period.  For instance, a high-quality, empowerment-modeled,  substance abuse program that is partially developed by youth and that is accessible for low-income youth does not exist in the county.  This is something that would be of great use to youth both inside and outside of the juvenile justice system.  By making it only available to incarcerated youth, we are reinforcing the idea that such programs are about punishment instead of healing and empowerment.

QUESTION: Why are youth being sent out of the county to be incarcerated?  We need to know why this is happening so we can fully explore our options.  For instance, are youth being sent to facilities for serious drug addiction issues, or have they just gotten caught using drugs in a way that is prevelent with youth as a whole?  In the latter case, this speaks more to the need to cultivate cultural alternatives to drug use in our community than to incarcerated youth.  Are they being sent away for the sale of drugs?  This speaks more to changing the economic reality and employment prospects for youth than for further incarceration.

A New Jail?!: Exploring Alternatives to Incarceration in Monroe County

May 3 Jail Education Banner
Saturday, May 3, 2008
A New Jail?!: Exploring Alternatives to Incarceration in Monroe County

Events At:

Boxcar Books
310A S. Washington St.
Bloomington, IN 47401
(812) 339-8710


The Cinemat
123 S. Walnut St.
(812) 333-4700
Bloomington, IN 47401

A day of popular education that will explore alternatives to the current proposal of building new adult and youth jails in Bloomington. Through interactive workshops featuring community members, non-profits, experienced activists, and YOU, we will explore: What is the history of incarceration in Monroe County? What are some existing community alternatives to incarceration in Bloomington and other parts of the country? What have successful campaigns to challenge other jail constructions looked like? Several workshops will offer education, training, and networking opportunities for local folks questioning the need for new jails. The day’s events will culminate with special guest speaker Kai Barrow from Critical Resistance. This is an open event, with people from all backgrounds and political beliefs encouraged to attend.

Workshop One- 11:00 am, Boxcar Books
A discussion and Presentation on the History of the Monroe County Jail System

This workshop will begin with an interview from Indiana University Criminal Justice Department faculty member, Hal Pepinsky. Following the interview will be a facilitated discussion on the history of the jail, encouraging input from community members in piecing together the jail’s history and the sharing of personal and familial experiences with the jail.

Workshop Two- 2:00 pm, Boxcar Books
A Panel Discussion on Alternatives to Incarceration

This workshop will explore community alternatives to incarceration in Bloomington, as well as highlight successful initiatives from around the country. Representatives from different organizations will speak briefly about how their work keeps people out of jail by offering positive responses to poverty, homelessness, hunger, and conflict that enrich and restore community. Workshop attendees will be able to offer their own perspectives on what makes a community safe and whole.

Film Screening- 4:00 pm, The Cinemat
Yes, In My Backyard, A documentary by Tracy Huling

Financially-strapped communities are now begging for prisons to be built in their backyards. With plundering agribusiness, military-base closings and major industry relocation, incarceration is seen as the salvation of rural communities. Through the eyes of one farming-community-turned-prison-town, this hour documentary explores the increasing and multi-layered dependence of rural America on prison industries and subtly probes the profound implications of this dependence for both the keepers and the kept, and for our society’s understanding of and response to crime.

Workshop Three- 6:00 pm, Boxcar Books
Potluck Dinner and Discussion with Kai Barrow from Critical Resistance

Kai Barrow, one of five paid staff persons for Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization committed to ending society’s use of prisons and policing as an answer to social problems, will lead a discussion

For more press, interview, or further contact information, please use information below:

Judah Schept
(812) 219-3611

Download a flyer for this event (PDF)

“The Hardest Question Ever” Shadow Puppet Show and Community Dialog

In ecological terms, an indicator species is life that can draw attention to the condition of an ecosystem and even warn of an impending biological crisis. The Pittsburgh-based performance group, The Indicator Species, tries to draw attention to social crisis – the unbounded growth and abuse of the prison industrial complex and violence in our communities – in their shadow puppet performance, The Hardest Question Ever, which will be performed Thursday, July 6 at the Monroe County Public Library Auditorium at 6pm.  Admission to this performance is free.
In their 30-minute multimedia performance that beautifully combines live music, life-sized shadow puppets, projection, letters from prison inmates, and recorded audio, The Indicator Species tells three true stories of violence and incarceration from their community in Pittsburgh. However, these stories are ones that can and have repeated themselves and provoked communities to ask hard questions in Pittsburgh, Bloomington, and places all over the country.

