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Prison Desk

z_prisonlogo_SMOur Prison Desk provides critical analysis of prison systems. We concentrate on the stories and perspectives of educators, policy analysts, elected officials, community organizers, prisoners and their families.  When funding is available, we provide training for independent journalists and individuals involved in community building activities.

Supported by independent funding sources, the Prison Desk is free to explore and expose government and corporate roles in the burgeoning prison industry. The Onmia Foundation, and the Puffin Foundation have provided partial funding.   Please support the Prison Desk.

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Shows from the Prison Desk

Beyond Choice: Organizing for Reproductive Justice
The Long Ride Home: The Get on the Bus Program and Incarcerated Families
Rosa Brooks on How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything
A New Way of Life and the New Underground Railroad

A New Way of Life and the New Underground Railroad

After serving time, finding food, a job and a place to live with a criminal record can become an almost impossible task. On this edition, Women building their own support network after being released from prison. We’ll hear "A[...]

COINTELPRO 101 (Part 1)

COINTELPRO 101 (Part 1)

Over the next two weeks, we broadcast the documentary film “COINTELPRO 101,” about the secret FBI program which ran from 1956-1971, and disrupted many movements for self-determination by people of color in the U.S.. Today, we hear the first[...]

#SayHerName: Black Love in Action
Mutual Support: We do it Together
Resurrected: Formerly Incarcerated Change-Makers
#BlackLivesMatter: Alicia Garza on the Origins of a Movement
Getting Out: the journey out of prison
Bodily Safety: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Police Shootings
Deadly Force- Interview with Julie Perini
Deadly Force: Police Shootings in Black and White
Oakland Reacts to #Ferguson in photos and audio
Migrant deaths, border crossings and immigration. An advanced listening session and community discussion this Sunday.
Restorative Justice: Reconciling Face to Face
Restorative Justice: Reconciling Face to Face
Our Bodies, Our Stories: Reproductive Health Behind Bars

Our Bodies, Our Stories: Reproductive Health Behind Bars

Pregnant women in America’s prisons are being shackled to their beds; others are being sterilized. Correctional institutions claim the policies are for safety’s sake, but thousands of incarcerated people are fighting for control of their own reproductive health.[...]

2013: The Year the Prison System Changed?

2013: The Year the Prison System Changed?

Years of campaigning for basic human rights for people caught up in America's criminal justice system may finally be paying off.[...]

A New Way of Life and the New Underground Railroad

A New Way of Life and the New Underground Railroad

After serving time, finding food, a job and a place to live with a criminal record can become an almost impossible task. On this edition, Women building their own support network after being released from prison. We’ll hear "A[...]

Survivors of Solitary Confinement

Survivors of Solitary Confinement

Tens of thousands are in solitary confinement in American prisons which according to the United Nations is torture. Producer Claire Schoen met nine former prisoners who describe in detail what it's like to be in solitary confinement.[...]

Our Bodies, Our Stories: Reproductive Health Behind Bars

Our Bodies, Our Stories: Reproductive Health Behind Bars

Pregnant women in America’s prisons are being shackled to their beds; others are being sterilized. Correctional institutions claim the policies are for safety’s sake, but thousands of incarcerated people are fighting for control of their own reproductive health.[...]

Breaking the Psychological Chains of Slavery

Breaking the Psychological Chains of Slavery

African-Americans have endured more than 246 years of slavery, 100 years of racism and segregation. The trauma from that experience continues to impact African-Americans and society today. Dr. Joy DeGruy presents a discussion on post traumatic slave syndrome.[...]

Life or Death: Ending the Death Penalty

Life or Death: Ending the Death Penalty

Reporter Nancy Mullane speaks to some of those on California’s death row and we hear from two opponents of the death penalty about where the movement to end executions goes next.[...]

Michelle Alexander on the New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander on the New Jim Crow

Professor Michelle Alexander, author of ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’ makes the case that the US’ criminal justice system policies can be traced directly back to slavery. The target then, and now, are[...]

