This week, Roqayah and Kumars are joined from Jackson, Mississippi by veteran community organizers Pauline and Frederick Rogers. Pauline is President of the RECH Foundation or Reaching and Educating for Community Hope, and cofounder of that organization along with her husband Fred. Pauline and Frederick were both formerly incarcerated at Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm. Together they founded RECH as a prison and reentry ministry whose projects include the Wendy Hatcher Transitional Home and the Mississippi Freedom Letters Campaign in collaboration with historian and activist Garrett Felber, assistant professor of history the University of Mississippi and author of the book Those Who Know Don’t Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement, and the Carceral State, out now from University of North Carolina Press.
After Pauline and Fred share a bit of how their lives have been impacted by the prison system, they outline the broad range of services and advocacy they are able to engage in through the RECH Foundation. Pauline, Fred and Garrett discuss the deepening prison crisis in Mississippi, where 19 inmates have died in state prisons since the end of last year, most of them in the notorious Parchman facility. They explain why the Mississippi prison system and especially Parchman have a particular reputation for brutality, detailing both the history of the institution and the current conditions inmates endure. The crew ends by giving their assessment of state and federal government responses to the crisis as well as the double-edged sword of celebrity-driven media attention that has recently brought Parchman into the national spotlight.
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