In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, De’Ara and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — expiration of U.S. childcare relief funding, Florida college faculty members flee the school system, Fulton County DA claps back at Republican probe, and the Black designer behind Jackie Kennedy’s iconic fashion. DeRay interviews author and juvenile justice policy reformer Vincent Schiraldi about his new book Mass Supervision: Probation, Parole, and the Illusion of Safety and Freedom.
[AD BREAK] [music break]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome back to Pod Save the People. We made it to September and just four months left of the year. This episode is me, Kaya, Myles and De’Ara talk about all the news that you don’t know from the past week. Then I sit down with author and juvenile justice policy expert practitioner Vinny Schiraldi to talk about his new book, Mass Supervision: Probation, Parole and the Illusion of Safety and Freedom. We had a good conversation. Vinny has done so much. Let’s go. [music break]
De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @dearabalenger.
Myles E. Johnson: My name is Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram and the TikTok because I’m youthful at @pharaohrapture
Kaya Henderson: [laugh] I’m Kaya Henderson on Twitter at @HendersonKaya.
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, black’s Black excellence to report this morning. Our girl.
Kaya Henderson: Woo.
De’Ara Balenger: Our girl Coco bringing us home US Open.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay.
De’Ara Balenger: And I think she’s the youngest to win since Serena right?
Kaya Henderson: Absolutely.
De’Ara Balenger: Isn’t that something I saw?
Kaya Henderson: That is absolutely right.
De’Ara Balenger: I’ve just really enjoyed watching her and I just I there was the match where she was telling the ref what they needed to do when she was right on point, and the crowd was behind her. I’m just I adore her. I’m following her now on the socials. I love her there as well. I can’t get enough.
DeRay Mckesson: My favorite Coco moment besides her winning. And seeing her dad cry and she just was so joyful. Was the I don’t know if you saw the clip where somebody asked her what she going to do with the, you know, it was a $3 million dollar prize, what she gonna do with the money. And somebody said, are you going to pay off debt? And she’s like, I ain’t got no debt. She’s like, didn’t go to college. I live with my parents. But not only is she like, I didn’t I don’t have any debt. She doesn’t even know how to pronounce it. Like she’s she’s so debt free. [laughter] She’s like, I ain’t have no debt. [pronouncing it Debbed with a slight T on the end] [laughter] What is debt? And I’m like Coco, I’m here for it. I I want to be that far from debt that I don’t even know how to pronounce it.
Myles E. Johnson: Pronounce it.
DeRay Mckesson: Come on Coco. I’m living through you.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay. I am so [laugh] happy about this Coco win. But then also I just want us to recognize what happens for Black people when you name your child, Coco, or if you give it as a nickname. Because that’s a good legacy [laughter] from SWV to Coco Jones and now this Coco. [laughter] That is a really good legacy of name. So if you are pregnant and thinking about names and you are a Black person. 51% or more, I think that you should said [laugh] [laughter] I don’t I don’t want no 20% Black people named Coco. That’s going to be too far. [laughter] But if you brown, I think you should name yourself Coco. I love that. I love that. I think it’s a name of excellence.
Kaya Henderson: I love it. Myles I love it. Um. I will tell you that I was I have been so hyped this whole U.S. Open about, first of all, all of this amazing Black talent. Um. It was just remarkable to watch and to watch how many people are newly attracted to the sport because we see ourselves, you know, on the premier um tennis circuit. And I mean, this little girl, geez louise, like she’s age appropriate, she’s classy. She got a little clap back for the haters. You thought you were putting water on my fire. You put gas, look at me, shining bright, she said to the people on the stage, Oh, my gosh it was. I sat in my living room and screamed and hollered and cried. And people were texting and WhatsApping from overseas. Our girl won. Our girl won. I wrote on my Facebook page something like, You know, I’m so happy that our niece won. And literally people were like um, Oh, I didn’t know you were related to Coco Gauff.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh my God. [?]
Kaya Henderson: I was like, yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: I love it.
Kaya Henderson: She is Black America’s niece, friends. This is how we do, we family in the Black community. And so our baby girl won. I’m so excited for her. Um. And you all watch out. I bet you Hennessy will sponsor the U.S. Open next.
Myles E. Johnson: Oh, why would you say that?
DeRay Mckesson: Kaya. Now I will say my other favorite quote from her was when somebody said, How do you deal with the pressure? And she’s like, this isn’t pressure. She’s like, pressure is not being able to feed your family. Pressure is like not knowing what comes next in your life. She’s like, I get to play a game and I get to do it at the height of what it is and it is hard and I’m challenged but but I have to put it into perspective and you’re like Coco your people raised you like they–
Myles E. Johnson: Okay.
DeRay Mckesson: –raised you right.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm mm hmm mm hmm.
Myles E. Johnson: And the first right step was naming you Coco. [laughter] Wrap it around. [?]
De’Ara Balenger: Well, in other news. I mean, I don’t even know how to bring this so I don’t–
Myles E. Johnson: From cocoa Coco? To vanilla vanilla.
De’Ara Balenger: Coco to no no. Um. [laughter] This Danny Masterson case. I don’t know if you all saw that he got sentenced to 30 years um for drugging and raping two women. But evidently in the sentencing, there’s some celebrities and folks that wrote letters to the judge. Typically and what little I know about the law and the legal process is when you’re writing a judge about someone’s character, it is to get leniency in sentencing, sentencing so that there can be a perspective um from from individuals that know the defendant. You know, for the judge to take in consideration when he’s sentencing. So Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis wrote letters um to this particular judge on behalf of Dan Dan Danny Masterson. And they’ve been getting a lot a lot of feedback around these letters, particularly given Ashton Kutcher’s work um against sex trafficking. He’s like testified before Congress, etc.. So you know. Have you all seen this? What what do you think? Because this is this is really the tea in the white people’s world. They really into this, what do we have to say about it?
