September 26, 2022 – Economic sanctions. Collateral consequences. Permanent punishments. There are 44,000 restrictive laws, rules, and policies that continue to penalize people long after they have served their sentence in prison. A new WTTW News four-part series, Permanent Punishment, hosted by Chicago Tonight co-anchor Brandis Friedman, will examine this stark reality faced by nearly 3.3 million men and women in Illinois.
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Among them are Maria Garza, who spent six months applying for a waiver so she could work in a medical clinic; and Celia Colon, a business owner who, despite her release more than 20 years ago, can’t serve as a guardian to her late sister’s children or volunteer at her daughter's school.
“This is a problem that continues to impact so many people throughout our state,” said Friedman. “We wanted to explore how much longer a person should have to pay their debt to society, if they've already paid with years of their life spent in prison. At what point are they forgiven?"
“As a public media news organization, it’s our responsibility to cover the critical issues impacting the people and communities in our city and region,” said News Director and Chicago Tonight Executive Producer Jay Smith. “With sharp, in-depth reporting, these stories call attention to the perspectives of the people who have direct experience with a widespread problem.”
Watch “Permanent Punishment” on Chicago Tonight – on WTTW, and streaming on wttw.com/news, Facebook, and YouTube – beginning October 3 at 7:00 pm.
Part One: The Punishments - October 3
Marlon Chamberlain is a husband, father, social worker, and activist — and formerly incarcerated. Because of his previous conviction and prison sentence, he cannot serve as an executor of his father’s estate, chaperone his child’s field trip, or enter a bingo hall. His experiences have inspired him to lead the charge to counteract permanent punishments, through the Heartland Alliance’s Fully Free campaign.
Part Two: The Impact on Women - October 4
More than half of all women incarcerated in America are mothers, often the primary caregivers of families. Women are also more likely to have experienced trauma in the form of domestic violence. This episode explores the unique burden of post-incarceration life on women such as Timesha Brown, who recently regained custody of her three children post-release, only to struggle to find and furnish an apartment for her family.
Part Three: The Job - October 5
Of course, one of the first imperatives for someone returning home from prison (in addition to housing) is employment; for many, a job is a condition of their parole. At the same time, it can be challenging for people with criminal records to find jobs. Learn about some of the hundreds of employment restrictions that serve as a barrier to so many, and hear from community groups working to help these justice-impacted men and women.
Part Four: The Workarounds - October 6
Clemency. Expungement. Record sealing. These are just a few of the solutions that justice-impacted people have utilized to “clear” their records and free them from permanent punishments. But access is so difficult, many who need them don’t benefit. And in some cases, these “solutions” do not solve the entire problem of the stigma that a prison sentence brings. Learn about the complicated processes involved, and whether they ultimately make a difference.
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