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Category Archives: Volunteering

Prison Addresses: The (Few) Strange & Offensive

Since July of 2010 I’ve been a regular volunteer in the Prison Law Project of the National Lawyers Guild. We meet once a week to read letters from incarcerated brothers and sisters who often request legal assistance, tell us about their experiences and the abuse they face behind the walls, and/or simply requesting the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook that we provide free of charge. A “jailhouse lawyer”  refers to one who is incarcerated who assists their fellow inmates with legal issues related to their sentence or also represents themselves  with issues related to their own sentence.  The handbook is a resource for prisoners who want to learn more about their rights or who want to file lawsuits in prison for abuse and poor conditions within the facility.  We send handbooks to any prisoner that requests it, regardless of their charges or sentence. Some letters are short with the prisoner simply requesting the handbook and others can be more lengthy, detailing the abuse they have been dealing with. The longer ones can often be harder to read because of their content and the feeling one may get from reading, empathizing, and maybe even visualizing…not to mention the feeling of wanting to do more to help.

Over the past year I’ve come across a few strange prison addresses through volunteering at PLP or at home on the web. One could definitely call some of them offensive. Most prison addresses I’ve seen have been P.O. boxes or non-questionable, but below I list a few that have caused me to raise an eyebrow or think of the irony behind them.

Jefferson City Correctional Facility
8200 No More Victims Rd 
Jefferson City, MO 65101

Downstate Correctional Facility
122 Red Schoolhouse Rd/ Box F
Fishkill, NY 12524

Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex
200 Road to Justice 
West Liberty, KY 41472

Lakes Region Facility
1 Right Way Path
Laconia, NH 03246

Intensive Confinement Center (ICC)
4000 Victory Rd. 
Lompoc, CA 93436

Florence McClure Womens C.C.
4370 Smiley Road 
Las Vegas, NV  89115

Pocahontas Correctional Unit
6900 Courthouse Road
Chesterfield, VA 23832

When I’ve seen these addresses, I just think of how strange it must be to write to someone who’s held there, or to have that as your mailing address for God knows how many years. I think the worst one on this list would have to be “No More Victims Road.”  What do you all think?

P.S. If you’re interested in volunteering with the Prison Law Project of the National Lawyers Guild, check out the idealist ad and shoot an email to plp@nlg.org (and feel  free to let me know if/when you do ^_^)

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Prisons, Volunteering

 

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Bumpy Last Day at Rikers

Today was the last day of the Fall session of Fordham Law Scool’s Rikers Youth Education Program. This morning I woke up excited about seeing the guys do the guys shine during their mock trials. By this this morning, they would have gotten familiar with the facts of the case, developed their testimonies for their time on the witness stand, and developed strong argument against the opposing side.  There would be several mock trials happening at once since we had such a large group. The roles the guys took in the mock trials were defendant, plaintiff, defense attorneys, prosecutors, witnesses, and jury members. We had outside attorneys come in to act as the judges.

But things didn’t go as smoothly as we’d hoped this morning. When we got to Rikers going through security and waiting for an escort took much longer than expected and unfortunately it really cut the time for the mock trials short.  The mock trials were supposed to be held in the gymnasium, but because the religious services were being held there at the same time that wasn’t possible. The religious services are normally held in a separate chapel area, but because it’s under construction services must be held in the gym on Sunday mornings. That’s alright but there was a lack of communication sucked. So we had to have the mock trials take place in their living areas, where we have been conducting the sessions all semester.  Today we brought 8 dozen boxes of donuts for the guys as a treat but we had issues getting that through since the Captain on shift this weekend would not allow it. He protested because apparently the donuts are considered contraband and he wouldn’t allow them to pass through since he was not aware of any clearance for them. Although we had clearance through the “higher-ups,” this seemed not to have been communicated to the appropriate people. So at first they confiscated the donuts which was so frustrating BUT we ended up getting them back. Only problem was, 2 dozen of the 8 dozen were not given back to us (ridiculous but unsurprising). And on top of that, the certificates for the guys were not printed out as they should have been (another lack of/miscommunication I guess). They’ll have to receive them another time. Long sigh.

As we walked through the hall to get to their living area, I saw something I hadn’t seen in the weeks we’d been going to Rikers.  There were lines of some of the young men posted up on the walls in a frisk position, hands up high on the walls with their backs facing us as we walked by.  Correctional officers standing right by them. And honestly, this sight brought instant tears. When I say instant, I really do mean instant. It’s not like I haven’t seen people in frisk positions before, but just seeing all these youth lined up like that just hit me hard. Real hard. I tried to keep the tears from falling and it worked pretty well except the tear or two that betrayed me and fought hard to be free from my eyes. I tried to sort of turn my face so no one else in my group could see the pain on my face. But I met eyes with someone in my group and for a moment I wondered if she could read my thoughts. I wondered if anyone else in my group was as bothered as I was as the sight of seeing these young men posted up on the walls like this.

But moving back to the mock trials… they all went pretty well. We coached them a bit before they the trial began to ensure that they had a good idea of what they wanted to say. In brief, the trial was about a 6’5″ tall 16 year old male who was stopped and arrested by police officers after the robbery of a bodega in the “high crime” area where he was found passing through. The 16 year old allegedly stole $50 and a pack of Marlboro reds from the store with the owner at gunpoint. The defendant had two defense attorneys and his witness was his friend who initially refused to testify but ended up being subpoenaed so he had to come and sit on the stand. On the opposing side the store owner testified as well as one of the police officers who stopped and arrested the 16 year old. In the different mock trial groups, some juries found him guilty while the others found him not guilty. Overall, it was pretty fun and the guys seem to enjoy themselves. At the end of the session, they all ate the donuts we got back (we had to split them in halves since we were short boxes) and thanked us for the experience.

Although today went a little less smoothly than other days, I was happy to see the mock trials go so well and happy to have had this opportunity to volunteer with some of the youth at Rikers. Looking forward to doing this again next semester….

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2011 in Prisons, Volunteering

 

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