On Thursday, January 19th, Mt Baker Meaningful Movies and West Seattle Meaningful Movies hosted an event for the documentary, SINCE I BEEN DOWN.

The powerful film, SINCE I BEEN DOWN spotlights prisoner Kimonti Carter and follows his efforts, as well as a wide group of prisoners, as they create a model of education that is transforming their lives, their communities, our prisons, and our own humanity. Kimonti was given a life sentence but his sentence was commuted by Governor Inslee and he was finally released last summer. He continues to devote himself every day to educating and helping people understand the perspectives of his fellow prisoners. Carter is a member of the #BlackPrisonersCaucus and started the prison led education program, T.E.A.C.H which is now in multiple Washington State Prisons.

The film, told by the people who have lived these conditions, unravels intimate stories from interviews brought to life through archival footage, cinema verité discussions, masquerade, and dance, unraveling why children commit violent crime and how these children – now adults – are breaking free from their fate by creating a model of justice that is transforming their lives and the quality of life for all our children.

After the film screening, Director Gilda Sheppard & Activist Kimonti Carter (featured in the film) joined the event and spoke powerfully about the ways in which our society fails young people who are left to fend for themselves in the midst of gangs and violence. They spoke compassionately of the youth who are unable to resist that cycle of violence and are eventually imprisoned. Dr. Sheppard and Mr. Carter both spoke of the  transformational power of art and education to build community and bring healing.

For this event, screenings of the film occurred both online and in-person. After the screenings,  there was discussion about this movie and movement at the Mt Baker Community Club which was simultaneously shown on Zoom.

We are grateful to Kimonti Carter and Gilda Sheppard for speaking at this event. We are also grateful to all of the volunteers as well as to the Washington State Poor People’s Campaign who provided us with the below information about some of the key bills which are going through our Washington State Legislature this session.

 

HB 1024: Real Labor Real Wages Act
This bill ensures that people who are incarcerated are paid a fair wage for the labor they perform and ensures that people are not required to pay for the cost of incarceration. It also increases the amount of earnings that will be placed in a savings account for each incarcerated person. This bill has been referred to Appropriations.

 

HB 1025: Private Right of Action for People Harmed by Peace Officers
This bill authorizes a private right of action for violations of the state Constitution or state law by peace officers—the state equivalent of a federal §1983 action. It does not allow peace officers to rely on the qualified immunity defense to avoid liability—i.e., it is not a defense that the law was not “clearly established” with respect to the acts or omissions at issue. 
The bill has been scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Civil Rights & Judiciary at 8:00 AM  on January 25 (Subject to change). (Committee Materials)

 

HB 1087: Ending Long-Term Solitary Confinement

This bill recognizes that long-term solitary confinement constitutes torture under international law and causes severe psychological trauma. It states that people who are incarcerated may not be placed in solitary confinement except for emergencies, medical isolation, or when requested by the person who is incarcerated. People cannot be held in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days or 45 days total during a calendar year. And vulnerable people, such as those with mental or physical disabilities and pregnant people, cannot be held in solitary confinement. Jan 23 Referred to Appropriations.

 

HB 1174: Ensuring Access for Voters in Jails 

This bill requires county auditors to create a jail voting plan for each jail in the county and requires jails to provide access to voting materials to people in jail in accordance with the voting plan. It also mandates that jails allow election officials to enter the jails at least 30 days before each primary and general election to provide voter registration outreach and education. Jan 25 Scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations at 1:30 PM (Subject to change). (Committee Materials)

 

HB 1080: Release of Body Camera Recordings

This bill authorizes the release of unredacted body camera footage, subject to potential restrictions on use and prohibits law enforcement and corrections agencies from charging for unredacted recordings. Jan 27 Scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Civil Rights & Judiciary at 10:30 AM (Subject to change). (Committee Materials)

 

SB 5046: Expands Postconviction Access to Counsel

This bill expands the circumstances in counsel may be appointed at state expense to someone who has been convicted and requires the Office of Public Defense to study the barriers to providing postconviction counsel to indigent people. Jan 20 Referred to Ways & Means.

SB 5128: Increasing Jury Diversity

This bill requires collection of data on juror demographics and provides additional compensation for jurors who qualify for certain low-income programs. The bill passed out of the Senate Law & Justice Committee on Jan. 12 and has been referred to the Ways & Means Committee.

If folks are interested in supporting the work of the Black Prisoners Caucus,  contact: KimontiCarter340@gmail.com

https://sites.google.com/a/blackprisonerscaucus.org/www/home/whatwedo

https://www.facebook.com/blackprisonerscaucus/

https://www.blackprisonerscaucus.org/