In this Episode of Rattling the Bars concerned citizens of Baltimore protest to reverse new policy which limits family contact with prisoners in the visiting room.
EDDIE CONWAY, TRNN: I’m Eddie Conway for The Real News. We’re on our way to Towson, for the headquarters of Public Safety. There’s supposed to be a protest out there in support of prisoners and prisoners’ families about the restrictions that they are putting on the visiting regulations in all the jails. They are limiting the amount of contact individuals can have with their families. They’ve cut out the number of visitors that can actually come visit. Initially, for the last 50 years, you could have five people come visit you. Now, they have cut that down to three. They have cut out the taking of photographs in the visiting room. If your family or loved ones come from out of state or somewhere and they want a picture, to remember what you look like and just being with you, that used to be an automatic policy. You could do that. Now, they have actually cut that out. And so, people will probably be trying to visit the Secretary of Public Safety to find out why they are limiting the contact with family members and friends and why they are actually putting in policies that are gonna potentially, not only dehumanize the prisoners, but also, is gonna impact the bonding with the family, and punish the families, when they’re not under any criminal punishment. CAR DRIVER: [inaud.] tell Mike holler at [inaud.] MIKE PERRY, FORMER PRISONER: Yeah, tell him Mike Perry said hey. [inaud.] KEONA CRADDOCK, BALTIMORE RESIDENT: The everyday people talk about Star Wars, [inaud.]. We’re out here fighting for our inmates. Restore physical contact in all prisons. No contact, no peace. That’s what we’re out here for today. CRADDOCK: No contact! JANET COTRELL, CONCERNED PARENT: No peace! CRADDOCK: No contact! COTRELL: No peace! CRADDOCK: No contact! COTRELL: No peace! GARY NELSON, CONCERNED PARENT: I’ll tell you what, you investigate the issue. No contact, no peace. COTRELL: When you finish them boxes, you gotta give me five. UPS WORKER (PASSERBY): You wanna change anything, you got to vote. So if you’re all not voting, you’re all wrong. COTRELL: If you’re gonna stand there and give us that message, come back and carry this sign. CRADDOCK: It don’t matter if you vote or not, they’re still gonna do whatever they wanna do. UPS WORKER: You gotta vote, y’all, seriously. You gotta vote. COTRELL: We’re gonna vote. We’re gonna do our part. Now you’re running your mouth, you do your part, and come on out here and hold this sign. UPS WORKER: You should have a picture of a person that you’re voting for. CRADDOCK: I’m tired of people who are always talking about voting. Voting don’t change shit. So you know why they’re protesting? Do you know why they’re protesting? MAN (PASSERBY): Against drugs. CRADDOCK: No, not against drugs. The people, they’re trying to– They have a policy where the inmates can’t have no content with [inaud.] MAN: Wow. CRADDOCK: So, people go visit their families and they can’t give their families a hug hello or goodbye. MAN: Wow. CRADDOCK: So that’s why they’re protesting the change in policy. MAN: That’s good. That’s good. PROTESTORS: (CHANTING) Hugs are better than drugs! WOMAN (PASSERBY): Why here? CRADDOCK: Why here? Because this is the office of the people who make the policies and stuff. WOMAN: You mean, in the office? CRADDOCK: Yeah, for the inmates, for having no contact. WOMAN: I see. Thank you. CRADDOCK: You’re welcome. PROTESTORS: (CHANTING) Hugs are better than thugs! CRADDOCK: Thugs need hugs! [laughs] The word hug is in thug, though. NELSON: So, am I calling the– DOMINIQUE STEVENSON, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE: 410. Yeah, we’re calling their office. NELSON: 410. CRADDOCK: We’re talking to them, no contact, no peace? STEVENSON: We’re gonna say that they need to respect contact in the prisons. NELSON: No, we’ll talk to them like the intellectual giant I am. TAALIB SABER, LAWYER: (INTO PHONE) Physical contact restored in the prisons. Yeah, that’s what we want, yes. All right? COTRELL: (INTO PHONE) Good morning. I’m calling because I want physical contact with my son. I want that restored today. Please. We’re not leaving until we get some justice. (HANGS UP) He’s like, “Yeah, Okay, okay. Yeah, okay.” He says, “Yeah, okay.” NELSON: (INTO PHONE) …that this policy be ended– Okay, I was just hung up on. I was talking to someone, they hung up on me. CRADDOCK: I was hung up on too. NELSON:I was