The Marc Steiner Show

Archive for prison

Bail Reform In Maryland

Bail Bond (Credit: Public Broadcasting)March 22, 2017 – Segment 1

Our panel of guests took a look at Bail Reform, in light of legislation currently before the Maryland General Assembly.

With: Caryn York, Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships for the Job Opportunities Task Force; Dayvon Love, Director of Research and Public Policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle; and Doug Colbert, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law

Prison Reform and Abolition: BGF, New Prison Leadership & More

jail-cellFebruary 10, 2015 – Segment 2

In light of the news that Tavon White – the Black Guerrilla Family member who ran a drug ring in prison and impregnated four guards – would receive a lightened sentence because he gave key testimony against other inmates and guards, as well as public statements made by Stephen T. Moyer, Governor Larry Hogan’s nominee to run the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, our panel discusses prison reform.

With: Harold Bailey, former Open Society Institute Fellow who – after being incarcerated in the Maryland prison system for 20 years — partnered with Tuerk House Recovery Centers to provide services for formerly incarcerated males; Israel Cason, President and Founder of I Can’t We Can; Eddie Conway, former political prisoner and producer for the Real News Network; Dominque Stevenson, Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee and co-author with Eddie Conway of Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther.

Susie Day’s Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power

susie_dayFebruary 2, 2015 – Segment 3

Susie Day joins us to talk about her new book Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power, a collection of personal essays and political satire. Susie Day is a writer who specializes in prison issues.

From The Archives: Baltimore Jail Growing Food & Flowers

GardenDecember 11, 2014 – Segment 3

We listen back to a special 2010 archive edition of the Steiner Show, part of our Urbanite Stories series. Marc speaks to Correctional Officer Maurice Smith of the Metropolitan Transition Center in Baltimore about a prison garden program he ran where inmates grew food and flowers, creating a serene and welcoming corner in an otherwise stark environment.

Piper Kerman, Author of ‘Orange Is The New Black’

Piper Kerman, Orange is the New BlackOctober 24, 2014 – Segment 2

Listen to my live interview with Piper Kerman, whose best-selling memoir of her time in prison, Orange is the New Black, is the basis for the popular television series of the same name. Kerman will be speaking at Center Stage in Baltimore on Monday as part of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore’s Big Change event.



Michelle Alexander On Mass Incarceration and African Americans

Michelle AlexanderOctober 23, 2014 – Segment 5

We close out the show with a special archive edition of The Marc Steiner Show, our conversation with civil rights litigator and legal scholar Michelle Alexander about mass incarceration and African Americans. Alexander is the author of the highly-acclaimed book The New Jim Crow.



Programs For Formerly Incarcerated Individuals In Baltimore

BCDCApril 17, 2014 – Segment 3

We take a look at programs for formerly incarcerated individuals, both from BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development) and from the City. We begin the discussion with: Ojeda Hall, Lead Organizer for BUILD; Melvin Wilson, head of BUILD’s Citywide Jobs team; and Dominic Rabey, a member of Zion Baptist Church in Oliver. Then we hear from Gerald Grimes, Project Manager of the Re-entry Center at the Northwest One-Stop Career Center.


CeCe McDonald, Trans Woman & Activist, Released From Prison

CeCe McDonaldFebruary 20, 2014 – Segment 3

Listen to our interview with CeCe McDonald, a transgender woman and activist from Minneapolis, and Katie Burgess, Executive Director of Trans Youth Support Network in Minneapolis.  McDonald was released from prison on January 13th after serving 19 months for her alleged involvement in stabbing a man with scissors. Supporters of McDonald say that she was defending herself against a group of people who came at her and her friends with a bar glass, in a racist and trans-phobic attack. She was held in a men’s prison, even though she identifies as a trans woman.



What The Unger Decision Means For Those Released

Unger DecisionSeptember 26, 2013 – Segment 3

Walter Lomax joins us to talk about an upcoming town hall meeting focusing on juveniles convicted under the felony murder law, September 28 at Morgan State University. Lomax is Project Director of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, a program of Fusion Partnerships.

Also joining us is Kareem Hasan, someone released under the Unger decision.