Myles E. Johnson: Well, white people and me because [laughter] because I [?] Ashton Kutcher saying wild things about his costar’s rabbit hole that I just happened into because I was just scrolling, minding my business on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and it was just there. And I had no idea the inappropriate things that were said to Mila, um the things that she did. Her first kiss was with a adult 19 year old man on that 70s show and was Ashton, who she’s now married to. For me, I think that group of people, Mila and Ashton and anybody whose because they were very radioactive right now, someone I’m going to assume anybody who is affiliated with the 70s show. Like they’re going to regret ever writing those letters, I think because it just seems like people are nit picking the things that Ashton and Mila have done. But then also it seems like they’re bringing to the surface some things that are really, really, really, really heinous and scary, not just, oh, we don’t like you, so we’re going to give you a reel of your worst moments. But some things that are really um concerning about what might have really been happening on the backstage of that show.
DeRay Mckesson: Let me just read part of the letter that it just shocked me. Mind you, he’s convicted of rape. The details are wild. It is hard. You know, for all of the conversation about sexual assault. You’d be shocked at how few prosecutions actually go all the way through. When when we look at it. But they wrote in conclusion, I wholeheartedly vouch for Danny Masterson’s exceptional character and the tremendous positive influence he has had on me and the people around him. His dedication to leading a drug free life and the genuine care he extends to others, make him an outstanding role model and friend. He’s just been convicted of raping two people. And the dismissal–
Kaya Henderson: Only convicted convicted of two but aren’t there like three or four other people?
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. To say I wholeheartedly vow, let me tell you, if my friends do stuff like this, you will not–
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: –get me on a Sunday through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, you will not get me writing a letter like this. I might write. I know them. That’s it. That’s all I got. I know them. I got nothing to say about their character. The character was on trial at the trial. So this just blew my mind.
Kaya Henderson: I mean, I think it speaks to it’s just the epitome of privilege, right? Like, our names count for something, and so we’re going to throw them wholeheartedly behind our friend, bunk that. Like at the end of the look, my grandmother told me, don’t swear for nobody. You have no idea what people really do and who they are. And so you can be supportive. You can, you know, put a little money on his commissary if you want to, but to put a public statement out, that’s the biggest unforced error ever. And they are paying for it and they’re going to continue to pay for it. That’s insane, right? I mean, you didn’t have to go. I wonder what it is that made them go to bat that hard for what is clearly a person who is clearly a serial rapist, even if he was nice in the daytime because he wasn’t trying to rape you.
Myles E. Johnson: And just to be clear the there was a letter to a judge about, you know, about uh his character, that they that they both wrote, then the backlash happened and then the video followed the backlash. Am I getting that? Am I getting that order correct that happened?
De’Ara Balenger: I think, I think that’s right.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay. Because I was deep in the in the white nonsense.
De’Ara Balenger: And I also think they didn’t I don’t think they thought these letters would go public. Like, I don’t know who advised them that.
DeRay Mckesson: Absolutely.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. I saw a similar thing happen with Tory Lanez and Iggy Azalea who did the same thing. And you can tell that she never thought that her um character wit– or that statement would be public. And, you know, they they tore her up [laugh] as well for defending Tory Lanez so.
De’Ara Balenger: I think even more so is this sentence from Ashton. Um. While I’m aware that the judgment has been cast as guilty on two counts of rape by force and the victims have a great desire for justice. I hope that my testament to his character is taken into consideration in sentencing.
Myles E. Johnson: Mm.
DeRay Mckesson: Wild.
Myles E. Johnson: To hell with both of them.
De’Ara Balenger: Hmm.
Myles E. Johnson: That’s my conviction.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned there’s more to come.
Myles E. Johnson: So my news this week is about fashion and Black people. My favorite combination it is electric. Going down Brooklyn um all this week I’ve been going from Brooklyn to Harlem and it is a hour and a half long fashion show when you just get to see Black people get dressed and how they style themselves. So this story is close to my heart because I think us as Black people know how we use fashion and fabrics and colors to express our freedom and our individuality and how important it is. And this is a story about somebody being hidden until recently and and and to my knowledge, and also a story about self and what people know coastally and stuff like that too. But I’m talking about miss Ann Lowe, she was the designer for Jackie Kennedy and she designed dress, her dresses, her wedding dress. Um a lot of the iconic garments that you’ve seen that you’ve seen her in, she’s responsible for and she’s finally being featured in the Winterthur Museum. I have one part yay, that was the yay part of it. The B part is her designs are not featured in this museum. And I think that would have been really beautiful because I did not know that who Ann Lowe was and that she had her own designs. And when she was dressing herself and I think I want to I want to push people to be able to feature her and her specific designs. I’m even more interested in what she the difference between when she was dressing Jackie Kennedy versus when she was dressing a um a Black person or Black a Black affluent person. And I think that would say so much about um the Black clothes that we put in design and put in fashion choices, but neither here or there. We’re here to celebrate. And I’m just so happy that this rich history is coming to the surface. And I was talking to Kaya. And Miss Kaya was telling me about this story and I never knew about it. And sure, this could be because of my own ignorance. But part of me also thinks because I grew up in Georgia, that this story didn’t even land [?] necessarily in the community that I was in. And the Black community that some histories are very New York, DC. Some histories are very Atlanta, the Carolinas, and I wonder if this is one of those histories that just didn’t get to me, which also reiterates the importance of them getting into museums because that’s how I would know. It’s so important for us to speak the names of these people and speak the names of their histories and be able to get them in these [?] these institutions and establishments so more people can know could about them. But I’m so dedicated to this new fashion movement with Anifa, with Brandon Blackwood, with Telfar, with all these people. And I think it’s so important to recognize Ann Lowe, because Ann Lowe had to dress Jackie Kennedy. And it’s an honor and it’s beautiful. But I think that now that we’re in an era of Black designers who get to think about the Black subject when they’re designing that they don’t have to think about what is good for the white form, for white women, for um people who do not look like them or their family. We’re in a different era of Black design where we can dress ourselves in high fashion for ourselves. I think that we have to honor somebody like Ann Lowe who has made that possible and who has assisted in the stretching of our imagination of what’s possible, too. And I wanted to bring, you know, my little fashionable news to you all. And I guess in the spirit of fashion, I’ll also ask um, what designer are you wearing before you comment? [laughter] Like it’s a red carpet.
