GOOD

Children of the Penal System Learn Hope on the Dance Floor

Inspired by Orange is the New Black, Sheena Jeffers uses dance to reach kids with parents behind bars.

What happens to the children of the men and women behind bars? Illustration by Jean Wei

Despite the smiling invitations from the teacher to join in, one little girl in the corner of the bright, aqua-painted studio refused to dance. Instead, she hid behind her mentor, occasionally peeking out at the others as they played. A cool autumn breeze blew in through the open studio door. It was the first day of classes at Dance Camp, created by activist Sheena Jeffers, in association with the Mentoring Children of Prisoners program at Seton Youth Shelters in Virginia Beach.

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John Legend Wants to End Mass Incarceration

He launched a campaign on Monday to do exactly that.

Photo by Flickr user PopTech.

Yesterday, John Legend, soft-spoken crooner and America’s boyfriend, launched FREE AMERICA, an initiative dedicated to ending mass incarceration in the United States. Legend broke the news to the Associated Press yesterday, effectively cementing himself in the American consciousness as a genuine Good Guy and earning himself all kinds of righteous karma from the universe.

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As I write this it's California prisoner hunger strike, day 10. Tens of thousands of people in prison are attempting to change the intolerable unfairness and petty restrictions that constitute life in prison. They reject the way that receiving a birthday card can be counted as "gang activity" and the limit on the number of pairs of underpants you can have when in solitary confinement. These policies may fall under the pressure from striking prisoners, but one source of suffering that can't be readily changed is the design of the buildings holding prisoners in solitary confinement.

Of course, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation may well make halfway gestures towards addressing even this level of concern, as they have done in the past two years towards the prisoners' other demands. When I visited Pelican Bay State Prison two weeks ago—home to the most notorious solitary confinement "Security Housing Unit" (or SHU) in California—some of the men told me that painters had begun preparing their cell "pods" for a new mural that would be opposite their cell doors.

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