MD Court Of Appeals Questions Fairness Of Jury Convictions Before 1980

Baltimore, Md--7/25/13--Left, Alexander Mustafa embraces (facing camera) Saleem El-Amin outside Courthouse East after El-Amin and several inmates convicted of murder are released. Mustafa, who had been in prison, but has been out for 17 years, met El-Amin while they were incarcerated.  The men just released were convicted before 1980 and the Court of Appeals ruled jurors had been given improper instructions.  Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun--#1841August 27, 2013 – Segment 1

We begin our show with a discussion on a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling last year that called into question the fairness of jury convictions before 1980, and led to the release from prison last week of five men who had been convicted of murder. Joining us are:

  • Michael Millemann, Jacob A. France Professor of Public Interest Law at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and Director of the Leadership, Ethics & Democracy Initiative;
  • Russell Butler, Executive Director of Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center;
  • and Walter Lomax, founder of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative and a former prisoner who was exonerated after serving many years in prison.


Trans & Incarcerated: Chelsea Manning and “Orange Is The New Black”

Chelsea Manning

August 26, 2013 – Segment 1

We begin the week with a conversation about transgender people who are incarcerated, in light of Bradley Manning’s announcement last week that she identifies as a woman named Chelsea. We speak to:

  • Lauren McNamara, marketing writer who lives in Orlando who was called to testify at the Chelsea Manning trial because of online chats she had with Manning, and author of “The Humanity of Private Manning”;
  • Cecilia Chung, senior strategist at the Transgender Law Center;
  • and Monica Stevens, local activist.


Solitary Confinement

solitaryJune 26, 2013 – Segment 3

Sarah Childress, reporter for the PBS investigative series Frontline, talks about her recent article on solitary confinement in the United States.  Called Trapped in the Hole: America’s Solitary Problem, it tells the story of solitary confinement at Cresson state penitentiary in Pennsylvania, as well as analyzes the ways that solitary confinement is used nationwide.


Shackling Incarcerated Pregnant Women In Maryland

PregnantApril 16, 2013 – Segment 2

We continue our coverage of a bill that was introduced in the Maryland Legislature this past session, which would have prohibited the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women and women in labor. Joining us to discuss the fate of that bill will be: 43rd District Delegate Mary Washington; Jacqueline Robarge, director and founder of Power Inside; Rick Binetti, Director of Communications for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; and Sue Esty, AFSCME 3 Legislative Director.

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Shane Bauer On Solitary Confinement

February 7, 2013 – Segment 1

We sit down with Shane Bauer, an independent journalist based in Oakland who wrote an article about solitary confinement for Mother Jones titled “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside American Prisons.”

Bauer was one of three hikers detained by Iranian authorities at the Iraq-Iran border in 2009 and held for over two years, with four months in solitary confinement.





May 7, 2012 – Segment 1

Listen in as Middle East Correspsondent for Real News Network Lia Tarachansky calls in from Israel to discuss the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike.

May 3, 2012 – Hour 1

This afternoon Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Pamela J. White reached a verdict in the trial of the Werdesheim brothers, whose trial for the assault of an African American teenager in their predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood has highlighted tension between the two communities in the city.  The older brother, Eliyahu Werdesheim, was found guilty of false imprisonment and second degree assault Thursday afternoon, and his younger brother Avi, was cleared of all charges.
Anthony McCarthy co-hosts a panel on the verdict and the effects of this case in Baltimore communities.
Joining us are:
Senator Lisa Gladden, who represents Maryland’s 41st district
Hassan Giordano, author of the Baltimore Independent Examiner Column for the Baltimore Examiner Website
Gregg Bernstein, Baltimore City State’s Attorney

March 14, 2012 – Hour 1

Gardnel Carter served almost 20 years in prison for attempted murder and robbery with a deadly weapon. Today, he works with Safe Streets East as a mediator to reduce violence in Baltimore. Lester Spence is an assistant professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University and co-founder of the Baltimore Mixtape Project. John Long has been restoring the environment of historic Bread and Cheese Creek in Dundalk.


This hour, we discuss working for change with these activists, all recognized as change makers in this month’s issue of Urbanite Magazine. Read more here.

November 14, 2011 – Hour 2

Join us for an Urbanite Radio Story about the challenges facing those who leave prison and seek to reenter their communities.  Joining us are:
Brother Bey, Founder and President of the Fraternal Order of Ex-Offenders
Adam Schneider, Coordinator of Community Relations at Health Care for the Homeless
Melissa Broome, Senior Policy Advocate at the Job Opportunities Task Force
Imam Earl El-Amin, Resident Imam at the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore

You can read Michael Corbin’s article On the Outside in November’s Urbanite Magazine.

