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Whatsjust presents Critical Conversations
53 minutes | Aug 23, 2021
Getting Healthy Through Healing with Dr. Wright
This episode features a critical conversation with Dr. H. Jean Wright, the Deputy Commissioner for Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and the Director of the Behavioral Health and Justice division. In this episode, we discuss social determinants of health and specifically how the criminal justice system impacts the health of all those in contact with it. We also discuss tangible ways to create a healthier society, including healing circles and restorative practices.
43 minutes | Aug 9, 2021
Dying to Live in Prison with Stacey Torrance
In this episode, I’m joined by Stacey Torrance. Stacey was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole at the age of 14. Upon the supreme court ruling that sentencing children to life without parole was unconstitutional, Stacey was released after 30 years in prison. In this episode, we speak about how he maintained hope throughout his sentence, the harsh reality check he confronted upon returning home, his experiences with restorative justice, and how proximity and conversation can challenge assumptions and contribute to the healing process.
48 minutes | Jul 26, 2021
How Prison Impacts the Mind, Body, and Soul with Abd'Allah Lateef
This critical conversation features Abd’allah Lateef, the Senior Strategic Advisor and Racial Equity Specialist at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. Sentenced to life without the possibility of parole as a child, Abd’allah was resentenced and released in 2017 after spending over 30 years in prison. In this episode, Abd’allah provides an intimate account of the effects of prison on the mind, body, and soul. As a means of moving forward, we discuss how public safety can and should be achieved by restoring community rather than seeking retribution.
43 minutes | Jul 11, 2021
Locked In During Lockdown with Michael A.
This episode features Michael A., a teaching assistant at the University of Kent in England and motivational speaker. Michael was incarcerated at the age of 16 and spent 12 years in the UK prison system and was released in the summer of 2020. In this episode, we speak on how police action can instigate criminal engagement, what it was like to be incarcerated and released during a global pandemic, and how the prison experience incites PTSD.
64 minutes | Jun 28, 2021
Tangible Solutions to America's Policing Crisis with Dr. Rashawn Ray
This critical conversation features Dr. Rashawn Ray, a fellow at The Brookings Institution, and a Sociology Professor and the Executive Director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland. In this episode, we discuss some of the public health issues stemming from racism. Dr. Ray also presents some tangible solutions to America’s policing crisis, including abolishing qualified immunity, implementing insurance policies and malpractice liability for individual officers, and providing officers with housing subsidies to live in or around the communities they patrol.
46 minutes | Jun 14, 2021
Women's Unique Paths to Prison with Kamilah Newton
This episode features Kamilah Newton, a writer, advocate, and previous participant of Justice Home, an alternative to incarceration program hosted by the Women’s Prison Association. This episode exposes the unique gendered experience of the criminal justice system, highlighting the cycle of victimization and the pervasiveness of trauma that the majority of justice-involved women experience. Kamilah speaks about what it is like being a mother to Black children in America today, what it is like being a co-parent to an incarcerated father, what her personal experience was like with the criminal justice system, and how to think critically about what safety means and what victims need from first responders.
56 minutes | Jun 1, 2021
Thinking Beyond the Binary of "Violent" and "Nonviolent" Offenders with Michael Fischer
This week's critical conversation features Michael Fischer, a writer, activist, and advocate. Michael was incarcerated for 2 years in upstate New York and in this conversation, we speak about how social connections significantly impacted his opportunities upon re-entry, how his whiteness and the location of his arrest impacted his experiences with the criminal justice system, how to hold individuals accountable and increase public safety without relying on prisons, and how the binary constructs of "violent" and "nonviolent" offenders are detrimental to the pursuit of equity and justice.
63 minutes | May 17, 2021
Reducing Harm through Anti-Segregation Policing and Community Racism Response Funds with Dr. Monica Bell
This episode features a critical conversation with Dr. Monica Bell. Dr. Bell is an Associate Professor of Law as well as an Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale University. In our conversation, we speak about some of Dr. Bell's proposals for reducing harm until we abolish racist systems, including anti-segregation policing and community racism response funds. Our discussion highlights the importance of combating complacency in reformist efforts as well as the importance of holding the community accountable for individual acts of routine racism.
