Songs in the Key of Free

Songs in the Key of Free is a series of composer/musician workshops at SCI-Graterford in which Philadelphia musicians and songwriters and classically trained musicians from The Curtis Institute develop and celebrate the musical talent of incarcerated men via performance-based classes in composing, arranging, and musicianship.

Songs in the Key of Free program was started by August Tarrier and Miles Orion Butler. To learn more about the program, please visit: https://www.songsinthekeyoffree.com/

From the series "LOCKED APART: The Koger-Harris Family"

“Locked Apart: The Koger-Harris Family” is one of a series of stories created by Gabriela Bulisova, Mark Isaac and Michelle Repiso that document the impact of incarceration on families. The full project, titled “Locked Apart: The Impact of Incarceration on Families,” includes video and still photographs of multiple families in Philadelphia, PA and Washington, DC.

It is now well known that the United States imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation, with devastating consequences. However, the impact on children and families deserves significantly more attention. Approximately 10 million children in the U.S. have had a parent incarcerated at some point, and human rights advocates have called parental incarceration "the greatest threat to child well-being in the United States.”

The Koger-Harris Family, living just outside the nation’s capital, has ample experience with this negative impact. William Koger, the father, lives with his mother, Sandra Koger, and three boys – Isaiah, Demetri, and Deshawn.  But it is the absence of the mother, Sherrie Harris, who has been imprisoned at Hazelton Penitentiary, in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia since 2006, which looms over the household. William took on the unexpected role of primary caregiver to the children, but he has been in and out of jobs and in and out of prison. After being injured in a car accident, he is unemployed and often in pain. Sandra, the grandmother, also provides extensive care of the three boys, but the family is stretched financially and often unable to afford food or medicine. The children are emotionally scarred by their mother’s absence and sometimes withdraw into their shells or act out. Only when pressed do they express their intense yearning for their mother to come home and provide them with the love they are missing.

According to the Urban Institute, the experience of a parent going to prison will have a “significant impact on the emotional, psychological, developmental, and financial well-being of the child.” Children have difficulty visiting their parents and often lose contact. They drop out of school more frequently and are more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Separation due to a parent’s incarceration is often accompanied by stigma, ambiguity, and a lack of compassion and support. In the case of the Koger-Harris family, the three boys found out for the first time that their mother was in prison when their grandmother took them to visit her at Hazelton Penitentiary. The children now expect their mother to return in 2016, but prison records show she will be released a year later.

Locked Apart makes clear that family members – and especially children -- of offenders are among those who are victimized when a crime occurs. Like the voices of crime victims and their families, the voices of offenders’ family members must be heard. This contributes to the hope that victims, offenders, and the community can repair the harm caused by crime and create a peaceful future in which all are contributing members of society.

 

TimeZone (excerpt)

SIX Voices: Six Short-Form Three-Channel Videos on the Impact of Incarceration

Convictions

Stories of Justice-Involved Women

“Female incarceration has a disproportionate ripple effect on their families and especially on their children. What sends these women to prison, what they need while incarcerated, and what happens when they return home are often very different for women than for men." Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

With more than one million women behind bars or under the control of the criminal justice system, women are the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population, increasing at nearly double the rate of men since 1985. Nationally, there are more than eight times as many women incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails as there were in 1980. Women of color are significantly overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Among female state prisoners, two-thirds are mothers of a minor child

The special issues facing female prisoners are not getting the attention they desperately need. Most programs to aid former prisoners are designed for men. Programs for women, when they exist, are often cookie-cutter copies of programs designed for men, despite the very different challenges they face. For example, women are typically incarcerated for property or drug possession offenses and are likely to have serious and long-term substance use problems. Female prisoners returning home face more difficult reentry challenges with fewer skills and more deficits than men, and those differences manifest in higher rates of relapse and recidivism. Women are almost twice as likely as men to be back behind bars within a year after release, typically due to a drug-related offense or a property offense driven by addiction problems.

Even though the broad issues facing formerly incarcerated women are quite similar, each woman’s story is unique; each woman’s transition back into society is singular; each woman’s pain is her own. By telling these individual stories, I hope to spur a broad reassessment of our societal approach to the problems facing released prisoners, most of whom are eager to become productive citizens again.