October 31, 2011 – Hour 1

Marshall “Eddie” Conway was the Minster of Defense of the Baltimore Chapter of the Black Panther Party, and a United States Postal Service worker, when he was arrested and charged with shooting three Baltimore police officers, killing one of them, in 1970.  He was convicted and has been imprisoned since.  We’ll hear from some of his supporters who believe he was wrongfully convicted and should be free, in advance of Eddie’s parole hearing tomorrow, November 1, 2011.  Our guests are Omari Fatiu, a former inmate who was mentored by Eddie at Jessup prison in the Friend of a Friend program, Dominque Stevenson, from the American Friends Service Committee, Charles Dugger, a Baltimore public school teacher, Doc Cheatham, past President of the Baltimore NAACP, and Reverend Heber Brown.

Click here for info on contacting the parole board.

Click here to sign a petition in support of parole for Eddie Conway.

In the last part of the hour, we speak with Jon Perez, organizer of Occupy the Hood Philadelphia, who are working, along with the Occupy the Hood movement in other cities, to bring more people of color to the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

September 22, 2011 – Hour 2

On September 11, 1973, the Chilean military overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Salvador Allende and established a military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet.


Maria Stella Dabancen and Pedro Alejandro Matta, Chilean student leaders and human rights activists who were imprisoned and tortured by the military government, join us to discuss the atrocity they lived through and their ongoing work in support of human rights.

September 15, 2011 – Hour 2

On September 11, 1973, the Chilean military overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Salvador Allende and established a military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet.


Maria Stella Dabancen and Pedro Alejandro Matta, Chilean student leaders and human rights activists who were imprisoned and tortured by the military government, join us to discuss the atrocity they lived through and their ongoing work in support of human rights.

August 17, 2011 – Segment 3

Join us for an Urbanite Radio story, based on Michael Corbin’s piece The Ultimate Punishment, which asks why Maryland’s death penalty remains in legal limbo.

Kirk Bloodsworth spent eight years in prison in Maryland – including two on death row – for a crime he did not commit.  At his release in 1993 he became the first person sentenced to death row who was exonerated by the then-new technique of DNA fingerprinting.  He joined us in the studio to discuss the future of the death penalty in Maryland, and his advocacy work for reform of the death penalty.

June 27, 2011 – Segment 1

Duane “Shorty” Davis, artist and former owner of Shorty’s Pit Beef in Lutherville, Md., is being charged by Baltimore County police after putting a toilet outside a Towson courthouse to protest political corruption in the state. His unique form of protest, which he has been demonstrating in the Baltimore metropolitan area since 2007, was interpreted as an attempt to replicate an explosive device after police saw electric devices attached to the toilet. Davis could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Davis joins us to explain this incident and his overall message of social justice.

May 31, 2011 – Segment 2

In 2007, former National Security Agency employee Thomas Drake was indicted on charges of supplying top-secret defense documents to Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman, who used the information to write a prize-winning series of articles about financial waste, bureaucratic dysfunction and dubious legal practices in N.S.A. counterterrorism programs. According to the indictment, Drake allegedly violated the Espionage Act, a statute enacted in 1917 to charge intelligence agents with giving out confidential information. If convicted, Drake could face up to 35 years in prison.

But Drake contends that he is simply being targeted by the government for aiding a reporter in writing a story about fraud, abuse and warrantless domestic spying at the N.S.A. As Drake’s June 13 court appearance in Baltimore draws nearer, we take a look at government repression of free speech and how free speech laws should apply to people who deal with top-secret security information.

Joining us for this discussion are:

Jesselyn Radack – Homeland Security and Human Rights Director of the Government Accountability Project

Mark Feldstein Associate Professor of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs


May 16, 2011 – Segment 3

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  African Americans make up a disproportionate amount of the US prison population.  The current budget crunch is forcing political leaders around the country to rethink the amount of money spent on incarceration, but law professor and writer Michelle Alexander, who joins us for this segment, urges us to examine the motivations behind the needed push for prison reform closely.  You can read her op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times here.

March 16, 2011 – Segment 3

Kirk Bloodsworth spent eight years in prison in Maryland – including two on death row – for a crime he did not commit.  At his release in 1993 he became the first person sentenced to death row who was exonerated by the then-new technique of DNA fingerprinting.  He joins us in the studio today to discuss the future of the death penalty in Maryland, and his advocacy work for reform of the death penalty.

