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The Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act or FIRST STEP Act reforms the federal prison system of the United States of America, and seeks to reduce recidivism. An initial version of the bill passed the House of Representatives (360-59) on May 22, 2018, a revised bill passed the U.S. Senate on December 18, 2018. The House approved the bill with Senate revisions on December 20, 2018. The act was signed by President Donald Trump on December 21, 2018, before the end of the 115th Congress. The act, among many provisions, allows for employees to store their firearms securely at federal prisons, restricts the use of restraints on pregnant women, expands compassionate release for terminally ill patients, places prisoners closer to family in some cases, authorizes new markets for Federal Prison Industries, mandates de-escalation training for correctional officers and employees, and improves feminine hygiene in prison.

This is a MAJOR breakthrough in the long-fought battle for criminal justice reform. We are closer than we have been in a decade to passing robust criminal justice legislation in Congress, and one step closer to justice and relief for nearly 200,000 people in federal prisons and their families.

More than 5 million children, or one in 14, in the U.S. have had a parent in state or federal prison at some point in their lives, according to the Casey Foundation. Their numbers swelled by 79 percent between 1991 and 2007, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) figures, largely driven by tough drug laws and mandatory sentencing.

Children of color are much more likely to have a parent in prison. One in nine African-American children had a parent behind bars in 2008, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts report (Pew also funds Stateline). One in 28 Latino children had an incarcerated parent and one in 57 white children did.

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Solitary Nation with Matt Duhamel

Heather and James

Judee Reeves wrote in 1994, “Families of inmates have been called the “hidden victims of crime” (Carlson & Cervera, 1992, p.5). When a crime is committed, there are victims other than the primary victim(s). These secondary victims include the families of the primary victim and another often overlooked group of victims — family members of the person who has committed the crime. The families of inmates are often overlooked in research and in designing social programs, yet many suffer devastating consequences as a result of a loved one’s incarceration.”

Host, Matt Duhamel speaks with Heather who’s husband James is incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit.  She lives as a ‘prison wife’ everyday but explains that she is blessed and happy to be married to such a loving man.  Join us for this two-part podcast series about spouses behind bars.

Resources:

Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March
InterNational Prisoner’s Family Conference
Hope For James – Raising Attorney Fees

 

DOWNLOAD THE FREE TRANSCRIPT (PDF)

Who is the best guest to discuss suicide and depression?  How about a comedian?  In this episode of Solitary Nation, nationally recognized professional motivational speaker and comedian, Frank King, joins Matt Duhamel to talk about his struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide.  He also gives tips and advice to ex-offenders who, according to a new study, found that the risk of suicide for male offenders is eight times the national average, with over 25 percent of those suicides occurring in the first four weeks of their release.

But the conversation isn’t all gloom and doom.  Frank King is a comedian so expect some lighthearted moments even during a serious conversation such as suicide and depression.  This is an episode that anyone can benefit from!

Solitary Nation with Matt Duhamel Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be incarcerated? What about being a prisoner in a state penitentiary?  Matt Duhamel invites John Charles on the show, a handicapped man who served 2 years and 8 months in the Clark County Jail (Vancouver, WA) and Washington State Prison in Walla Walla, WA.  John gives listeners a first hand account of what it’s like to be behind bars.  He also describes his horrific days in a padded cell because medical staff in the county jail prescribed him medication that caused him to become delirious.

Though his story may seem extremely negative, John is a survivor.  He gives tips to individuals that may be facing incarceration.  John is a free man now and enjoys time with his wife and adopted 6-year daughter.

 

Wayne Curry, KraftWerk K9 (German Shepard Trainer)

Host, Matt Duhamel talks with Carolyn Esparza about his horrific experience with a Pacific Northwest employer over his criminal record from 10 years ago.  Moving from Utah to Washington to take a full-time position with the company, Kraftwerk K9, Matt faced major backlash within a matter of days due to his past.  Though he admits he only provided the half truth about his crime, both Matt and Carolyn agree that the company and their CEO, Wayne Curry, handled the situation poorly.

Carolyn offers advice for the formally incarcerated on how to approach employers, when to talk about your criminal history, and the need for stable jobs for ex-felons and registered sex offenders.  She also discusses her yearly Prisoner Family conference in Dallas, Texas which supports families who’ve been effected by mass incarceration.

 

Solitary Nation Podcast: Finding Redemption through Rescuing At-Risk Youths

In this Season #2 opener, Matt Duhamel talks about Larry Lawton, the creator of the “Reality Check Program. ”  Larry Lawton is the only ex-con ever in the United States to be sworn in as an honorary police officer and only ex-con ever to be recognized on the Floor of the United States Congress for his work with helping young people and law enforcement agencies.

You will hear discussion on how his program is helping at-risk youth, law enforcement, cities, schools, 0rganizations and families to help our youth become the best they can be.

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