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Archive for the ‘Prison Issues’ Category

#1531 – Life Sentence

In this Latino USA episode: life before, during and after prison. We meet a group of lifers trying to slow down the school-to-prison pipeline. We hear the story of Suave (SWAH-vey), who has gone from illiteracy and a life sentence, to finding meaning behind organizing behind bars. We learn about the trouble former inmates have re-entering society, and what they can do to succeed. Also, how one inmate has turned skills learned in prison into his business. And, how freedom can surprise you.

Photo by Michal Czerwonka

The World of the Juvenile Lifer

Luis G., also known as Suave (SWAH-vey), was only 17 when he was charged with first degree murder. He was sentenced to life without parole and has been incarcerated for 27 years. In prison he was reckless, angry and frequently cited as a problem by authorities–a charge that landed him in solitary confinement and ultimately forced him to transfer prisons. All of that changed when he met Maria Hinojosa, who unknowingly inspired him to get a proper education, start reading and focus his life on helping others.

The U.S. has only 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated (ACLU). Of those who are incarcerated, between 60,000 and 70,000 are juveniles. Suave, as part of a small group of dedicated men all serving life sentences in Graterford state prison in Pennsylvania, is now committed to fighting those numbers. He and his friends have set up initiatives like a fully inmate-funded college scholarship called Education Over Incarceration and a fatherhood workshop called FACT (Fathers and Children Together) that aims to reconnect incarcerated fathers with their children.

Maria Hinojosa and producer Michael Simon Johnson visited Suave at Graterford to find out how he turned his life around, and how he and his fellow lifers have found meaning in the work they do every day.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Life on the Other Side

Prison life is hard enough, but getting out and readjusting to civilian life presents its own set of challenges. There to help the formerly incarcerated who need housing, employment and plain old positivity is Exodus, a transitional community center located in East Harlem, New York City. In this audio postcard, we visit Exodus to find out what re-entry back into society sounds like.

Photo by Antonia Cereijido

The Challenges of Returning From Prison

Rossana Rosado is the Chair of New York State’s Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration. A former journalist and editor-in-chief of El Diario La Prensa, Rosado has been covering the issue of re-entry for years. She talks to Maria Hinojosa about the challenges and issues pertaining not only to former inmates but also the communities that grapple with how to integrate them.

Photo by Antonia Cereijido




Rossana Rosado has been a dominant force in New York media for 27 years. Using her journalism degree from Pace University, she started as a City Hall reporter at El Diario. She left the newspaper to join WPIX, Inc. as a Producer of Public Affairs programming. She later became the station’s Public Service Director, responsible for the creation and placement of hundreds of public service announcements on the air. Ms. Rosado won an Emmy in 1992 for the production of a series of public service announcements featuring organizations which helped children.


From Prisoner to Entrepreneur

In college, Bronx native Ralphy Dominguez was a straight-A student, a natural leathersmith and a drug kingpin. His knack for business led to a $2 million cocaine ring that covered most of the Northeast, and ultimately ended in a three-year stint at a federal prison. While serving time, Ralphy honed his skills and set his sights on starting a fine leather business, Pen & Pistol. We hear from Ralphy in his own words as he recounts his story and the difficulties and rewards of going straight.

Photo by Sarah Barrett

Going to Rikers Island

On Rikers Island, the largest jail in the world, a new program aims at lowering juvenile recidivism by training young inmates to question their own life choices. Maria Hinojosa takes us into East River Academy, a high school–in jail–to explore how the program works.


michael-johnson-headshot-150x150Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Michael Simon Johnson spend most of his childhood making music and groaning when his parents put on NPR in the car. So naturally he graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Sound Design, moved to New York and made his way into public radio. As an engineer, he has worked for Afropop Worldwide, WNYC’s Radio Rookies, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. He commits much of his time to working on radio and multimedia projects but can often be found playing the bass, rock climbing, and traveling.

Once You’re Out

Juan Echevarria made the most of his time on the inside. While serving fifteen years, he took classes and  started an HIV education program. He now helps men and women who are being released from prison transition back into the world. Juan shares a few thoughts on challenges former inmates face as they reenter society.

Photo courtesy of Flicker.

 Juan Echevarria served fifteen years in prison where he took classes and  started an HIV education program. He now helps men and women who are being released from prison transition back into the world.

Diplomas Behind Bars

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a school is offering high school diplomas–not GEDs–to county jail inmates. Freelance reporter Megan Kamerick tells us more.

Photo courtesy of Flicker.


megankMegan Kamerick is a freelance journalist and radio producer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She been a journalist for 20 years, mostly in print.  As a business reporter and editor at the San Antonio Business Journal, New Orleans CityBusiness and the New Mexico Business Weekly, she covered numerous beats, including real estate, economic development, law, education,  tourism, the creative economy, philanthropy and the film/media industries. Her work has also appeared in Art Business News, New Orleans Magazine and New Mexico Journeys.

She is currently working part-time as a host and producer at New Mexico PBS for the show “Public Square” and as an independent producer at KUNM radio on the conservation beat. She also produces newscasts and interviews for the KUNM show “Women’s Focus.”

She has received awards over  the years for investigative pieces, arts coverage, environmental stories, profiles, breaking news and the portrayal of women. She was also named outstanding small business journalist in New Mexico by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s New Mexico office.