DeRay Mckesson: Well Myles. I actually have a que– a clarification question. I read the article and I don’t get so like, what does it mean that it’s just it’s dresses by her on display but not made by her? Like, what does that even mean?
Myles E. Johnson: From what I could understand that there were the dresses that she made for Jackie Kennedy, but there was other dresses that she made that were for herself for like to keep the lights on, like it’s featuring the dresses that were specifically made for Jackie. And that’s how she’s entering the museum. She’s not entering the museum via her own designs that she might have made that were for other Black women or other people who are not Jackie Kennedy. That’s how I interpreted the text when I read it.
DeRay Mckesson: Okay.
Kaya Henderson: I mean, I think this is one of those hidden figures kinds of stories, which is why I sent it to you, Myles. Um. I feel like there are lots of times in history where Black people were featured prominently but never got the credit or the recognition. And one of the things that the article goes out of its way to say is that, like Jackie was a style paragon for America. Right. Like, she set the trends and her style and her look was quintessentially American and who was behind it? A Black woman. And I think one of the most interesting things in the culture wars is that, you know, Black people are routinely painted as unpatriotic. And we should go back to wherever we came from here um and we we set fashion trends in America. We set music trends in America. We we set artistic trends in America. And, you know, way back in the forties and the fifties when nobody was paying attention and everybody was cuckooing over Jackie’s wedding dress. Lo and behold, it was a Black woman who did it. And she not only, you know, it wasn’t a let me pick the young hot designer, ala Auntie Michelle. This lady was designer, had been designing dresses for all of the high society people um in Washington for cotillions and debutante balls and all of these high society things for Jackie’s mother and her for her family. So this was like the go to, you know, it’s like the royal designer. If we were in England and um and she was a Black woman and and Myles is right. Her own fashion is pretty hot. There are, you know, great pictures with her in her suit and her hats um because mama was given I’m–
Myles E. Johnson: Okay.
Kaya Henderson: I you know, I must show you what I am before I show you what I do. Um. And I’m just here for it all, like I in the same tradition of Coco Gauff and all of the other Black women out here killing it at their craft. Um. I’m excited that um Ms. Lowe is getting a a museum exhibit, even if it is in Wilmington, Delaware. Stop there on your way to or from New York and pop in and see her stuff. [laugh]
De’Ara Balenger: Well, that was my thing to say is, obviously, Myles, we’ve got to do a trip to Delaware, obviously.
Myles E. Johnson: Child.
De’Ara Balenger: Let’s do it soon. Um. But I I love this. And I also I just I feel like there’s just this perception that, like, Black people didn’t start doing things until, like the 1960s. You know, we’ve been, [laugh] been a part of making the culture um and been a part of making this place for hundreds of years. And so I just found this to be so fascinating. And the other thing that I thought was so interesting is how, again, like she was this woman was covering she was covering couture shows in Paris in the 1940s um on behalf of a Black newspaper called The New York Age. Um. And there were other designers at this time, too, of course. So this article also talks about Patrick Kelly, who was Mississippi born, the first American and first Black, the first American and first Black designer to be admitted into the Chambre Syndicale that protects the status of couture. Like the co–, I can’t even pronounce these French words. But all that to say, like, we’ve been doing these things and we’ve been here and contributing and and making the thing the thing. So I just love this Myles, and we have to figure out when we’re going to Delaware.
DeRay Mckesson: The only thing I’ll add is that it is a reminder that it really does always come back to race. Like people make it sound like we’re the wild people for being like, Oh, you’re like, No, no, no. That like Kaya said, she was, Jackie O was not just a cool first lady to people. She defined a moment in fashion and was not able to do that without a Black woman. I mean, what else do you what else do you say? It is really interesting to think about the renaissance of Blackness very publicly in fashion today. Like even, you know, this Fashion Week is a very Black fashion week in a way that it has not always been. And to think that this is just the public version of it, but it’s always been a Black fashion week behind the scenes.
Myles E. Johnson: Ooh I love that.