December 13, 2010 – Hour 2

First, Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report joins us to discuss a strike by prisoners in Georgia seeking to improve their conditions.  Click here to read Bruce’s reporting on the strike.

Then, we discuss an ongoing lockdown in the Baltimore jail, after a series of violent incidents last month.  Click here to read more about the lockdown in the Baltimore Sun.

Joining us are:

Tracy Velazquez, Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute

Rick Binetti, Communications Director of the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services

Terry Hickey, Founder and Executive Director of Community Law in Action

Jacqueline Robarge, Executive Director of Power Inside

Finally, we wrap up today’s show with an excerpt from Bernie Sanders’ filibuster speech on the Senate floor last Friday.  He took 8 hours and 37 minutes to voice his opposition to the tax compromise between President Obama and congressional Republicans.  Click here for a full transcript of Sanders’ speech.

December 7, 2010 – Segment 1

Mary Joel Davis has worked with women in prison and former prisoners for over thirty years.  She founded Alternative Directions, which provides legal assistance and re-entry support to women.  Recently she founded a new program, Second Chance, to focus on women serving life sentences.  She joins us to discuss why she believes many women should be let out of prison early.

For more about Mary Joel Davis and her work, read Richard O’Mara’s article in the December 2010 issue of Urbanite Magazine.

October 6, 2010 – Hour 1

Laws concerning charging juveniles as adults vary from state to state in the US.  Here in Maryland, juveniles convicted of 33 different offenses are automatically charged as an adult.  This hour, we discuss a report released this week which asserts that trying juveniles as adults is counterproductive.

Our guests are:

Leesa Hatcher – Mother of a juvenile who was incarcerated

"Todd" – Released in prison last March, was incarcerated as a juvenile

Laura Furr – Senior Director of Youth Justice Initiatives for Community Law in Action

John Nethercut – Executive Director of the Public Justice Center



August 23, 2010 – Hour 2

LaMarr Darnell Shields and David C. Miller of the Urban Leadership Institute are known for their innovative programs that help participants build leadership and professional skills.  Their newest workshop focuses on building the self esteem of male inmates, and they join us to discuss their work and conditions inside Baltimore prisons.

July 28, 2010 – Hour 1

Daniel Ellsberg joined Marc to discuss the new film abou this life: TheMost Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. In 1970, Ellsberg was responsible for releasing the secret U.S.government report that documented illegal US involvement in Vietnam, documents that have become known as the Pentagon Papers.  He discusses why he risked life in prison to publicize the papers, and why his story is still relevant today.

 To listen to the audio, click here.

June 14, 2010 – Segment 2

The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) recently released a report outlining steps the city can take to reduce the endemic overcrowding in Baltimore jails.  Citing an abnormally high rate of people incarcerated while awaiting trial, JPI suggests that Baltimore should rely more on citations instead of arrests when dealing with minor offenses, shorten the time between arrests and court dates, and reform bail practices.  
We’re joined by Douglas Colbert, Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, and Sheryl Goldstein, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice, to discuss how the city can address overcrowding in the prison system.

May 27, 2010 – Hour 2

Oil continues to flood into the gulf, as President Obama held a press conference to defend the US government’s handling of the oil spill today.  We speak with Jackie Savitz, Senior Campaign Director for the pollution campaigns at Oceana, for an update on the disaster and its implications for the future of US energy policy.

Then, Crystal Hayes joins us to compare and contrast the Black Panther Party and the Tea Party.  Read her piece What Really Separates the Tea Party From the Black Panther Party on Race-Talk.  Crystal’s father Robert Seth Hayes has been in prison since 1973.  A member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, he was convicted of murdering a police officer, a charge he denies.


For more information about Seth Hayes, visit the Free Robert Seth Hayes Facebook Page, or follow Crystal’s Twitter, @MotherJustice

May 11, 2010 – Segment 3

The Creative Alliance’s URBAN/APPALACHIA series traces the connections between the inner city of Baltimore and the rural towns of the Appalachian region.  Tomorrow, Wednesday the 12th at 7pm there will be a free screening of Up the Ridge, a documentary by the Thousand Kites project that traces the connections between Appalachian prisons and the inner city.  Thousand Kites is a national new media project that works to get messages from families of the incarcerated to their loved ones behind bars.  
If you have a loved one in prison far away and want to leave them a message, you can call the toll-free line 877-410-4863 and leave them a greeting.  For more information, watch this video.
We spoke with:
Luisa Bieri, Outreach Coordinator for the Creative Alliance
Mia Frederick, Producer of the Thousand Kites radio program
Nick  Szuberla, founder of Thousand Kites Appalshop
Bashi Rose, director of Hagerstown prison’s D.R.A.M.A. club and founder of NOMMO theater 
Mildred Jackson, whose son is incarcerated in an Appalachian prison, and who is a frequent caller to the Thousand Kites radio show

