AUDIO: Voices Unbroken
A poet famous for writing about the civil rights movement and for epitomizing black arts movement feminism, Sonia Sanchez passed through Attica’s gates 8 years after its legendary 1971 uprising. Though she’d never been incarcerated herself, for several years, she’d been married to widely praised prison poet Etheridge Knight. As Sanchez took the stage for a reading, memories of Attica’s insurrection and its casualties must have still lingered. In this episode of PPW, we go looking for prison poetry and prisoner poets in New York, visiting legendary institutions like Riker’s Island jail and Attica prison, to discover poetry as transformation.
Segment – A
McGregor prison is a tough place. According to the Correctional Association of New York, about 54 percent of its inmates are serving time for violent offenses. Yet, poet Cara Benson opens a session of the poetry workshop at the medium security prison by asking a group of all male prisoners to write a feminist poem. As we get to know this group, we see how well it cultivates sensitivity.
Segment – B
Bronx native and writer Victoria Sammartino takes us through a writing exercise that utilizes anaphora— and also explains what that is. Afterward, we take a drive with Derrick Anderson, a former McGregor poet whose family is facing eviction, and who isn’t sure he’ll be able to find a job in time to prevent it. With all the stress and time constraints in his life, he’s found that the easiest way to continue writing and sharing poetry is by text message. The guy on the receiving end of those digital missives is Sean Dalpiaz, another former inmate.
Patrick Mathieu says that, back in the 90s, he was always wishing he had more time to pursue his myriad interests. When he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, he wondered if the universe had finally answered his prayers, and couldn’t stop laughing. Angie Ortiz, on the other hand, found nothing funny about her situation. Incarcerated at Rikers Island while she was pregnant, she wound up giving birth in shackles. Both ex-offenders use poetry to relay their experiences.
Correctional Association of New York releases “Solitary at Southport: A 2017 Report Based Upon the Correctional Assn.’s Visits, Data Analysis, & First-Hand Accounts of the Torture of Solitary Confinement from One of New York’s Supermax Prisons”
New York, NY (December 13, 2017): Today The Correctional Assn. of NY (CA), founded in 1844 and one of the oldest prison watchdog organizations in the country, released a 92-page report providing graphic first-hand depictions of physical, mental, and emotional abuse as a result of days, weeks, and often years of being caged in solitary confinement for 23 to 24 hours a day.Read More
MEDIA ADVISORY: Release of 2017 Report of First Hand Accounts of People in Solitary at Southport Prison
MEDIA ADVISORY: PRESS CONFERENCE New York (December 11, 2017): Lawmakers, Advocates, Southport solitary survivors, and Family Members join the Correctional Association of New York (CA) to release a stunning new CA report about Southport Prison, featuring first-hand accounts of brutality, self-harm, mental, emotional, and physical abuse at one of only two prisons in New York [...]Read More
“Solitary at Southport: A 2017 Report Based Upon the Correctional Association’s Visits, Data Analysis, & First-Hand Accounts of the Torture of Solitary Confinement from One of New York’s Supermax Prisons”
“The isolation itself is torture. Mentally and emotionally, it breaks you down. Spiritually it strips you. The way it is built is to break you down as a person and push your family away.” From “Solitary at Southport” Solitary confinement is torture. New York State subjects people to solitary confinement and other forms of isolation [...]Read More