De’Ara Balenger: My news is quick. It’s just sort of a reflection. We’ve been talking about Florida and DeSantis so much, um and now we’re starting to see some of the outcomes and reverberations of what’s happening around the toxicity in Florida, particularly when it comes to educators, um this movement against critical race theory. So now with this this this um study, this new survey that came out, um it took into account the perspectives of over 4200 college faculty members. Um. Including 640 that are in Florida, and it shed lights on the concern of the political interference in higher education. So I thought, you know, y’all would find it, Kaya especially would find this really interesting. But what the numbers are saying is that 85% of these of the folks that took the survey said they wouldn’t recommend teaching in Florida to a graduate student or colleague. 95%, 95% described the political atmosphere around higher education as bad or very bad. Um. And essentially what this is what this means is that Florida is having a brain drain. Which which doesn’t necessarily help try to create, you know, try to create movement against DeSantis and some of the you know and some of the policies he’s pushing. And it’s it’s it’s really tragic and particularly like universities like, you know, the University of Florida, Florida state like these are schools that aren’t necessarily like these the schools aren’t inherently conservative schools, but yet they’re having to take on these policies and these these philosophies that are and what’s happening is they’re losing professors or they’re losing teachers. Um. So there was um they’re also seeing that there are less and less applications coming in to Florida. Particularly with with you know less applicants. And and now there aren’t as many opportunities given that they folks aren’t allowed to teach around all kinds of different topics around CRT, but also just identity in general. Um. Again here, a faculty in Florida, faculty voiced concerns about issues with tenure, academic freedom and policies affecting LGBTQ+ people and campus diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Two excellent professors turned us down when we offered them, offered them a position and they said that Florida politics is the reason why, when respondents said. So, I don’t know. I just wanted to bring this to the pod because I just you know, we obviously cover the things when they happen, but it was also so important to follow it as it’s moving. Um. And this is this is the result. This is what’s going to happen in Florida and continue in Florida um if it continues to head in the way it’s heading politically. So just wanted to bring this to y’all.
Myles E. Johnson: This is absolutely wild for me. So all the people I know in Florida are Black, right? All the problems I know that are coming out of Florida right now are white. [laugh] So the the the there’s a little bit of dissonance when I hear stories like this because I know that the people who are going to end up being affected by this ignorance are usually going to be Black people? Because if more and more people who are respected do not want to go to Florida that means if you get any type of education in Florida, it’s going to be marked invalid and then who is that probably going to most influence and and and change is going to be the Black people who are getting educated in Florida and who has least access to leave Florida. If you’re born in Florida to get educated somewhere else, it’s Black people and da da da da da da da. Um. So, yeah, I don’t know if I have like um anything else to say, but I’m able to connect how this uh white supremacist ignorance and conservatism is ignorant and conservative and also going to end up harming the least of us, specifically in the in the Black community, even though this is it’s all because of the white supremacy that’s being spewed. It’s going to end up still harming the Black and Brown people in Florida first, I hypothesize.
Kaya Henderson: I think um [clears throat] what’s really interesting to me, so there’s the like short term issue, which is kids in Florida are not getting access to a, you know, high quality and pluralistic. And, you know, by liberal I mean liberal in the liberal arts, a variety of different topics, um kind of education that we value in this country that actually sets you up for better jobs and socioeconomic mobility and all of that kind of stuff. And that’s really terrible for the families in Florida who, you know, who choose to live there. That’s the short term problem. The longer term problem, though, is by design, actually. Um. It it takes an uneducated populace for this kind of authoritarianism to work. Right. You can’t sell people on stolen elections. And, you know, I don’t storming the capital and all of this other stuff unless they lack a certain amount of criticality. And so by not teaching young people to think critically, you are basically shoring up your ability to maintain power. That’s what this is all about. Like we fussing over professors and tenure and pay and blah, blah, blah. No, no, no. This is a concerted effort to keep people stupid so that they can be controlled and that I think like that we’re not talking about that enough. Like that is why people don’t want to teach accurate history. It’s not because they don’t they don’t want feel white kids to feel badly. It is because in order to maintain these narratives that, you know, Black people weren’t doing anything until we gained some skills during slavery, say what now? Like this is all part of power hoarding power, you know, it’s supremacy’s last stand. And I think we’ve got to start attacking this thing at the root, not just, you know, at the flowers that pop up.
DeRay Mckesson: And um Kaya to your point, this is a seminal moment for organizing that when I think about Florida, I’m always like, it really is one of the Republican tricks that they got the immigrant communities to believe that the white people cared about them at all, like the fact that Cubans and other like Latinos, like the fact that Brown people in Florida in any way align with the Republican Party in Florida is insane. And it’s just like we’ve really got to figure out the organizing strategy because they don’t care about y’all they are using y’all. Um. And an echo to what you’re saying is that this is fundamentally about power. And also, DeSantis is not going to be president. So, you know, what is what’s next?