May 4, 2010 – Segment 3

If it’s spring, it must be time for the Maryland Film Festival!  This week be sure to listen to interview with actors, directors, and producers from just a few of the films in this year’s amazing line up.  Our first highlighted film is Freedom Riders, a documentary about more than 400 Americans who nonviolently resisted Jim Crow laws in 1961.  Black and white protesters rode buses together into the deep South.  Some were imprisoned, and some were brutally beaten.
Marc sat down with writer, director, and producer Stanley Nelson to discuss the events of 1961 and the process of making this inspiring documentary.
Freedom Riders will screen at 5pm on Friday, May 7th at the Brown Center at MICA.  Click here for more information, and to buy tickets

March 30, 2010 – Segment 3

Sandrine Ageorges has been fighting for the abolition of the death penalty since the 1970s, through organizations such as The Lamp of Hope Project, and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  She is also married to an inmate on Death Row in a Texas prison.  The Supreme Court recently issued a temporary stay in his execution.  She joined us today to discuss why she believes we need to abolish the death penalty and what she has learned in a lifetime of activism.

March 1, 2010 – Hour 1

Daniel Ellsberg joined Marc to discuss the new film abou this life: TheMost Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. In 1970, Ellsberg was responsible for releasing the secret U.S.government report that documented illegal US involvement in Vietnam, documents that have become known as the Pentagon Papers.  He discusses why he risked life in prison to publicize the papers, and why his story is still relevant today.

February 4, 2010 – Hour 2

We talk with Scott Horton, a contributing editor to Harper’s magazine. Horton’s controversial story, "The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle" regarding the "suicides" of three Guantanamo prisoners, was published online last month.

Our final segment feature a conversation with Kwame Kwei-Armah, an associate artist at Center Stage whose play, Let There Be Love, opens February 10. He’ll be part of a panel discussion on Monday about the arts and social change, which Marc will moderate.

December 23, 2009 – Hour 2

Anthony McCarthy and Marc take calls from listeners and discuss topics ranging from prison reform, creative ways to address problems facing Baltimore, and gender bias in the media.

December 23, 2009 – Hour 1

We take a look at current events, and hear what our listeners have to say, as 2009 draws to a close.  Anthony McCarthy co-hosts with Marc, and we’re also joined in the studio by Doni Glover, Publisher of, and Richard Sher, host of Square Off on ABC2.

For more information on Design Recycle Inc., mentioned by our caller James in the last 15 minutes of the segment, click here. The contact number James gave for people interested in his ex-offender program is 202-374-4356



November 17, 2009 – Hour 2

We open the hour with a continuation of our conversation about the new developments in the Dixon Trial. Please see today’s first hour for panel details.

Next, we talk with three fellows working through the Open Society Institute (OSI) about the amazing work they are doing to help our community build toward positive change. We’ll hear from:

  • Rhonda Elsey-Jones, who is working with the National Women’s Prison Project (Office # 410-233-3385) to start a program called WHOLE (Women Healing Our Lives Entirely)
  • Melissa Ruof, who is developing "Jubilee Arts," a center for the arts across  the street from her home in Sandtown, featuring classes in the arts for neighborhood residents
  • Dwayne Hess, who is developing the "Neighborhood Spiritual Center" in a previously vacant building in Southwest Baltimore.

Learning the Hard Way with Michael Corbin

We talk with Michael Corbin, who teaches writing to prisoners in Baltimore. His article "Learning the Hard Way" is available in this month’s Urbanite.

September 24, 2009 – Hour 1

We start out our first hour with a live, in-studio conversation with writers Djelloul Marbrook, who has a new book of poetry called Far from Algiers 
and Kim Jensen, whose new book of poetry, Bread Alone, was just released today. Djelloul and Kim discuss their current writing and read selections from their most recent works. Be sure to check out their reading at the 14th Annual Book Festival this Saturday in the Creative Cafe at 3.