talking to somebody, and they hung up. So, that shows us where our public servants are, pertaining to this. SABER: Oh, here it is. 1000. STEVENSON: Yeah. NELSON: But there’s no tenth floor. STEVENSON: I know how to get up there. I’ve been in there before. NELSON: Okie, dokie. CRADDOCK: It is the tenth floor. NELSON: There is a tenth floor? Okay. I didn’t think it was that tall. It didn’t look that tall. STEVENSON: All right. NELSON: You’re gonna protect us here, Mr. security guard, sir? Thank you very much. SECURITY GUARD: When I talked to you guys out there, you said you wasn’t going up here. CRADDOCK: We changed our minds. COTRELL: We changed our minds. CRADDOCK: They can’t hear us, from through the glass? NELSON: Taxpayers of Maryland. SECURITY GUARD: Trust me, they really can’t. COTRELL: Well, trust us, we’re really going up. SECURITY GUARD: I’m telling you, you’re on private property this is not [inaud.]. STEVENSON: We’re really [inaud.] too, ’cause they’re taking away physical contact [inaud.] from prison to prison. SABER: They can kick us out, they can do what they what, but we’re gonna say what we need to say. NELSON: Private– So the state of Maryland has offices on private property, is that what you’re saying? CRADDOCK: They got private prisons too, and they make billions of dollars over slaving– SECURITY GUARD: I understand. CRADDOCK: All right, well, if you understand, then– NELSON: This is the ninth floor. It’s the ninth floor. STEVENSON: It’s the ninth floor. SECURITY GUARD: I’m just doing my job. NELSON: You’re saying that the offices of the state of Maryland is on private property? SECURITY GUARD: Yes, this is not their building. This is a privately owned building. NELSON: So, you’re saying this is being leased from the private property owner? SECURITY GUARD: Yes, it is. STEVENSON: It’s nice too. NELSON: (INTO INTERCOM) Yeah, we wanted to talk to the person in charge. PERRY: Secretary Moyer, please. CLERK: (OVER INTERCOME) She’s not here. PERRY: Deputy Secretary. Under Secretary. Anyone, actually– CLERK: You have an appointment with her? PERRY: No. STEVENSON: No. From our understanding, you don’t need an appointment. CLERK: You can’t see her without an appointment. STEVENSON: What? SABER: Say that again. CLERK: I said, they’re not gonna see you without an appointment. CRADDOCK: Well, can’t we make one? NELSON: That’s just the buzzer. That’s just the buzzer. He can hear everything we’re saying right now. STEVENSON: Okay. (INTO INTERCOM) Well, can one of them come to this door and tell us they’re not gonna see us without an appointment? As a matter of fact, I mean, basically, our tax dollars are paying these folks. They work for the government. CLERK: I’m gonna give you a phone number to call, you can make an appointment. They’re not here. That’s all you can do for right now. STEVENSON: Who is there? Is there a deputy? CLERK: There’s no one here to speak with you right now. I can give you a phone number, if you want to take that down. SABER: There’s no one at all, within the hierarchy, that can speak to us right now? CRADDOCK: You can’t come out and speak to us? CLERK: I just told you, you have to make an appointment. NELSON: Okay, give us the phone number, please. CLERK: 410. NELSON: Hold on. Okay, 410. CLERK: 585. NELSON: 585. Go ahead. COTRELL: Give him any number. Look at him, he’s saying, “Give him any number.” NELSON: 410-585. CLERK: Give me a second. 5032. NELSON: 5032? CLERK: You can make an appointment through him. SABER: Who is this? STEVENSON: Who is this? NELSON: Who should I ask for? SABER: Who is this? CLERK: It’s Anthony Gaskins. NELSON: Anthony Gaskins. STEVENSON: Is he here? CLERK: And I’m gonna have to ask you, everyone to leave, or we’re calling the police. CRADDOCK: Oh, we know. STEVENSON: Is Gaskins here? CLERK: Not right this minute. STEVENSON: Is there an appointment secretary here? CRADDOCK: Oh, he’s calling the police. STEVENSON: Is there an appointment secretary? CLERK: That was the number we gave you. CRADDOCK: No contact, no peace. NELSON: (INTO PHONE) Is this the number for Anthony Gaskins, with the Maryland State Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services? Okay, Thank you. All right. STEVENSON: That wasn’t the number? NELSON: That was not the number. STEVENSON: Okay, you might want to let him know that. I’m sure he knew that. NELSON: Hey, sir, the number I got was the wrong number. STEVENSON: ‘Cause we do have the right to ask him for a number. CLERK: [inaud]. 410-[inaud]39-5032. NELSON: Wait. Okay. All right, you were a little too quick for me there. Start again. 