Kaya Henderson: Say that now say that. My news this week comes out of Washington and Georgia where um Republican Congressional Representative Jim Jordan, who is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to the Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis um to announce that he is investigating the Georgia election interference probe and the indictment of former President Trump. And in case you don’t know, the House Judiciary Committee has oversight responsibilities over all things judicial at the federal level. Um. But he, because um he wants to exercise his oversight role, is overseeing um an inquiry into this Georgia probe. Um. And so he sent this letter in which he questioned um the district attorney’s motivation for the probe. He questioned the timing of the probe. He um he wonders whether states have the ability to prosecute things that happened as a part that people do as part of their federal duties. Um. He he he asks questions around how she coordinated with the federal special counsel, Jack Smith, and he threatens federal funding for her office. He wants he wants all the documents. He wants to see every piece of paper, and he wants to see how her office is is uh using their federal funds because he’s basically threatening her um to defund her office if she continues to move forward with this probe. Well, in classy, classic Black girl fashion, Ms. Fani wrote him a letter back that is a whole entire Black girl read. And De’Ara I listen, I was I was like, oh, De’Ara is going to do this. And when you put up your thing. I was like, woo hoo, let me grab this. Cause it is plain ol’ intellectually petty and clapback-ish in ways that I absolutely love. Ms. Fani told uh Jim Jordan that there is, quote unquote, “no justification in the Constitution for Congress to interfere with a state criminal matter.” Well, there’s that. She also told him that the obvious purpose is to obstruct a Georgia criminal proceeding and to advance outrageous partisan misrepresentations. She told him that he lacked any legitimate legislative purpose for this inquiry, and she told him that his letter makes it clear that he lacks a basic understanding of the law, its practices, and the ethical obligations of attorneys generally and prosecutors specifically. Now, I could literally spend the next 10 minutes just pulling sentence after sentence after sentence out of this letter, but I’m a let you read it for yourself because it’s such a good read. She even goes as far as to say, even though you don’t really have any standing here with these questions that you’re asking, I’m a answer some of them, the ones that I want to answer. And here’s some suggestions for productive activity that the Judiciary Committee should be doing. Um. For me, this was tantamount to Coco standing up for herself with the um– with the referee. It is tantamount to, you know, every moment where, you know, somebody tries to come for you and you have to stand up and you have to bring the full force of your education, your training, your experience to do what is right. This lady is doing what she’s supposed to do, the way she’s supposed to do it carefully um so that the American public can deeply understand what happened with this election interference probe. And we’ll find out through the proceedings what happens. But this, you know, blatantly partisan attempt to intimidate her, to threaten her, to, you know, defund her office, smacks of, you know, just partisanship. And she gave it right back as in fact, in parts of you’ve got to go read this letter for yourself in parts of it she takes his own language and whips it right back on him to say, this is not going down here, sir. And she did it with class. She did it with wit. She did it with charm. And I’m here for it all. So I brought it to the pod because I thought this might be interesting to you.
Myles E. Johnson: This is fascinating to me. I love, love, love this. What’s also what this brings me back to the legacy of being able to be intellectual and um political for Black people, but also perform it. And I think that this is such a genius, brilliant way. I think that when you think about Sojourner Truth and ain’t I a woman, when you think about um James Baldwin annihilating um certain films and books and stuff, that oftentimes then even when we think about the legacy of Bell Hooks and how so much of her criticism became wildfire because she did it in front of a video because she performed it. And I think that it’s so important for Black. It’s a skill that Black people hold to be able to perform their intellectual prowess and intellect and political stance as as just as much as embody it and absorb it. And I thought this was such a masterful way of showing this is how we always have to show up, because not only do we have to be genius to be able to get into the room, not only do we have to be able to know what we’re doing to be able to maintain the job and to maintain our position in our community and professionally, we also need to be able to perform why this person shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing and be able to do it for the pub–be able to do it for the public. So we can also take the public on the journey of justice with us, which to me doesn’t get spoken up, spoken about a lot. It’s just like Black people come out making speeches like Martin Luther King. It’s like, No, this is a science and alchemy that has to get into the body and then go to the to the voice and be able to be spoke out. And I thought this was such a good example of that. To me. [laugh]
De’Ara Balenger: Sis just has her bases covered. She knows she put together a top notch case. And what I love most about this is typically, if a member of Congress says, I want some documents, you’re shaking in your boots, you’re like, oh, let me get these documents together. And she’s like, oh, no, no, no, no, no. You don’t have any jurisdiction over here. I’m not giving you anything, which I thought was so incredible because it really is a courageous thing to do. Um. And that’s what this whole process with this woman has been. It’s just like she has just really shown so much ethic, courageousness and just bad assness. I’m just obsessed. And I think, you know, I think she also suspected that these fools were going to try to get this taken out of, try to get these cases taken to federal court. Mark Meadows got denied. Now they’re looking crazy because they really they don’t want to be prosecuted by a state because it is a whole different a whole different game. So I want to just continue I’m just excited to get to continue to watch her because she has just really been moving these chess pieces in a way that I think is an example for for for the Dems honestly, in terms of you know us being proactive instead of reactive all the time.
DeRay Mckesson: So shout out to her getting Trump and all those people together. I will remind us that she is the Fulton County D.A. and ten people as of this week have died in the Fulton County jails, which she continues to send people to for low level crimes, for the accusation of low level crimes, remember being in jail you are not yet convicted. And the jail that she continues to send people to is killing people. So much so that even when Trump was fingerprinted in there, the secret that they released a statement saying the Secret Service would not let him stay in the jail too long because it is that dangerous and that unsanitary. So Fani is doing a good job with Trump, but there are a lot of less famous, less visible people who literally are dying in that jail of basic things because she keeps sending people there.
Kaya Henderson: That’s fair.
DeRay Mckesson: So my news is about childcare. Uh. I legitimately had no clue this had happened. There’s a lot of stuff that happened during the pandemic that I realize, like in terms of pa–
Kaya Henderson: You knew about, you know you knew about this. We talked about this on the podcast.
DeRay Mckesson: I didn’t know about childcare. I remember the child tax credit. I don’t remember childcare.
Kaya Henderson: Well we talked about we talked about childcare. But this is still important because this is happening in three weeks. Come on, give it to us.
