I am honored and beyond thrilled to announce that I have accepted a position as managing editor of Prison Legal News, the longest-running newspaper written by and for people incarcerated.
PLN was started in 1990 by Paul Wright while he was incarcerated in Washington state. I first met Paul in 2007 when he visited a Books to Prisoners conference at the Independent Media Center in Urbana. I later worked with him on the prison phone justice campaign. PLN has reprinted several of my articles over the years. Several of my friends in prison and formerly incarcerated friends regard PLN as the most respected publication on mass incarceration.
It was my pen pal in Pontiac, Greg Koger, who first told me about PLN. Since his passing over a year ago, Greg has been on my mind a lot, and I would like to think he would be proud of me in my new role.
I am sad to have to leave my job at Parole Illinois where I worked with many wonderful people―Shari Stone-Mediatore, Pablo Mendoza, Melly Rios, Lauren Metlock, Katrina Burlet, Oscar “Smiley” Parham, and many others. You can watch a three-minute video of a recent panel we held with students at Knox College.
I have a two-part series on COVID in Illinois prisons that was published in Truthout. “New Surge of COVID is Spreading ‘Like Wildfire’ in Illinois Prisons,” covers the frightening spike in cases I heard about in Stateville and Danville prisons. “Prioritizing Incarcerated People for Vaccine Quickly Reduced COVID in IL Prisons,” reports on the vaccine distribution that quickly halted spread of the virus. Together, they capture the voices of people living through the pandemic while in prison, and their loved ones on the outside who support them.
Lastly, I enjoyed being with my friend and elder Barbara Kessel, longtime social justice warrior, for her 82nd birthday. I took this photo of us together at her birthday party. Barbara and her friends had gotten the vaccine, it was the first time I was at a social event. While there, I got the call for an appointment to get my own vaccine shot. I went the following Saturday to get a Johnson&Johnson shot at the Douglass Center with 1,000 other people that day. It was in community that I got the OK for being back in community.