Next, we talk with Michael Corbin, who teaches writing to prisoners in Baltimore. His article "Learning the Hard Way" is available in this month’s Urbanite.

September 15, 2009 – Hour 1

Four our first hour, Marc talks with Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, an Iranian American academic and the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC.

In December 2006, Dr. Esfandiari was robbed at knifepoint on the way to the airport for a return flight to the US. The three men threated her life and stole all of her valuables, including her travel documentation. When she applied for new documents, she was forbidden to leave Iran and interrogated by authorities from the Iranian Ministry of Intellegence. In May 2007, she was detained in Iran’s Evin Prison, where she was kept in solitary confinement until August 21st.

Dr. Esfandiari talks about her experience and the amazing strength and discipline she demonstrated in surviving this unimaginable ordeal. Her book, My Prison, My Home: One Woman’s Story of Captivity in Iran was published by Harper Collins on September 1st.

September 9, 2009 – Hour 1

What is it like to spend your youth locked behind bars? Today we talked with Dwayne Betts, who at the age of sixteen was tried as an adult in the state of Virginia for a carjacking. His memoir, A Question of Freedom, discusses his eight year prison term at an adult facility and the many ways that the justice system fails young people. He was joined by Laura Furr, Director of Advocacy Programs for Community Law In Action, to talk to Marc about the problems with the juvenile justice system and how we can reform it.

In the second part of the show, we spoke with the director and cast from the Strand Theater’s production of The Mercy Seat. The play, written by Neil LaBute, was one of the first theatre pieces to respond to the September 11th attacks. It’s told from the perspective of a worker at the World Trade Center who was away with his mistress when the towers fell. Danielle Young directed the play, and she joined actors Kasey Arnold and Brett Rohrer to discuss the production. The Mercy Seat opens this weekend.

August 11, 2009 – Hour 1

At the age of 16, Dwayne Betts carjacked a man with a friend.  Under Virginia law, he was tried and sentenced as an adult, and spent 8 years in prison.  Now a free man, he has written A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison. He joins Marc to discuss his book, which confronts profound questions about violence, freedom, race, crime, and the criminal justice system.

Then, we’re joined by performance artist and activist Ron Williams.  You can catch Ron performing at Cyclops Books on August 29th.

August 6th, 2009 – Hour 2

Some people who commit crimes are found "Not  Criminally Responsible" because of mental disorders.  Instead of going to jail, they are sent to a forensic psychiatric hospital where they could face much less time committed than they would if sent to prison.  Some critics allege that the system is allowing some criminals to unfairly avoid jail time using the NCR defense, and want the use of NCR to be closely monitored and reformed.  Marc spoke with:

 Timothy Scully

  • Deputy Chief Attorney in the Mental Health Division of the Public Defender’s Office

Richard Vatz

  • Professor at Towson University
  • Editor for Current Psychology
  • Associate Psychology editor at USA Today Magazine


A First-Person Account From Iran

(WARNING: You may find the images of death and violence contained below disturbing.  Please do not scroll down if you do not wish to see them.)

I received this post from our colleague, William Kern, the Managing Editor of WORLDMEETS.US, last night, before the images hit the newspapers this morning.  It is part of this continuing dialogue with his friend and colleague in Iran.  Below is their very moving and telling conversation via Skype.

While the world of the web, Twitter and Facebook, may be driving this Iranian revolt in ways we could not imagine forty years ago, or even 5 years ago, it is part of a tradition that is much older and deeper.

In my lifetime it is connected to the 1956 revolt in Hungary against the Soviet Union’s domination of their nation.   The world watched in awe, but that is all we did was watch, as the Soviet troops and tanks mowed down the resistance fighters and crushed their revolution.  The same thing happened again in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1968, when lovers of freedom stood up against the Soviets demanding freedom.   At that time it was part of a worldwide revolutionary movement for change that grew out of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960’s here in America.   We had our own standoffs with the police and the establishment powers of our nation, which used its federal power through efforts like COINTELPRO to intimidate and murder those who stood against the war and racism.

In recent years, we have seen Tiananmen Square and the demonstrations in China in 1989, the bursts of Burmese resistance in 2007 against their own tyranny, and the Tibetans demanding freedom from the Chinese government.   We could see all these as defeats; I suppose in their immediate aftermath they felt like stunning losses.