DeRay Mckesson: I don’t. I definitely missed this. So I forgot that Congress gave $24 billion dollars worth of pandemic relief for childcare costs. Kaya said we talked about it before when it happened. Apparently I missed it. But what the new news is that it’s about to get wrapped up. It’s about to expire. And uh because it is so much money and it expires on September 30th, it is estimated that around 3.2 million children and 70,000 programs might close because of the subsidy that the federal government gives. And these numbers come from a survey that was done. There’s another National Association of Education of Young Children. They also found that in a survey done last year that 43% of childcare centers and 37% of home based providers expect that they’ll have to raise rates if this money actually goes away. And I don’t have a kid. When I looked up the average cost of childcare for toddlers in large counties it averages $12,000 a year, according to the Department of Labor. And even in home based family care settings, which are cheaper than, you know, a daycare center, in a medium sized county, it’s over $8,000 a year, and that’s today with the subsidy. So you think about if you make $40,000 a year and $12,000 of that is going to child care and it increases, I mean, a crisis is coming. So I bring this because I was you know, I just think about how much money we spend on so many things. And as Kaya talked about that part of the thing happening in Florida is to ensure that people are just not culturally society sociedly politically illiterate. So much of not providing a safety net to people when we can afford it is to ensure that there’s a group of people, the largest group of people who are always struggling. Are always like just a little bit above drowning, but are, you know, two hiccups away from the end. And that will be the only reason not to extend this. Uh. But I saw it and I was like, oh, no, this is and of course the Republicans are against it and blah blah blah. So, you know, you already know that. But I thought I’d bring it here because 70,000 child care centers potentially closing is wild.
Myles E. Johnson: To to me, it’s a little it’s definitely wild and it’s something more intense. And I’m and you know, I’ve been trying to watch my language, so I’m not so provocative all the time. But there’s something really specific [laugh] like about who is going to be targeted because of this and it’s hard for me to not the way this is the way a generation or in a in a in a certain segment of kids disempowered. You know it’s just hard for me not to think that it’s just not like calculated. Um. When I think about the the conservative like uh agreement with that and then also just the other things around child care that are so important. I see it so much in New York City and I have so many friends who are pregnant, who are just newly or newly have kids is [sigh] when you take away when you take away those those those that that money. You are really just ensuring poverty for mothers and families. And I think that that basic connection that um that is I’m sure everybody knows but just to be sure, just to be transparent. I just have a I have a friend who was we were just talking about what’s going on in this article and how scared they are and how they don’t know how they’re going to, you know, do certain things when it comes to childcare. And this this article just really just hit close to home. And it’s scary. And I feel like sometimes we don’t talk about the real life reactions to it. Not us as in the podcast, but just people and just seeing it up close where it’s like, oh no, this person’s really deciding a second job or childcare or how are we going to do this? Or are we going to be all be in a studio bed like studio because we can’t be in a one bedroom because of this? And now how are we going to readjust our lives in order to make this happen? And it’s very real and it’s scary. And I just cannot understand how it’s just not embarrassing to the government that this is happening here. It’s just be humiliating.
De’Ara Balenger: I think. Myles, to your point around the generation of it all, like the kids and the babies that have had to live through COVID and now post COVID. And we’ve covered stories where, you know, there’s there’s so many kids and babies missing from schools now. And now there’s this added component of not having proper child care. And I I don’t know my mind just right away goes to like kids being left at home and not to be harmed, but just because their parents don’t have a choice like they’ve got to go to work. And so I think that’s you know just a you know to further put humanity Myles around what you were saying. I think that’s when it comes down to when it comes down to the development of many, many, many, many, many, many children and kids, the impact that these years in particular will have on them and if it’s can ever be righted.
Kaya Henderson: So this is um we did talk about this on the podcast a while ago, but um in three weeks this thing is going down. And I think um obviously the impact on kids and their families and, you know, all kinds of you know, it’s going to put a burden on the social service system, right? Because you’re going to have children who are left at home who, you know, have accidents and all kinds of stuff. And I think we’re going to see a significant burden on on social services. I’m a get to education in a minute because I got a lot to say about that. Um. But also, like they’re just going to be families who it doesn’t make sense for the parent to keep working because child care is too much. And that has an impact on our employment levels and, you know, our labor force. Um. But even on on small business and entrepreneurship, 95.6% of daycare operators are women. And so the business people who are going to take the hit on this are women. Um. So women are the women who are being served by this are taking a hit. The women who own these places are taking a hit. It just is such an anti family approach and it’s so hypocritical to the people who say that they are pro-life. You’re pro-life, but you don’t want to give people enough money so that their children can be in childcare, so that they can work. Right. Like that’s a problem. And I am I feel like it’s deeply hypocritical for what we have said in the education space for the last 20 years where there’s been a tremendous focus on early childhood education. We love giving money to pre-K, three free K is what we call it, pre-K, three pre-K four, we want all of the babies to be in in school. And school is where these kids show up, where they haven’t been in child care, where they haven’t gotten the appropriate developmental stuff. And then you want schools to fix this thing, which in fact we could have fixed downstream by giving these licensed professionals the money and the resources that they need to give our kids a good start. No, no. You going to wait until they turn three or four, turn them into schools, and then tell schools that we’re not doing enough when these kids weren’t set up for success. And then it shows up in third grade reading scores and eighth grade math and reading scores and oh, and then it’s schools fault, y’all, come on. These people are not serious. These people are not serious about being pro-life or pro-family or pro anything. This is uh I I don’t like the whole thing today. The whole thing is like keeping people poor and stupid so that, you know, the powers that be can remain the powers that be. It is. It is. It’s aggravating. Um. And and I hope that somebody pulls it together and says we can’t let this funding cliff happen in three weeks. But um that probably won’t happen. Right?