61 minutes | May 3, 2021
Fighting for Freedom Following a Wrongful Conviction with Carl Williams
This episode features Carl Williams, a man who, at the age of 17, was arrested for a murder he did not commit. After waiting in jail for 3 years pre-trial, Carl was ultimately sentenced to life without parole. For 23 years, Carl maintained his innocence in prison and fought for his life. Finally, in August of 2020 , Carl was released...into a global pandemic. This conversation touches on what it means to be free as a Black man in America, the importance of holding criminal justice agents accountable for "taking innocent lives," and the long-lasting impact of the prison experience.
53 minutes | Apr 19, 2021
The Profound Harms of Prison with Dr. Reuben Jonathan Miller
This episode features a critical conversation with Dr. Reuben Jonathan Miller, assistant professor in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice at the University of Chicago and author of the new book, Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration. Dr. Miller’s book tells the story of prison release and community reentry through the experiences of individuals he worked with closely and followed for over a decade. In our conversation, we discuss how disadvantage is the root of crime, which is cultivated and perpetuated by our laws and criminal justice policies. We undercover the difference between true accountability and our present forms of punishment and discuss how prisons do not adequately achieve safety for anyone in our society. When thinking about ways to enhance security and pursue justice, we discuss the importance of creating a sense of belonging for all, as our work demonstrates how individual and local-level alienation causes global harm.
19 minutes | Apr 5, 2021
Bonus Episode: A Reflection on the Last 10 Episodes
There has been A LOT of critical content delivered over these last 10 episodes- here is your cheat sheet. In this episode, Abbie highlights the main takeaways and over-arching themes throughout and draws attention to possible solutions for a more just society.
50 minutes | Mar 22, 2021
It's Not About Right and Wrong When It's About Survival with Maleek Jackson
In this episode, I speak with Maleek Jackson, owner of Maleek Jackson Fitness Boxing Gym in Philadelphia. Maleek spent 10 years in prison from ages 16-26 and in our conversation, we contextualize criminal behavior, interrogating how, for those in the streets, it is not about “right” or “wrong” but about doing what you need to do to survive with the limited opportunities available. We discuss how chaotic environments, resulting from racist systems and structures, tend to muffle positive messages promoted through community-based programs, mentors, and old heads. Maleek describes the individuals who influenced him throughout his life, for better or worse, and emphasizes the multifacetedness of each individual’s identity. Ultimately, this conversation serves to humanize those so often demonized, complicate deficits-based narratives about those deemed “bad” and provide insights into the influential and often conflicting roles of mentors and environments.
70 minutes | Mar 8, 2021
Street Hustling as a Site of Resilience with Dr. Yasser Payne
This episode challenges pretty much everything we know and think about the concept of resilience. Dr. Payne explains how resilience is traditionally a value-laden construct that is seen as synonymous with “goodness” or “morality.” Dr. Payne makes the argument that resilience is simply action that serves to perpetuate an individuals survivability, and cites gun violence, drug dealing, pimping and other street hustles as examples of resilience. We discuss how Black oppression is a requirement for white wealth and how notions of resilience, particularly when used to describe marginalized communities, and capitalism are intrinsically tied. Listeners are encouraged to keep an open mind throughout the discussion as it turns most pre-existing definitions and beliefs about racial and social politics on their head.
55 minutes | Feb 22, 2021
Policing Blackness in Suburban Spaces and Beyond with Dr. Andrea Boyles
This episode features a critical conversation with Dr. Andrea Boyles, visiting professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Tulane University. Dr. Boyles is also the author of two books: You Can’t Stop the Revolution: Community Disorder and Social Ties in Post-Ferguson America and Race, Place, and Suburban Policing: Too Close for Comfort. In today’s episode, Andrea speaks about how place impacts police encounters, specifically for Black folks in suburban spaces, and how, in order to understand the extent of the tenuous relationship between police and minoritized communities, it is necessary to examine the cumulative and escalating officer-civilian interactions that often occur prior to a police shooting. The conversation touches on why policy change is imperative for holding systems accountable and creating a more equitable society and concludes with a discussion on how police brutality and interpersonal community violence are both outcomes of the same racist practices. Andrea spits fire in this episode and I strongly suggest having a pen and pad handy.