The Penalty is Exile: How Immigration and Criminalization Collide

The Penalty is Exile: How Immigration and Criminalization Collide

Under President Obama more than 1 million people have been deported from the United States. Immigration officials claim that many of those being deported are criminals. On this edition, producer Cory Fischer-Hoffman investigates the connection between immigration and the[...]

COINTELPRO 101 (Part 2) ENCORE

COINTELPRO 101 (Part 2) ENCORE

This week, we broadcast the second half of the documentary film “COINTELPRO 101,” about the secret FBI program which ran from 1956-1971, and disrupted many movements for self-determination by people of color in the U.S.. Today, we hear the[...]

COINTELPRO 101 (Part 1) ENCORE

COINTELPRO 101 (Part 1) ENCORE

Over the next two weeks, we broadcast the documentary film “COINTELPRO 101,” about the secret FBI program which ran from 1956-1971, and disrupted many movements for self-determination by people of color in the U.S.. Today, we hear the first[...]

Undue Influence: the power of Police and Prison Guards' Unions

Undue Influence: the power of Police and Prison Guards' Unions

Police officers and prison guards hold tremendous political sway. Their advocacy for better pay, more power, and more jobs has been a major factor in the expansion of the prison industrial complex. Now that system is changing. Can law enforcement[...]

Ban the Box! The Campaign for Post-Prison Employment ENCORE

Ban the Box! The Campaign for Post-Prison Employment ENCORE

It’s not even the crime that counts sometimes. It’s that little box on an application that asks you to reveal if you have a criminal history. Checking that box can mean the difference between failure and success. We look at[...]

Prison Crisis: Local Solution?

Prison Crisis: Local Solution?

The United States imprisons more people than any other country. In California a new policy called ‘realignment’ aims to reduce the number of people in state prison. Could the incarceration nation finally be slowing down?[...]

Police Tape: From Rodney King to Aiyana Jones

Police Tape: From Rodney King to Aiyana Jones

It’s been 20 years since four white police officers were cleared of unlawfully beating Rodney King in Los Angeles. But we might never have heard of Rodney King had it not been for an amateur cameraman who caught the whole[...]

Justice For Sale: Glenn Greenwald on the Rule of Law

Justice For Sale: Glenn Greenwald on the Rule of Law

Author Glenn Greenwald talks about his book, ‘With Liberty and Justice for Some.’ Americans claim to live under the rule of law; that no one is above our system of justice. But as we witness more exceptions to that rule,[...]

Ban the Box! The Campaign for Post-Prison Employment

Ban the Box! The Campaign for Post-Prison Employment

It’s not even the crime that counts sometimes. It’s that little box on an application that asks you to reveal if you have a criminal history. Checking that box can mean the difference between failure and success. We look at[...]

Massachusetts Leads the Way in CORI Reform

Massachusetts Leads the Way in CORI Reform

In the United States, an estimated 65 million people have had a brush with the law that resulted in a criminal record. And every year, about 650 thousand of them are released from prisons and jails—reemerging into society with one[...]

The Light Inside: Giving Birth Behind Bars

The Light Inside: Giving Birth Behind Bars

A look at pregnancy, and motherhood, inside US jails and prisons. What does the huge number of incarcerated women in prison foretell for the next generation of America’s kids?[...]

Gang Injunctions: Problem or Solution?

Gang Injunctions: Problem or Solution?

Gang injunctions are a controversial crime fighting tool that some people say should be illegal, and others say is a necessary last resort for communities plagued by violence. On this edition, we go from the birthplace of gang injunctions in[...]

Words As The Way To Freedom: Jimmy Santiago Baca

Words As The Way To Freedom: Jimmy Santiago Baca

He went from illiterate street kid, to world renowned poet. But it was in prison that Jimmy Santiago Baca connected with his Native American and Chicano heritage, and began learning the lessons of his people’s past. On this edition,[...]