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the people’s coming.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week we welcome author and juvenile justice policy expert Vinny Schiraldi to talk about his new book, Mass Supervision: Probation, Parole and the Illusion of Safety and Freedom. Now, for context, Vinny was the New York City probation commissioner under Bloomberg. He also ran Rikers. I mean, he’s had a long career and based on his own personal experience and more research, he wrote this book, Mass Supervision, that talks about what probation and parole is, what it can be, and how we can think about a non carceral solution for safety. Here we go.
DeRay Mckesson: Vinny Schiraldi, the man who has had a million lives uh in the justice space. How’s it going today?
Vincent Schiraldi: It’s going really well. Thanks for having me on DeRay.
DeRay Mckesson: Well, let’s just start with um tell us how you got into the justice space. You’ve had roles in a host of states. All at senior levels it’s how I met you. Um. Talk about how you got into that.
Vincent Schiraldi: Yeah. So I, you know, I started as a house parent at a group home in upstate New York. When I came out of college, I was living in a house with seven kids who were in the juvenile delinquency system. And I just kind of fell in love with it. I mean, I really connected with the young people, I could see that you know, if good people were in their lives, they could they could maybe turn those lives around and with the kind of help and support. Uh. And I I just fell in love with it. That was government. I was working for the New York State provision for youth. Uh. And then I was also getting a social work degree. And a guy named Jerry Miller spoke in one of my classes. And Jerry had closed all of the large juvenile prisons in Massachusetts over a two year period in the early seventies and put the kids into community based programs and wraparound services. The outcomes were really fantastic. So that got me interested in working in the area of not put kids in in custody and and adults too, and trying to find ways to to put people in communities with help rather than in prisons with violence.
DeRay Mckesson: How did you get to Rikers? Now you’re a secretary of juvenile justice. You led parole and probation somewhere else before that. Like, what was your what was that journey like?
Vincent Schiraldi: So I was in the nonprofit sector and thinking that’s where I was going to spend my whole life. When I went to work for Jerry Miller, it was the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives. Then I opened up his San Francisco office, which I then morphed into a nonprofit called the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Then I came back East and uh went to DC where I opened the Justice Policy Institute, and that’s what I figured I’d do for my whole career. Uh. I was very critical of the juvenile system in Washington, DC. And to my surprise, Mayor Williams recruited me to run the department. Um. So I thought, this was one of those put your money where your mouth is moments. And I went in uh to do that. Um was able to substantially reduce the number of kids we locked up, I closed the very brutal, awful facility Oak Hill, opened up a much smaller and more decent facility, New Beginnings, and kind of fell in love with it. Then I was done. I was going to go back to the to the nonprofit sector again um and maybe write a book or, you know, I didn’t have it all clearly mapped out. And Mayor Bloomberg up in New York City recruited me to run in New York City Department of Probation. And that’s where I really started to sink my teeth into uh the probation system. I had never worked in probation before that, uh and that’s where I went in and started to learn. And really, this is this is part of the mass incarceration story that most people are missing.
DeRay Mckesson: Now. I think I, I think I read in the book, I have the book in front of me. You started in that role in 2010. I got that right?
Vincent Schiraldi: Correct.
DeRay Mckesson: Okay. Now give us probation 101. The difference between probation and parole, what does it mean that you ran the probation system? What is it? What is there to run like give us the landscape?
Vincent Schiraldi: Sure. So probation and parole were both formed right around the same time in the 1800s of probation in the United States, parole overseas in Australia and Europe. And probation was really an alternative to incarceration. A temperance movement bootmaker in um Boston. John Augustus used to go to court, bail people out, tell the judges he would work with them and bring them back in a few months changed men and women. Uh. And if they did so, the judge should return the bail to him and let them go free. And uh he did several thousand people over more than a decade and started to enlisting other people in the temperance movement with him. And uh and they became essentially the first volunteer pro– probation officers. So it was an alternative to incarceration at the front end. Meanwhile, uh people were learning that if you just put people in prison and don’t provide them with programs and there’s no incentive to behave well, our prisons can deteriorate. And it’s Alexander Maconochie in Australia decided to invent parole. He didn’t call it parole, he called it ticket of leave, where you could earn that ticket by programming and good behavior and took a very brutal prison on Norfolk Island and turned it into a much better place by incentivizing good behavior. But then when people got out, they were they weren’t completely free. There was conditions to their freedom uh and they were on parole. If you if you will. They didn’t call it parole then, uh parole is actually a French word. It’s the word for word. Uh. So you’re basically giving your word when you come out of prison to behave.
DeRay Mckesson: And tell us about New York. Like, what how many people? What’s the landscape like? I mean, you talk about for profit. We’ll talk about some of the details, but I think a lot of listeners don’t know the scope, how you get on probation, like we need the probation 101.
