October 2017 Newsletter

October 2017 Newsletter

In this month’s IAHR newsletter you will read four announcements of upcoming programs, an appeal to volunteer for the Pen Pal project, and three articles that focus on how trauma and mental illness contribute to mass incarceration.  

Upcoming Events in October and November 
Sign Up for IAHR's Pen Project for DC Residents in the BOP 
"A Gun to His Head as a Child. In Prison as an Adult." 
Why We Ended Long-Term Solitary Confinement in Colorado
Neither Angels Nor Demons

Upcoming Events in October and November


Learn how to become a WIROC Responder!

WASHINGTON INTERFAITH RESPONSE and OUTREACH COALITION IS looking for a core group of individuals who will help us reach out to targeted individuals, houses of worship or faith communities when incidents of faith-based bias or attacks happen in our region. 

Learn more about how YOU can help by joining us on Wednesday, October 25th from 6:30-8:30pm. The meeting will be held at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5460 Western Avenue Northwest, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. The closest metro is Friendship Heights and there is a free parking lot behind the church.

We will also be joined by Christine Dinan from the Washington Lawyer's Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs who will talk about seeking legal help after a religious hate crime or an act of religious bigotry.
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Thursday, October 26, 2017 from 7 to 9 pm
Cassidy Activities Center at St Mark Parish, 9970 Vale Road, Vienna VA

The Corporal Works of Mercy include a mandate which most of us seldom consider, “To Visit the Imprisoned.” We are suggesting a possible journey addressing that charge by Jesus. The St Mark committee on Peace and Justice is presenting an evening of visual presentations and discussions on the situation for prisoners in Virginia. We will explore the treatment and mistreatment of some prisoners. We will see movie presentations of the conditions of their lives, and how some prisoners and prison managers regard solitary confinement. We will consider how prisoners are prepared to reenter normal society.

We will begin with visual presentations. Then John Horejsi of St Marks will lead a panel with Gay Gardner and Kimberly Jenkins-Snodgrass of Interfaith Action for Human Rights and the Virginia Advocacy Group to discuss how persons like ourselves can become better informed on the issues of the Christian treatment of prisoners. We hope to consider actions we might take to “Visit the Prisoners” with improved treatment.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017,  9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

 Social Action Linking Together (SALT) presents:Fall Legislative Conference  

“Call to Solidarity with Virginia’s Vulnerable Citizens: A Conference on Public Social Policy”

 Sister Simone Campbell, “21st Century Poverty: Truth, Soundbites & Needed Federal Action"
Dorothy McAuliffe, First Lady of VA, [invited], subject to confirmation, “Child Hunger in Virginia Schools”
Delegate Ken Plum, “Advocacy is moving to the state and local levels, Are you moving with it?"
Gay GardnerInterfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR), “Making Solitary Confinement Truly a Last Resort”
  Hosted by Virginia International University (VIU) 4401 Village Drive, Fairfax VA 22030
 VIU Conference Room (VD-02)
John Horejsi, CoordinatorSALT [email protected]



Sign Up for IAHR's Pen Pal Project for DC Residents in the Bureau of Prisons 


Close to a hundred DC residents in federal prisons are requesting a pen pal! While solitary confinement is especially harmful, DC residents in federal prisons are isolated from family and their community.  Over 4600 DC residents are incarcerated in 122 prisons around the country.  You can make a difference. You can help end their isolation with an act of loving kindness, while learning more about prison conditions. Please consider a few excerpts from the many letters I’ve received from incarcerated DC residents.

You can offer community to a lonely Vietnam Vet:

I am writing to become a part of the faith-based pen pal program. I am 68 years old, a Vietnam war vet, and faithful member of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast, DC, across from the big chair on W Street I’ve been incarcerated since June 2012, here in Butner five years...Being a gospel singer, my greatest gift, I’m thankful for God’s perfect love toward me. I’ve not had a visit since my stay here in Butner.

You can provide solace to those hurting:

Hello, my name is ‘Johnny’, I was born and raised in S.E., in the Anacostia area just across the Eleventh Street bridge. I am sixty-years old and presently I've been in prison 23 years. I am not a bad man I just made a few bad decisions that have cost me a lot misery and grief. Having someone to communicate with would be a great relief…

You can encourage the disheartened:

Thanks for your response. Just to let you know a little about me, as I'm sure people in the community hear about a Jew in prison they wonder why… I guess I was the rebellious one, and ended up hanging with the wrong crowd, made poor decisions and ended up committing fraud to support a drug habit (6 months on cocaine). I was an embarrassment to my family and they sadly turned against me.