410. CLERK: 339. NELSON: 339. CLERK: 5032. NELSON: 5032. And that’s Anthony Gaskins? Okay. STEVENSON: Okay, call the number still. NELSON: (INTO PHONE). Hello, may I speak to Anthony Gaskins, please? Gary Nelson calling. Hi, Mr. Gaskins. I’m here with a few concerned citizens, and what we want is to demand that inmates in Maryland be allowed to have contact visits. And we’d like to speak in person to you, if that would be possible. ANTHONY GASKINS: (OVER PHONE) I’m actually not the person you need to speak to. NELSON: Okay, that’s what I was told by the front desk here. GASKINS: [inaud.] NELSON: Okay, so, but you are with the Maryland State Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services? GASKINS: (OVER PHONE) Yeah. NELSON: Okay, so, who do we need to speak to? GASKINS: You need to speak to Deputy Secretary Wayne Webb. NELSON: Deputy Secretary Wayne Lebb? STEVENSON: Webb. GASKINS: Webb. And can you give me his number, please? Please? Yeah, go ahead. NELSON: (AWAY FROM PHONE) I’m being transferred to his– He said Mr. Gaskins is not the person to whom we’re supposed to speak. CRADDOCK: Well, he can get us in contact with who to speak to, so [inaud.] keep calling him [inaud.]. NELSON: This is Anthony Gaskins I’m on the line with. But he’s trying to transfer me to the deputy– he’s trying to transfer me to that line, yeah. (INTO PHONE): Hello. Hi, this is Gary Nelson calling for the deputy of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Yeah. It’s in reference to contact visits for inmates in the state of Maryland, which are being denied, that’s my understanding. It’s not being denied? STEVENSON: Yeah, they are. NELSON: I have contrary information. Cumberland– STEVENSON: They eliminated– When people walk in, they can only do a brief hug and a kiss at JCI when then leave. They have changed it. People cannot embrace their loved ones when they come in the visiting room. NELSON: People cannot embrace their loved ones when they come in the visiting room. STEVENSON: At JCI and Cumberland, it’s been eliminated. NELSON: At JCI and Cumberland, it’s been eliminated. (AWAY FROM PHONE) This young lady is telling me they can embrace them on the way out, they can’t embrace them on the way in. (INTO PHONE) Can we just set up an appointment, so that we can talk to someone in a position of authority, so as to facilitate a reversal of this policy? Okay, do you have any time reference on that? Okay. All right, thank you so much. All right, goodbye. (HANGS UP) All right, she says they’re gonna call me. STEVENSON: Okay. All right. And if they don’t, then we will– NELSON: Come back. STEVENSON: And we will hustle for the Governor’s office, [inaud.] But I mean, we gotta give them an opportunity to– But I love [inaud.] That door used to not be locked. [laughs] Unfortunately, [inaud.] NELSON: Thank you so much, folks. Thank you so much. STEVENSON: I had people up here one time in their office for hours. COTRELL: I seen when the man gave you the wrong number. When he read it off to the other man. And he put his hand over his mouth and he was like, “Shut up.” When you asked for the phone number, one dude said, when he was hollering the number, he knew it was the wrong number. And he put his hand and he said, “Shut up,” NELSON: Ah, Okay. COTRELL: I seen it. NELSON: Okay. COTRELL: These eyes, [inaud.] NELSON: It’s standard operational procedure. No question. Standard. STEVENSON: But yeah, we want that meeting because it’s bigger than that. They’ve eliminated pictures. So, say you have an elderly parent. NELSON: Yeah. Correct. STEVENSON: Who can’t come to visit, and the sibling wants to go in and get pictures. NELSON: Yeah. STEVENSON: Now, they can’t do that. NELSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I took those pictures when I went to visit my son on several occasions. STEVENSON: It’s like, you have family members who just never go visit. They need that picture. NELSON: That’s right, yeah. They need that, yeah. PERRY: You know, we had the opportunity to converge down here at the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, in an attempt to meet with the Deputy Secretary, Mr. Moyer. Unfortunately, he was unavailable, but our mission wasn’t in naught. We set up an appointment to talk to the Under Secretary, via phone, to one of the parents that accompanied us down here, so we’re looking forward to that over the weekend, and if not, we will return Monday. Thank you.
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