The Walden-Dickson Family

“Locked Apart: The Walden-Dickson Family” is one of a series of stories created by Gabriela Bulisova, Mark Isaac and Michelle Repiso that document the impact of incarceration on families. The full project, titled “Locked Apart: The Impact of Incarceration on Families,” includes video and still photographs of multiple families in Philadelphia, PA and Washington, DC.

It is now well known that the United States imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation, with devastating consequences. However, the impact on children and families deserves significantly more attention. Approximately 10 million children in the U.S. have had a parent incarcerated at some point, and human rights advocates have called parental incarceration "the greatest threat to child well-being in the United States.”

The Walden-Dickson Family is attempting to regain its footing after the father, Von, was imprisoned several times at State Correctional Institute – Graterford. During Von’s absence, Omyra, the mother, struggled to care for their daughter, Mariah, and their newborn son, Von, Jr. Stretched to the limit financially and physically, Omyra is outspoken about the importance of keeping family members close together. She is convinced that keeping men near their families reduces the risk of additional infractions, particularly when they are charged with minor offenses or parole violations. Von’s return has been a major success thus far. The parents must work hard every day, but the family is reunited, both have jobs, and Von is committed to staying out of prison and keeping the family together.

According to the Urban Institute, the experience of a parent going to prison will have a “significant impact on the emotional, psychological, developmental, and financial well-being of the child.” Children have difficulty visiting their parents and often lose contact. They drop out of school more frequently and are more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Black children are 7 times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent. Separation due to a parent’s incarceration is often accompanied by stigma, ambiguity, and a lack of compassion and support. Even though Mariah participated in the Fathers and Children Together (FACT) program that brought her to visit her father at Graterford, she is shy and withdrawn in the wake of repeated separations from him.

Locked Apart makes clear that family members – and especially children -- of offenders are among those who are victimized when a crime occurs. Like the voices of crime victims and their families, the voices of offenders’ family members must be heard. This contributes to the hope that victims, offenders, and the community can repair the harm caused by crime and create a peaceful future in which all are contributing members of society.

From the series "LOCKED APART: Kiya"

“Locked Apart: Kiya” is one of a series of stories created by Gabriela Bulisova, Mark Isaac and Michelle Repiso that document the impact of incarceration on families. The full project, titled “Locked Apart: The Impact of Incarceration on Families,” includes video and still photographs of multiple families in Philadelphia, PA and Washington, DC.

It is now well known that the United States imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation, with devastating consequences. However, the impact on children and families deserves significantly more attention. Approximately 10 million children in the U.S. have had a parent incarcerated at some point, and human rights advocates have called parental incarceration "the greatest threat to child well-being in the United States.”

Kiya’s story demonstrates the unintended consequences that can quickly impact children when their parents are incarcerated for long periods of time. Kiya’s father is imprisoned with a lengthy sentence at State Correctional Institute – Graterford, about an hour away from Kiya’s hometown of Philadelphia. Because her mother is unable to care for Kiya, she was placed with a foster family where she was thriving at home and at school. However, when Kiya’s father asked for her to be moved, Kiya was shunted to several different foster care situations, changing families and schools repeatedly. Kiya was able to spend quality time with her father when she participated in the Fathers and Children Together (FACT) program that brings children to SCI-Graterford each week for 8 weeks. However, the only thing certain about Kiya’s future is that she remains separated from her father and mother for the foreseeable future.

According to the Urban Institute, the experience of a parent going to prison will have a “significant impact on the emotional, psychological, developmental, and financial well-being of the child.” Children have difficulty visiting their parents and often lose contact. They drop out of school more frequently and are more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. Black children are 7 times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent. Separation due to a parent’s incarceration is often accompanied by stigma, ambiguity, and a lack of compassion and support. In Kiya’s case, her nonchalant attitude toward her repeated moves are likely a coping strategy for dealing with the longtime separation from her family and her unstable living situation.

Locked Apart makes clear that family members – and especially children -- of offenders are among those who are victimized when a crime occurs. Like the voices of crime victims and their families, the voices of offenders’ family members must be heard. This contributes to the hope that victims, offenders, and the community can repair the harm caused by crime and create a peaceful future in which all are contributing members of society.

 

Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the US