Meet the anti-violence experts wanted in the prison oversight council | News | Pittsburgh

It has been a busy year for the Allegheny County Jail Supervisory Board. The task is to monitor the prison compliance with last year’s vote initiative to ban single cells, insistent staff shortageand increased attention to 14 men who have died in the ACJ since the start of the pandemic, including one death recently on April 21, dispute due to appointments in the constituencies, uncertainty has arisen over who will replace Terry Klein as a citizen representative. Klein’s second three-year term on the board ended on December 31, 2021, and County Executive Director Rich Fitzgerald decided not to nominate her again.

A group of “concerned citizens,” including members of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, Let’s Get Free: Committee for the Protection of Women and Trans-Prisoners and Book ‘Em, wrote to Fitzgerald with a proposal to nominate University of Pittsburgh professor and violence expert Richard. Garland to the open post of the Prison Oversight Board.

Referring to his many years of work in the field of return, violence prevention and trauma care, as well as his personal experience of decades of imprisonment and successful adaptation to life outside prison, they state in a letter to Fitzgerald that Garland’s personal and professional experience give him “ unsurpassed depth of knowledge and experience in all aspects of the criminal justice system and a great reputation among the leaders of thought in the region. ”

The 69-year-old Garland agrees that he is the right choice for the board of directors Pittsburgh City Newspaper he wants to be a “beacon of hope” for the people held in the ACJ. He wants them to know that he believes they can “succeed” because he did.

“A lot of guys won’t go back to jail as soon as they get home,” Garland says. “I go to all the prisons I can to tell people my story because they need motivation. Everyone thinks, “If he succeeds, so do I. Because I’m smarter than him,” he jokes.

Garland grew up in northeastern Philadelphia, lived with his grandmother until he was 13, and she could no longer care for him. He joined a gang that, he said, gave him purpose and community. “I had low man syndrome,” Garland said The Pitt News in 2018. “It was all about how well I could fight.”

He was first arrested at the age of 16, beginning a cycle of arrests and imprisonments that culminated in the longest period of Garland’s imprisonment from 1979 to 1991. He was severely beaten by guards and abandoned opiates in prison that, he sayswere some of his worst experiences.

He says he has the biggest fans and teachers during his imprisonment City newspaperthere were “old heads”, people who spent many years in prison and told him “this is not the place for you”.

“The older guys who went through that could have been some of the greatest teachers because they taught me,” he says. “They taught me not to react and to become a strategic thinker.”

When he was released from SCI-Pittsburgh in 1991, his stay in Pittsburgh was a condition of his parole. Garland says he has “fallen” into work to prevent youth violence.

“We had a big problem with gangs” in Pittsburgh in the early ’90s, he says, and it was easy for him to communicate with children involved in local gang conflicts. Many recognized him as a visiting photographer from Pittsburgh, where they visited imprisoned friends and relatives.

He recalls that he went to talk to school, “and the next thing I learned, the kids said, ‘Go to the dreadlocks dude.’ He understands where we are. ” In addition, Garland explains, “When I got home, almost no one in Pittsburgh had dreadlocks,” so it stood out.

In fact, Garland has already gained some notoriety with his locks. At the beginning of his imprisonment he refused to cut them and was sent to solitary confinement for 32 months. Garland wore his hair the way he says to show his support for MOVE, a black liberation group from Philadelphia founded in 1972.

According to Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, “MOVE’s very loud and public commitment to racial justice as well as its strong views on animal rights” led to a confrontation with other members of the community and, ultimately, with the police. In May 1985, Philadelphia police bombed a house occupied by MOVE members, killing six adults and five children, and allowed the next fire to burn for so long that it destroyed 60 homes and left more than 250 homeless.

The Parole Board demanded this Garland serves extra time for refusing to condemn MOVE, which is a city government in Philadelphia characterized as a terrorist group. However, MOVE’s values, such as the belief that “all life is the same,” continue to guide them in their work to prevent violence, Garland says.

“MOVE taught me to look at myself first,” he says. “Being a revolutionary means you have to start changing yourself, the thoughts and things you’ve been taught all these years.”

In 2004, he launched the One Vision One Life Violence Initiative and led the program until it closed in 2012. “We were best known for stopping the violence in response. I had guys who used to be in jail, former gang members, former drug dealers. We taught them, and they did a lot of different things about coverage, ”Garland said said programs. “They will find a way to stop the situation or stand in front of it.”

From there, Garland moved to the University of Pittsburgh, where he currently works as an associate professor at the School of Public Health and manages their Violence Prevention Initiative, which includes the Reimagine Reentry program, which offers holistic support to people returning with injuries. home from prison.

As for what needs to change in the ACJ, Garland says his most pressing concerns are the deaths of prison inmates.

April 21 PINZH reports48-year-old Jerry Lee Ross Jr. died in custody at the ACJ. Ross is the third death of an ACJ prisoner this year fourteenth since the beginning of the pandemic. This figure does not include all people who died after medical release from prison. Lawyers to say this figure is large compared to prisons of similar size.

ACJ spokesman Jesse Gelains told PINJ that while correctional and medical staff are doing everything “humanly possible” to keep people in custody, many people come to the ACJ with pre-existing medical conditions and addictions. He says the jail “recognizes[s] that death is an inevitable part of life. It is unrealistic to expect that there will be no deaths in prison. ” However, Garland says he is very concerned about the deaths and suicides of the ACJ.

Reducing recidivism is also a top priority for Garland. He says the ACJ needs additional education and rehabilitation programs to prevent the return of previously inmates to prison.

“I started my education when I was in prison,” he said. He received a GED and eventually enrolled in a college program while in prison. A longtime fighter, he also got into boxing.

«[T]hose programs, I don’t even think they have them [jail] more, ”he says.

“I really believe in re-entry,” he said claims it starts when someone gets in jail, not when they get out of it.

Supporters of Garland say he will bring to JOB “the true voice of the people.”

“That’s right,” says Garland, “I’m not going to bite my tongue for anyone.”

click to enlarge Allegheny County Jail - CP PHOTO: LISA CANNIGEM

CP Photo: Lisa Cunningham

Allegheny District Prison

Asked if he would feel comfortable publicly disagreeing with the county governor, Garland replied: “You know when [Fitzgerald] says what I disagree with, I will tell him just like no one else and I think he respects it about me ”.

Garland tells KP he does not believe ACJ overseer Orlando Harper’s claim that the prison meets the requirements of a referendum to ban solitary confinement.

“I’m going to push him,” he says of Harper, adding that he would like to use the place at WORK “to be able to call people about what they don’t do.” However, Garland claims, “I’m indifferent, I try to look both ways.”

The list of Garland supporters includes Mayor Ed Ganey, who tells City newspaper in an e-mail statement that he said Garland “would be a model choice for the prison supervisory board”.

“Garland understands the critical need for a public health approach to combating violence,” Haney continues. “As a former prisoner who has dedicated his life to ending cycles of violence and reducing recidivism, his voice will play an important role in promoting justice in the college.”

In an email to City newspaperCounty spokeswoman Amy Downs declined to confirm whether Fitzgerald Garland was considering the job, and said there was “no set time frame” if he would hand over his appointment to the County Council for approval.

Meanwhile, Garland says, “I’m fighting for [people in ACJ] to get out one day because people can change. ”

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