You can support IAHR’s pen pal project for DC residents in two ways:

Volunteer to become a pen pal.

Attend the orientation for all volunteers on Sunday, November 19 at 2 p.m. at Seekers Church, 276 Carroll St NW, Washington, DC 20012. To sign up write me at [email protected] with your name, email address, and cell phone number.

We are asking pen pals to write to an incarcerated DC resident once a month for one year.

Make a donation to help end their isolation.

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 "A Gun to his head as a Child. In Prison as an Adult" 

OCT. 15, 2017 
New York Times
LEBANON, Conn. — Rob Sullivan still remembers the gun and the sound of his mother’s high-pitched pleas. Two thieves had burst into his parents’ Hartford home. Demanding his father’s dope stash, one of the men placed a gun to Rob’s right temple. “Just give it to them,” his mother begged his father.

He was 6 years old.

The incident, charred in his memory, was an early trauma among many he recalls from his childhood. He watched his father beat his mother for not having dinner ready on time or for not cleaning the house, he said. Often, she fought back. Sometimes when he got home, his parents were too drunk or high to let him in. Truancy charges landed him in juvenile detention in his early teens.

“Chaotic — there is no other way to describe my childhood,” he said. “I always felt alone.”

Given his history, it perhaps comes as no surprise that he has spent as much of his adult life in prison and in drug rehab as he has spent out.  
Click here to read the rest of this article.

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Why We Ended Long-Term Solitary Confinement in Colorado

OCT. 12, 2017
New York Times

Rick Raemisch in a solitary confinement cell in Colorado, in 2014. Credit Matthew Staver for The New York Times

COLORADO SPRINGS — For years, the Colorado corrections system had a ready answer for inmates it wanted to punish. For almost any reason — smuggling drugs, talking back to a corrections officer, assaulting another prisoner — it would send an inmate to a cell the size of a parking spot. The inmate would stay there, alone, at least 22 hours a day, for two and a half years on average, but sometimes for decades. This is called administrative segregation, and shortly after I became Colorado’s head of corrections in 2013, I began to ask why we were doing it. 

Can you imagine spending years without having regular social interactions or without full access to basic human activities like showering and exercising? When did it become O.K. to lock up someone who is severely mentally ill and let the demons chase him around in the cell? What is wrong with us? I asked. 

Then, in 2015 I assisted the State Department with other United Nations countries in modernizing international standards for the treatment of prisoners, now known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. During the debates about the wording of the new standards, it was decided that keeping someone for more than 15 days in solitary was torture. 

After listening and being involved in those discussions, I agreed. There now is enough data to convince me that long-term isolation manufactures and aggravates mental illness. It has not solved any problems; at best it has maintained them. 

Continue reading the main story 

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Neither Angels Nor Demons Neither_angels_nor_demons.png

We preach compassion for girls who endure abuse and trauma, but what about when those same girls commit crimes?
Jenna Barnett November 2017 

I CAN THINK OF MANY MISTAKES I made before turning 18, including a couple that could have landed me in juvenile detention: fireworks in the suburbs, running from the cops, lying to the cops about running from the cops, and one or two others I’ll keep to myself because everyone I interviewed for this story insists on this: Nobody is the worst thing they have ever done.

If those words are true, Sara Kruzan will not always be the 16-year-old who shot her sex trafficker in the head right after he took her to another hotel room.

And that means Krys Shelley is not just the 17-year-old who used an unloaded gun to rob someone.

But back when Shelley stood trial as a teen, the judge only saw a criminal. Shelley still remembers what the judge said before delivering the 12-year sentence: “Good luck.” He studied Shelley closely. “You’ll do just fine in there.”

Shelley believes that the judge felt like Shelley fit the bill of a juvenile delinquent—black, tall, and masculine. At the time, Shelley identified as a tomboy (today, Shelley is gender nonconforming). From an early age, Shelley could grow a full facial beard because of an inborn hormone imbalance—a common symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

But it’s less about what the courts saw in Shelley, and more about what they didn’t see: an honor-roll student with a steady job whose pastor came to the courtroom to offer support.

Shelley was sentenced during the ’90s, a time when crime among adults was going down, but crime among youth was spiking at never-before-seen rates. Americans were scared. “They were going around saying that we have a new species of child in America,” said criminal justice reform advocate Bryan Stevenson. “‘And these kids may look like kids, they may act like kids, they may sound like kids,’ they said, ‘but don’t be deceived. These are not children ... These are super-predators.’ And it didn’t matter whether you were a Democrat or a Republican. Everybody wanted to be tough on the super-predators.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.