In one story, a man with a history of violence and closely connected to the Pittsburgh activist community is convicted of rape and murder. In another story, a teenager murders his best friend in a manic episode. In the last story, a well-loved member of the community who was deeply involved in community building and organizing, is murdered while walking home by a group of youth from his neighborhood.

All of these stories remind us of the complicated nature of violence and punishment in our society and how our fears about these things creep and twist around questions of race, class, prejudice, security, justice, and compassion. In the end we are left with no easy answers, but only more questions. Does the prison system protect us from members of our communities who we consider to be dangerous? Or does it contribute to social conditions that aggravate violence? Can the prison system, or any system, rehabilitate those who have committed horrible acts against others? How do we feel safe with our neighbors and in our communities? Following the performance, there will be a discussion about violence, community, and prisons where the performers, audience members, and representatives from Bloomington community groups involved in addressing issues of violence, punishment, and rehabilitation can discuss some of the questions raised by the performance.

Though there is no explicit language or imagery in the performance, it does directly address the reality of rape, murder, domestic violence, and incarceration and may not be suitable for young children.

The Indicator Species is a group of activists, educators, artists, and performers who engage in prison and other community issues through a variety of groups and projects in Pittsburgh. These projects includethe Book Em’ books to prisoners project and The Prison Poster Project, a collaborative art project that combines prisoner art to create an educational tool about the prison industrial complex. Their performance evokes the politically charged imagery of artists such as Seth Tobocman and the powerful delicacy of shadow puppeteers such as Eric Ruin. In addition to their Bloomington performance, The Indicator Species is touring throughout the summer with The Hardest Question Ever, bringing their provocative performance and dialogue to a number of different communties across the country.

The Bloomington performance of The Hardest Question Ever is produced in conjunction with The Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project and as part of this summer’s Plan-It-X Fest. The Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project is a long-running volunteer effort that meets weekly to send free books and other reading material to people in prison for the purpose of self-education, rehabilitation, and relieving pain and boredom. It also hopes to offer an accessible way for members of the community to begin to think and talk about prison issues. In its third year, Plan-It-X Fest is a week long festival of musical performance, workshops, and classes exhibiting and fostering do-it-yourself music, art, activism, and community.

For more information


So what if I got called out by Corinna and Dustin for carrying the hipster pda – it really is a pretty great organizational tool.

After being out of town for a while, I’m trying to play catch-up with a bunch of projects and I’m trying to clear out some older notecards.

Once, when I was soliciting for postage donations for Pages, a man angrily asked, “Why don’t you support the military instead of goddamned people in prison?” The statistic that I wish I could have produced, not that it would have likely made any difference is that, as of 1998, there were 56,500 Vietnam veterans and 18,500 veterans of the persion gulf war in prison in the us. These statistics are from the US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Here’s some things that I want to check out:

  • Ras K’dee – Abbey and I were driving around listening to WFHB when we heard an interesting interview with this Hip-Hop artist. Maybe it was this one. He has a new record called “Street Prison”.
  • Chris, a new volunteer at pages who is really amazing suggested that I tap the IU progressive faculty alliance for finding common interests and issues to our work at pages. Chris is a pretty interesting guy. He’s an Eagle Scout who rebuilt and restocked a prison library for his scout project. As a reference, most people do things like build bridges on hiking trails or paint fences at a park. Chris suggested that we look into how to help out prison libraries as well as look into larger scale donations from publishers.
  • Ryan recommended the record Hex by the band Earth or the more obscure Smashed Guitars and Sunn Amps. I think he got into the whole drone-metal thing from his friend Orion. I feel like drone metal has been everywhere in my consciousness lately. There was the Sunn party at the Stabbin’ Cabin the night of the Piedmonster show. Ian, a boy that I talk to sometimes on the Internet mentioned it as an influence to his drone-metal project, and Mike in Detroit was wearing a Sunn t-shirt and talking about how it was currently the music he was excited about. I think Sunn has a new double LP out.
  • Jenny recommended the documentary Afropunk, I think, in the course of a conversation about culture within subculture.
  • Freshman Rhethoric is a “mathy post-punk” band that one of the guys who set up the show at Shipwrecked in G-Rad plays in. I think they have a MySpace page or something.
  • I enjoyed listening to Re:sound from Chicago Public Radio when we were driving through.
  • Someone I talked to in Lexington mentioned a radio show they had on WRFL on Tuesday from 4-6pm that combines punk music with news headlines.
  • I finally got to see Taryn Simon’s The Innocents photo show at the CaC in the ‘natti. Its also showing at The Provisions Library in DC where my friend Katy works.