Having been part of movements like this in my past I understand the intensity, passion and power of those moments.   How quickly events change around you.   How the spirit of resistance kept your spirits high enough to face any response.   Even when you knew the moment was lost, you could not back down to the might around you.

If the Iranian rebellion is crushed, it will not be a defeat.  It is a part of a continuum of resistance to tyranny and working to create a culture of justice and human rights in our world.   Every such powerful moment widens the cracks in the weakening walls of oppression.  It sows seeds for the power of change in generations to follow.

Already in Iran we are seeing deep divides, even within the ruling circles of the theocracy.  Who knows how all this will unfold in the days ahead?

The photograph and Skype dialogue below shows us the power of this moment.  The photo itself should sear itself into the consciousness of the world as a symbol of why we stand for freedom.


Read More→

April 6, 2009 – Hour 1

When a parent is sent to prison, how does it affect their children? What are the unique needs of incarcerated women? How could we reform parole and probation in order to reduce recidivism? These questions and more are addressed in Bearing Witness, a new report from the Justice Policy Institute on the state of Maryland’s criminal justice system.  Today on the show we discussed the report with:

Shakti Belway, the author of Bearing Witness.

Glenda Bradford, an ex-convict and recovering drug addict who is featured in the report.

Mikhail Holt, a 17 year old who works with the Youth Ambassadors program run by the Baltimore Safe and Sound Campaign.

Maryland Delegate Gerron S. Levi, who represents District 23A in Prince George’s County and is a member of the Special House Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. 

Charles Blow on why black children still face enormous challenges

Charles Blow, the visual op-ed columnist for the New York Times, is our guest today to discuss his most recent column titled “No More Excuses.”

From The New York Times:

For the presidential inauguration, blacks descended on Washington in droves with a fanatical, Zacchaeus-like need to catch a glimpse of this M.L.K. 2.0. “Ooo-bama!” For them, he was it — a game changer, soul restorer, dream fulfiller. Everything. Ooo-K.
Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the majority whip, tapped into the fervor Monday night at the BET Honors awards in Washington when he proclaimed, “Every child has lost every excuse.”
What? That’s where I have to put my foot down. That’s going a bridge too far.
I’m a big proponent of personal responsibility, but children too often don’t have a choice. They are either prisoners of their parentage or privileged by it. Some of their excuses are hollow. But other excuses are legitimate, and they didn’t magically disappear when Obama put his left hand on the Lincoln Bible.
Representative Clyburn and those like him would do well to cool this rhetoric lest the enormous and ingrained obstacles facing black children get swept under the rug as Obama is swept into power. For instance:
• According to Child Trends, a Washington research group, 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Also, black children are the most likely to live in unsafe neighborhoods. And, black teenagers, both male and female, were more likely to report having been raped.
• According to reports last year from the National Center for Children in Poverty, 60 percent of black children live in low-income families and a third live in poor families, a higher percentage than any other race.
• A 2006 report from National Center for Juvenile Justice said that black children are twice as likely as white and Hispanic children to be the victims of “maltreatment.” The report defines maltreatment as anything ranging from neglect to physical and sexual abuse.
Most of these kids will rise above their circumstances, but too many will succumb to them. Can we really blame them?
Malcolm Gladwell probably said it best in a November interview with New York magazine about his new book, “Outliers”: “I am explicitly turning my back on, I think, these kind of empty models that say, you know, you can be whatever you want to be. Well, actually, you can’t be whatever you want to be. The world decides what you can and can’t be.”
So black people have to keep their feet on the ground even as their heads are in the clouds. If we want to give these children a fighting chance, we must change the worlds they inhabit. That change requires both better policies and better parenting — a change in our houses as well as the White House.

President Obama is a potent symbol, but he’s no panacea.

Marc reflecting on this historical moment

I have been thinking non-stop, as have many of you, about the Inauguration and coming Presidency of Barack Obama.   Leaving behind for a moment all the political arguments from the left and right, from those who voted for him and those who did not, this is just an amazing moment.   I look at the Obama family and can’t keep from breaking out into a smile.  We are facing the worst of times yet hope is the operative emotion that is coursing through the veins of this nation.   You can read it in the latest polls but more importantly you can feel it when you listen to people, talk to your friends or when people of all stripes discuss this moment.  I have never experienced anything close to this in political annals of our nation.    The closest was JFK, maybe RFK but still, this moment is different.