Presumed Guilty: American Muslims and Arabs (9-11 Encore Edition)

Presumed Guilty: American Muslims and Arabs (9-11 Encore Edition)

American Arabs and Muslims are under the microscope, and many feel demonized and say they are living in fear of arrest. On this edition, we'll hear stories about the past 10 years of anti-Arab profiling and prosecution. We also look[...]

The Light Inside: Giving Birth Behind Bars

The Light Inside: Giving Birth Behind Bars

A look at pregnancy, and motherhood, inside US jails and prisons. What does the huge number of incarcerated women in prison foretell for the next generation of America’s kids?[...]

Presumed Guilty: American Muslims and Arabs

American Arabs and Muslims are under the microscope, and many feel demonized and say they are living in fear of arrest. On this edition, we'll hear stories about the past 10 years of anti-Arab profiling and prosecution. We also look[...]

Michelle Alexander on the New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander on the New Jim Crow

Professor Michelle Alexander, author of ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’ makes the case that the US’ criminal justice system policies can be traced directly back to slavery. The target then, and now, are[...]

How Homelessness Became A Crime

How Homelessness Became A Crime

So-called ‘quality of life’ policing may temporarily decrease crime, but it has harsh consequences for innocent people caught up in the frenzy of arrests. If it’s illegal to be on a city’s sidewalks, parks and plazas, where else can[...]

California's Prop 19: The End of the War on Marijuana?

California's Prop 19: The End of the War on Marijuana?

Californians went to the polls this past November to vote on whether to legalize marijuana. On this edition, we look at the damage wrought by the failed war on marijuana, with a focus on the millions caught in the criminal[...]

Immigrant Families Behind Bars (encore)

Immigrant Families Behind Bars (encore)

In a special collaboration with Feet in Two Worlds, we hear about an immigrant family torn apart after an immigration raid in Arizona. Also, grassroots efforts help change policies at a detention center in Texas.[...]

Immigrant Families Behind Bars

Immigrant Families Behind Bars

In a special collaboration with Feet in Two Worlds, we hear about an immigrant family torn apart after an immigration raid in Arizona. Also, grassroots efforts help change policies at a detention center in Texas.[...]

Survivors of Solitary Confinement

Survivors of Solitary Confinement

Tens of thousands are in solitary confinement in American prisons which according to the United Nations is torture. Producer Claire Schoen met nine former prisoners who describe in detail what it's like to be in solitary confinement.[...]

Prison Town, USA

Prison Town, USA

In our special collaboration with public television's P.O.V., Directors Katie Galloway and Po Kutchins take us to "prison town, usa" where they explore how the industry affects correctional officers, their families, and whole community.[...]

A Crisis of Care: A System on Life Support

A Crisis of Care: A System on Life Support

In the last of our three-part series, A Crisis of Care: A System on Life Support, we'll hear from experts offering an insiders view on the continuing health care crisis in California's prisons.[...]

A Crisis of Care: Gina's Story (Part 2)

A Crisis of Care: Gina's Story (Part 2)

On the second of our three-part series, 'A Crisis of Care,' a look inside California's prison health care system, we continue 'Gina's Story.'[...]

A Crisis of Care: Gina's Story (Part 1)

A Crisis of Care: Gina's Story (Part 1)

This is the first of a three-part series, 'A Crisis of Care,' a look inside the prison health care system in the state of California, where we learn about 'Gina's Story' within the prison system.[...]

Beyond Bars: Community Resistance to Prison Expansion (encore edition)

Beyond Bars: Community Resistance to Prison Expansion (encore edition)

On this edition, Dr. Gilmore, a key figure in the grassroots movement fighting prison expansion in California, extracts lessons from more than two decades of on-the-ground community organizing against what has been termed the "biggest prison building project in the[...]

Women Rising XV: World Health Activists

Women Rising XV: World Health Activists

Prudence Mabele is a South African activist in the battle to contain HIV. Mary Pipher is an American psychologist and author confronting the American Psychological Association about its cooperation with the U.S. government in the use of torture.[...]