50 minutes | Feb 8, 2021
Empowering the Community from Within with Gregory Coachman
In this episode, I am joined by Gregrory Coachman, a Philadelphia-based social entrepreneur and the founder of the lifestyle brand, Urban Recreation. The original audio draws from a webinar that took place during the height of the summer 2020 protests and highlights how the kinds of contentious interactions with police that we saw during the protests are a part of everyday life for many young Black folks in marginalized communities. This discussion also focuses on the importance of empowering the community from within and drawing from community members' existing strengths. Greg encourages listeners to consider their own expertise and to donate knowledge rather than to simply donate money. Finally, our conversation investigates how to speak with those who hold opposing views, noting the importance of conversation and curiosity and how, in order to be heard, it is imperative to listen.
42 minutes | Jan 25, 2021
The Borderwall, Prisons, and Other False Symbols of Safety with Laiken Jordahl
In this episode, I speak with Laiken Jordahl, a Borderlands Campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. In our conversation, Laiken describes the devastation that the border wall is wreaking on the land, wildlife, and indigenous communities. We speak about how, like prisons, the border wall serves as a false symbol of safety that is touted to make "America" secure but, in reality, is causing direct harm to American communities. Laiken schools us on the legal loopholes that have justified the destruction of indigenous sacred sites and shares stories of activism occurring in indigenous communities. If you would like to support tribal land and the communities most impacted by the wall construction, please consider donating to the Oodham Land Bail Fund.
41 minutes | Jan 11, 2021
Mass Incarceration and The Missing Men with Dawan Williams
During his 10 years in prison, Dawan Williams was able to meet some of society's "Missing Men." These men served as mentors and guided Dawan into a process of change. Since returning home 6 years ago, Dawan has dedicated his life to mentorship and serves as the coordinator for Mural Art's Restorative Justice Guild program and as the program director for No'Mo. In this episode, Dawan describes the impact of paternal incarceration, the importance of personal accountability, and how to respond to crime in restorative and productive ways. Ultimately, he explains how responding with compassion and support is a far better deterrent of future crime than punishment.
59 minutes | Dec 28, 2020
Redemption, Change, and the Importance of Building Community Capacity with Dr. Nikki Jones
Dr. Nikki Jones is a professor in the Department of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of two books, Between Good and Ghetto: African American Girls and Inner-City Violence and The Chosen Ones: Black Men and the Politics of Redemption. In this episode, we speak about the differences between internal and external motivations and expectations for redemption, particularly for those who have served time in prison. We speak about the need for opportunities to "do good" in the community to demonstrate personal growth, and explore how Black men with criminal records navigate the difficulties often faced when attempting to distance themselves from the criminal label. The episode concludes with a discussion on how many of those who have contributed to racial inequality in America are now attempting to seek their own redemption and what a redeemed society might look like.
52 minutes | Dec 14, 2020
Abolition, the Purpose of Punishment, and Defining Justice in America with Juwan Bennett
In this episode, I am joined by co-creator of Whatsjust, co-founder of the Urban Youth Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, and Criminal Justice Ph.D. candidate, Juwan Bennett. Juwan and I attended graduate school together and were both mentored by a pioneering prison abolitionist, Kay Harris. Together, we unpack the concept of abolition and provide a brief history of police and prisons in America. Juwan and I challenge the purpose of punishment and what we deem criminal- acknowledging how the law is fluid and everchanging. In addition, we interrogate how we define justice and whether our means of achieving justice are outdated (spoiler: they are). This conversation should inspire critical thought and ultimately shift worldviews.
54 minutes | Nov 30, 2020
Parents in Prison, Positive Trauma Responses, and the Implicit Racism of "Resilience" with Dr. Whitney Hollins
We’re back with the next Critical Conversation! In this episode, I am joined by Dr. Whitney Hollins, educator, advocate, researcher, and justice-impacted individual. Dr. Hollins’s father was in prison for 25 years of her life. According to the common narratives about children of incarcerated parents, Dr. Hollins was *at-risk* for being incarcerated herself. However, she went on to receive her Ph.D. and has dedicated her life to shifting these narratives and calling out the systems that stigmatize, adultify, and criminalize children who have experienced parental incarceration. This is a very critical conversation that highlights the importance of language and encourages listeners to challenge and expand their worldviews. For more information on Dr. Hollins, please visit https://www.docwhitneyq.com/
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