Stop, Frisk and Seize

Imagine being pulled over in a “driving-while-brown” situation and then having your car seized by the police—without even being charged with a crime.  Maria Hinojosa discusses how this is happening across the country with The New Yorker magazine staff writer Sarah Stillman. Sarah wrote a feature article for the magazine titled “Taken” where she investigates this pattern of civil forfeitures.

Photo courtesy Flickr


Sarah Stillman is a staff writer for The New Yorker and a visiting scholar at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.  Her recent work has received the National Magazine Award, the Michael Kelly Award for the “fearless pursuit and expression of truth,” the Overseas Press Club’s Joe & Laurie Dine Award for International Human Rights Reporting, and the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism.



Deported Vets

Serving in the military can help immigrants gain U.S. citizenship. But vets who commit crimes may find themselves deported despite their service to the country. Latino USA speaks with a vet awaiting deportation and with filmmaker John Valadez, currently working on a documentary highlighting the cases of veterans who have been deported.

Photo courtesy Flickr

C1deportedvets_headshot_JohnValadezJohn Valadez is an award-winning director who has been producing documentaries for PBS for the last X years. He has been a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, A Rockefeller Fellow and is a founding member of the New York Chapter of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. He has worked on projects for Carleton UK Television, Frontline, American Masters, CBC, TLC and HBO.





C1DeportedVets_headshot_CraigShaginCraig Shagin is a lawyer in private practice in Pennsylvania, where egis firm is active in immigration law. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He has authored numerous articles and books on various aspects of immigration law, including “Deporting Private Ryan: The Less Than Honorable Condition of the Non-Citizen in the United States Armed Forces.”





Catherine Rentz, who produced Latino USA’s October 2012 report on sexual assault and other abuses within immigrant detention centers, gives us an update on changes to legislation to report, investigate and prosecute these crimes.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Catherine Rentz is a reporter and documentary filmmaker in residence at the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington D.C. She’s produced several documentaries for PBS FRONTLINE about the airline industry, environmental resources, retirement finances, U.S. intelligence apparatus and immigration.


Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated teens convicted of rape in the Central Park jogger case, talks about life after prison and about watching himself on screen in the film The Central Park Five.

Click here to download this week’s show. Photo courtesy of Maysles Institute.

Yusef Salaam was born and raised in New York City. He attended Public School 83, Manhattan East, The Arts Student League of New York and studied art at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and jewelry making at the Fashion Institute of Technology. On April 19, 1989, at just 15 years of age, he learned that he, along with other young boys were being falsely arrested for rape. Yusef Salaam served approximately 7 years of his life in prison along with 3 years on parole. Now a proud father, Yusef advocates for education, the need for videotaping of all police interrogations, for policy change in the child welfare system & the prison industrial complex, the effects of the disenfranchisement of poor people and its overwhelming effects on their families and the entire community at large. He sits on the Board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the advisory Board for The Learn My History Foundation: dedicated to Youth Empowerment, Education and Change, and is the inspiration behind People United for Children.


Mental health coordinator Twana Cooks-Allen showed up to work at an immigration detention facility intending to treat troubled detainees. But she soon discovered the real threats were not the people locked up there. What happened inside the Willacy detention center in South Texas was so disturbing it sparked 13 special criminal investigations by the Department of Homeland Security. Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa went inside the center, and deep into this case, in a segment produced by Catherine Rentz, in partnership with the PBS show FRONTLINE and the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Catherine Rentz is a reporter and documentary filmmaker in residence at the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington D.C. She’s produced several documentaries for PBS FRONTLINE about the airline industry, environmental resources, retirement finances, U.S. intelligence apparatus and immigration.


Why do immigrants come to the United States? Most people’s first thoughts involve economic reasons for a better life. But there is more to it than that. Harvest of Empire, a book by Juan Gonzalez that has been turned into a documentary, addresses the military, political and economic interventions that have spurred immigrants to look to life in the U.S. We speak to co-producer Wendy Thompson Marquez for an overview of the documentary.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Here is the full documentary, Harvest of Empire.

[snagfilm id=”0000013a-1d79-d226-af7a-fd7b5b9c0000″]

Ms. Wendy Thompson-Marquez, is the President and CEO of the Onyx Media Group and EVS communications, Inc. Prior to joining EVS and the Onyx Media Group, she was the Vice President of ZGS Broadcast Holdings, a minority-owned communications company where she supervised the daily operations and advertising sales of eleven Telemundo network affiliates.
In 2004, she was honored by the National Conference for Community and Justice with the Media and Community Service Award. She has been featured in numerous newspaper and trade publications, including the Washington Business Journal, and has made several appearances on television and radio stations throughout the country. In addition, she is actively involved with a number of academic institutions in the Washington, D.C. area that have invited her to speak at student and faculty conferences, including Montgomery College, where she was the 2002 commencement speaker.

She is currently a board member of Latino Public broadcasting, the Washington Performing Arts Society and the Community Foundation in D.C. she is a graduate of Leadership Montgomery (2000), and Leadership Washington (2001).

Walking Through Tent City

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona is on trial now in a federal court in Phoenix, charged with civil rights violations. Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa recently paid a visit to Arpaio and the sheriff showed her around his unorthodox open air jail, which some critics call inhumane but the Sheriff defends as tough on crime.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Here’s more photos from Tent City:


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