Over the weekend I could not get Mack Parker out of my head.  Who is Mack Parker?   Fifty years ago he was lynched.   He had been accused of raping a white woman.   Subsequent investigations revealed he was most likely innocent.   But that is not important.   He was lynched by a white mob.   White judges in Mississippi who were part of the White Citizen’s Councils (a refined version of the KKK) refused to do anything about the crime.   His brutalized chained body was found floating on the Pearl River ten days after the mob dragged him from his cell.   I can only imagine the fear and pain he suffered.

When I was almost thirteen years old I opened a Life Magazine.   The picture in the center of the Magazine was of a pair of work boots neatly placed under a cot in a prison cell.   They were Mack Parker’s boots left behind where he put them before a mob dragged him out to be tortured, mutilated and murdered.

I kept that picture on my wall for years.  It haunted me.   It reminded me why I fight for a new America that belongs to all of her citizens, breathing in, and living, the same air of equality.

Now Barack Obama is standing there fifty years later, an African American man about to become President of the United States of America.    Many people have written that just because we have elected an African American President of the United States of America does not mean that racism will end.   They are right, but I deeply believe that it is having and will have a profound effect on American consciousness.

It is an amazing time.    I can’t believe we are here.   The hope is palpable.  Let it be real.

What are you feeling now?


Marc on Mayor Dixon’s Indictment

I hate watching this happen.  It is no small matter for a sitting Mayor to be indicted.

I have known Sheila Dixon for over thirty years.   We are not close friends.   We have not been in a private social setting together in 32 years. We met when we were both counselors and teachers at Baltimore Prep, a program at Westside Shopping Center for street kids who had just come out of prison or had been kicked out of school, whose lives were on the corner instead of the classroom.   Sheila was committed to those kids. She didn’t take any stuff from them and she knew every game they could play, because she came from the same streets that they did.  Baltimore Prep is also where she met Mark Smith, who later became her husband, with whom she raised her nephew Juan Dixon and his brother.   The boys’ parents had died from heroin addiction.  Sheila and Mark saw those boys to manhood.  This is the Sheila Dixon I know.

I knew her a little in the intervening years.  I remember when she was first elected to the city council.   I remember when she banged her shoe on the table exclaiming it was our turn now.   She was committed to working class black folks. She lived and knew their pain, joys and struggles.   A lot of white journalists, politicians and others thought she hated white people.  I don’t know what her innermost thoughts about race were, but I can say that anyone who came up in a certain way who was from a certain place had historical reasons to have a mistrust of white people.  Whatever she thought then, however, she has grown from that place, as did William Donald Schaeffer from his place of not caring about Black folks before he became Mayor.  She bleeds working class blue in her veins.   That is the Sheila Dixon I know.

So, these indictments are just tragic.  If they are true, they show stupidity and sheer greed.  

As I wrote last week, the only difference between the actions of our city officials and indicted power developers, and goings on in Congress between politicians and corrupt corporate leaders, is the thin but sturdy line of legality.  

Politicians are always doing favors for the powerful and their friends.  It is part of human existence.   Nevertheless, it was not the fur coats that bought Ron Lipscomb city contracts, but rather all of his city and corporate contacts.  

I am not excusing anything here.  If Sheila and others broke their sacred trust with us, they have to leave elected office at the very least.   It cannot be tolerated.  

The worst offence would be if she actually took gift certificates that were intended for poor families and children to enjoy Christmas.   I hope that even if the bribery and malfeasance indictments are true, that stealing from street kids and poor families is not true.   That could break a city’s heart.

That would not be the Sheila Dixon I know.   Soon we will know whether she broke the law.  If she did, then the court will decide her fate.  If she is exonerated, she could become one of our greatest Mayors. If not, she will become one of our greatest disappointments and tragedies.

January 8, 2009

Today’s Marc Steiner show looks at Multisystemic Therapy, an treatment program that seeks to keep kids out of juvenile prison by working with them, their families, and friends in the home environment.

Donald Devore, Maryland’s Secretary of Juvenile Services, joins Marc to discuss the effectiveness of the therapy for children and their families, as well as the cost savings for the state over time.

Joining the conversation is Tyrone Langston, whose son had been in and out of the juvenile justice system until he began Multisystemic Therapy. Lavita Christian was the therapist who worked with the family, and she and Patricia Wren, the Program Director of Community Solutions, speak to the benefits and long-term results of the MST.

Read the Baltimore Sun’s profile of the Langston family.