IAHR June 2022 Newsletter

The June Newsletter highlights three upcoming programs that will take place this summer. We also have included a short video highlighting IAHR's activities and accomplishments over the last seven years. Finally, we have included a very troubling essay from the Marshall Project about the high number of deaths at the federal prison in Thomson, IL. Several of our pen pals are incarcerated at Thomson. 

Returning Citizens Speak: Steve Gantt
InJustice: Hidden Crisis in Virginia’s Prisons
End of Isolation Tour Will be in Baltimore & D.C.
Video: Recap of IAHR
How the Newest Federal Prison Has Become one of the Deadliest

Returning Citizens Speak: Steve Gantt

Thursday, June 9 at 3 p.m. Click Here to RSVP!

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InJustice: Hidden Crisis in Virginia’s Prisons

ACLU-VA has produced a documentary, InJustice: Hidden Crisis in Virginia’s Prisons, which will premiere at the Richmond International Film Festival which runs from June 7 to June 12, 2022. 

This film, made in collaboration with Narrative Arts, is a layered account of the conditions in Virginia state prisons using the voices of formerly incarcerated people, community organizers, legislators, and issue area experts. The documentary is anchored by the lived experience of three community activists that share how the prison system has fueled their advocacy work. Issue area experts, faith leaders, and legislators share facts, figures, and perspectives that highlight the systemic problems with mass incarceration, while the voices of those who are currently incarcerated describe the inhumane conditions of their imprisonment. Injustice is a compelling and informative story about the brokenness of our state prison system that's sure to change the hearts and minds of Virginians about mass incarceration. 

You can learn more about the film and watch the trailer here.

Click here to order tickets and read more about the film festival. 

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End of Isolation Tour will be in Baltimore & D.C.

Many of us are now coming out of isolation, but prisoners are not. For many of us, our fundamental beliefs have shifted during the pandemic, but many policies and structures remain the same. IAHR is a proud  supporter of the End of Isolation Tour which uses legislative art to impact unjust policies and structures.  

In July, The End of Isolation Tour (EIT) is launching a national, 10-city tour, presented by The Pulitzer Center, to bring immersive, transformative theater to communities across the country on the frontlines of imagining a world without prisons and the torture of solitary confinement. EIT centers around The BOX: a play about solitary confinement written by a survivor in collaboration with other survivors. Nearly half the cast are survivors of incarceration and torture. This tour is how we get these stories into the hands of people who are penning laws. It is how we connect survivors with legislators all across the country. 

Nearly ten years ago, I collected stories from people trapped 

in the hellish deep end of prisons across the country

Now, in a cruel twist of history, there could not be a more powerful 

moment to bring these stories back.” 

~ Sarah Shourd, 

End of Isolation Tour founder, playwright of The BOX, and survivor

We invite you to join us in our support of this powerful project as we prepare for EIT’s tour bus to arrive in Baltimore at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum on August 17 and 18 and in D.C. at the Anacostia Playhouse on August 20 and 21. 

Tickets go on sale on June 15! You can use the QR code embedded in the images above to order tickets.

Click here for EIT's facebook page listing each performance. 

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Video: Recap of IAHR

Kimberly Jenkins-Snodgrass, IAHR's past chairperson and current vice-chair, has created a video highlighting IAHR's mission and programs. Kimberly has gone into IAHR's photo library and selected different photos from the last seven years that feature different aspects of our work. The video is 93 seconds. Many thanks to Kimberly for this labor of love! Click on the image below and enjoy!

Click on the image and enjoy! 

IAHR Mid Year Community and Partner Recap

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Marshall Project: How the Newest Federal Prison Has Become one of the Deadliest

Fatal beatings. A “torture room.” Pairs of men held around the clock in tiny cells, tempers rising. “They’re literally afraid for their lives,” one lawyer said.

Bobby “AJ” Everson was killed at the U.S. penitentiary in Thomson, Illinois in December 2021. Everson had been writing letters to his family for months describing dangerous conditions. 

(This article was published in partnership with NPR.)

Bobby Everson was nearing the end of his decade-long federal prison sentence, but he feared he wouldn’t make it home alive.

In July 2021, he was sent to the Special Management Unit at the new U.S. penitentiary in Thomson, Illinois — a program meant for some of the most violent and disruptive prisoners, though many have ended up there who don’t fit that description. Everson, who was serving time for drug and weapon charges, had recently been written up for “threatening bodily harm” and “assault without serious injury,” but prison records don’t provide details. After his transfer, his letters home to his family in New York state grew more desperate with each passing week.

Everson, who the family called AJ, told them he was locked down nearly 24 hours a day with a cellmate, in cells so small that the toilet was crammed next to the bottom bunk. He was let out only for occasional medical appointments, showers or an hour of exercise in an outdoor cage. He could hear guards in riot gear blasting men on his tier with pepper spray and locking them in hard restraints. His own wrists, ankles and abdomen were scarred from these shackles — prisoners called it the “Thomson tattoo,” according to attorneys.

The U.S. penitentiary in Thomson, Illinois. There have been five suspected homicides and two alleged suicides at the penitentiary since 2019. 

But the most pressing threat came from the men officers chose to put in his cell. “I feel the staff here is purposefully trying to put me in situations of conflict,” he wrote to his cousin Roosevelt in late October. “Pray for your lil cousin, man, that I get through this unscathed.”

In late November, Everson got in a fight with his new cellmate. “I’m doing my best to bob and weave these incidents,” he wrote. “Keep calling up here, inquiring on me any lil free time you get.”

Seventeen days later, Everson, 36, was found dead in his cell. It was a homicide caused by “blunt trauma” with an object, according to prison records. Federal prosecutors have yet to file charges against anyone in connection to his death, which is still under investigation.

Click here to read the rest of the essay. 

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