Beyond Bars: Community Resistance to Prison Expansion

Beyond Bars: Community Resistance to Prison Expansion

In the U.S., more than more than 2 million people live behind prison bars. Dr. Ruth Gilmore, a professor of geography at the University of Southern California and a long-time prison activist, extracts lessons from more than two decades of[...]

Lockdown on Life: Stories from Women Behind Bars

Lockdown on Life: Stories from Women Behind Bars

On this edition, we take you to two U.S. prisons ­ behind the bars and into the lives of incarcerated women.[...]

The Attica Rebellion

The Attica Rebellion

September 9-13th, 2006 marks the 35th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion, a massive prison rebellion, massacre and cover-up in New York. On this edition, we present a documentary produced by the Freedom Archives.[...]

The Long Walk to Abolish the Death Penalty

The Long Walk to Abolish the Death Penalty

On this edition, Making Contact's Sarah Olson takes us on this 25-mile journey on a cool, sunny day on February 20th. It's a walk of protest, peace, and compassion.[...]

The Juvenile Injustice System (encore edition)

The Juvenile Injustice System (encore edition)

On this edition, we'll hear about scandal-ridden California youth authority, abuses inside one Brazil juvenile detention center, as well as alternative approaches helping troubled kids.[...]

The Juvenile Injustice System

The Juvenile Injustice System

On this edition, we'll hear about the scandal-ridden California Youth Authority, abuses inside one of Brazil's juvenile detention centers, as well as alternative approaches to helping troubled kids.[...]

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Plan Colombia: Drug War Without End

Independent producer Reese Erlich visits rural farmers and urban shanty towns in Colombia, and talks with high ranking Colombian politicians to learn about Plan Colombia, an effort to reduce cocaine production.[...]

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Documenting Torture: Holding the United States Accountable

On this edition, we trace the seeds of the prison scandal to 9/11 and previous to that time, hear from survivors of torture, human rights advocates, and a soldier, and revisit the official government reaction.[...]

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Entry Denied: Former Prisoners Re-entering Society

On this Prison Desk edition of Making Contact, we'll look at the barriers former prisoners face, and community efforts to support people re-entering society.[...]

Journey to Justice: Carlos Mauricio's Story

Journey to Justice: Carlos Mauricio's Story

Carlos Mauricio was one of the few political prisoners who survived the most brutal period of military repression in El Salvador. On this edition, correspondent Jon Watanabe chronicles Carlos' remarkable journey in search of justice and, ultimately, healing for himself[...]

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Concrete Coffins: The Juvenile Death Penalty

On this edition of Making Contact, the National Radio Project's Prison Desk takes a look at the juvenile death penalty in the United States.[...]

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Breaking the Cycle: Juvenile Crime and Positive Solutions

On this edition of Making Contact, we report on community responses to youth crime in the California city of Oakland, which has one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the country; many victims are young African-American men. We[...]

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Capital Punishment and Closure

On this Prison Desk edition of Making Contact, we take a look at the death penalty, wrongful executions, and some alternatives to death row.[...]

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The War on Drugs Revisited

On this Special Prison Desk edition of Making Contact, we take a look at the impacts of the so-called war on drugs.[...]

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Prisoners of Conscience: Civil Disobedience and the S.O.A.

On this program we take a look at the School of the Americas, and a broad-based movement of human rights activists and religious groups that's organizing to shut down the institute.[...]

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Above the Law? The U.S. and the International Criminal Court

On this program, we take a look at U.S. government opposition to the ICC. And, the National Radio Project's Women's Desk examines what the establishment of the court could mean for victims of sexual violence in wartime.[...]

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Concrete Cages and Cash: The U.S. Prison Industry

On this program, the National Radio Project's Prison Desk takes a look at the economics of U.S. prisons, and at how politicians and corporations are making choices that may severely impact the future.[...]

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The Usual Suspects? Racial Profiling in the U.S.

On this program we speak to African-American organizers, police officers and religious leaders who are working to put a stop to this practice in their communities. We also take a look at another form of racial profiling: retail discrimination.[...]