Vincent Schiraldi: Sure. So that’s the way it started. It was all volunteers. Eventually, parole traveled to the United States and a somewhat brutal prison administrator um uh initiated it at Elmira Correctional Facility in New York, um and then it spread around the country, parole, so people started getting released early if they went to programs. But it was a handful, it was voluntary, but bit by bit, it started to spread around the country. Laws were passed establishing probation and parole throughout the the late 1800s and 1900s. Um. Now there’s 4 million people, as many people as live in most states on probation and parole. And it’s a major, major contributor to incarceration. About one of every four people enter America’s prisons every year, enter not for a new crime, but for what’s called a technical violation of probation, disobeying some rules, staying out past curfew, moving without telling your probation officer, using a credit card you’re not supposed to use because you’re not supposed to have a credit card without permission. Marrying somebody with a criminal record. These are literal cases by the way, they’re not made up. So I started finding all this out when I when I went to run the probation department in New York City, um that people on my staff actually not bad people per say were revoking people, recommending people on probation to be incarcerated, not because they thought they should be incarcerated, but because they were afraid that if somebody broke a rule and they didn’t incarcerate them and then they did something bad, they would be fired, they would be humiliated, they would be held to account. And so I started to observe this whole wildly risk averse process that was incarcerating, you guessed it, DeRay, Black and Brown men. Not not because it was improving public safety, but because it was covering the asses of me and my staff.
DeRay Mckesson: And what were you able to do about it?
Vincent Schiraldi: So in New York, I started to sit down with my probation officers and say, what’s this about? And you could see they were uncomfortable with it, which is why I said, I don’t think they were inherently bad people. They were doing this because they thought that’s what they were supposed to do. And um I mean, the discomfort was so bad, it’s hard to exaggerate it. The morale was in the toilet. My predecessor had actually armed my staff seven years earlier. It’s something the union wanted. They thought if they got guns, they’d get better pay, they’d be paid more like police. Um. That didn’t happen. What did happen was during that seven years, several people killed themselves with those guns, one at their desk.
DeRay Mckesson: Wow.
Vincent Schiraldi: In the probation office. That’s the level of stress these folks were under. No one ever used it during the course of duty prior to my arrival. Um. And so so that’s how depressed folks were. This was this was mainly Black and Brown staff incarcerating Black and Brown people on probation. Out of fear that if they didn’t do so, they’d get in trouble. And so trust me, there was some serious cognitive dissonance going on. And I said, alright what’s it going to take? What do we do? How do we fix this problem? Because you and me agree this is a problem. One probation officer called it fear probation. We practice fear probation here, we’re afraid and so we lock people up. And so we said, all right, well, are there other responses we can engage in? Should we have more programs? But at the bottom line, which was super interesting to me, was they said, if you want us to do this less, you need to sign a piece of paper saying that. We need you to change our policies so that if something comes down, we’re not hanging out there by ourselves because we feel like right now, if we don’t lock somebody up and it goes wrong, you’re going to throw us under the bus. So I said, okay, where do I sign? We started changing policies, both that said you should give people second chances. And that said, if people are doing well, you should get them off probation earlier. And they they they did so in spades. We had a six fold increase in the number of people who were discharged early. We found that when they got discharged early actually did better than when they stayed on probation longer. And we cut revocations in half. So we were down to 3% revocation, which was pretty damn low by the time I left. And my successor, Ana Bermúdez, who became commissioner, got it down to 1%. Most of the time when I was running Rikers, which I did several years later, there was nobody in Rikers on a technical probation violation. So you actually can move the ball on it.
DeRay Mckesson: Vinny, what would you say to people who are like, but there should be a consequence when you violate your probation, like why are you taking away the consequences when people shouldn’t be able to do whatever they want, which is why they’re on probation in the first place?
Vincent Schiraldi: Yes. So I feel like, I think we sort of need to examine what we want out of probation and parole. They’re central two goals when they were founded was to reduce incarceration because people were recognizing in the 1800s what we know today, which is that prisons were brutal places and of increased public safety. Probation and parole do neither of those things. So I think we really need to ask ourselves, what do we want out of this? Um. When you tell a bureaucracy and you’ve worked on them too DeRay so you know what I’m talking about, um uh that you need to hold people account for signing on the dotted line to 24 really difficult conditions, some of which have absolutely nothing to do with their rehabilitation or public safety. Um. When you tell people in bureaucracies that, they’re going to do that uh because they know if they don’t do it, they’re going to get in trouble, and then you stop really being concerned anymore about safety and rehabilitation. And it all becomes about, you know, managerial risk aversion, which I think is what I found in my department and what I found and when I wrote the book.
DeRay Mckesson: Now, one of the things that you also talk about in the book is the for profit nature of all of this. Can you help us understand that better?
Vincent Schiraldi: Sure. Sure. So, you know, a lot of this became much more problematic when in the 1970s, uh things changed. Probation was founded upon the notions of rehabilitation and reducing incarceration in the 1800s, in the 1970s, people were tired of that. People were afraid because of the great migration all of a sudden all of these Black people were competing with them for their jobs. Uh there were a lot of protests, civil rights protests, anti-war protests and the Republican Party launched a Southern strategy to play upon those fears and peel off reliable Democratic voters from the south and from northern suburbs. Um. Part of that was to demonize poverty. And part of that was to politicize criminal justice policies in ways they typically weren’t for them. So what happened then was the number of people being incarcerated and being supervised started to explode and notions of rehabilitation went out the window. So all of a sudden now you’re a probation commissioner. You don’t want to look soft on crime. So you go put electronic monitors on people. You’re telling them they have to be on house arrest. The number of conditions they have to abide by explodes. If they step out of line, you lock them up. And it really started to become, you know, sort of a feeder to incarceration, not an alternative to incarceration. And we want to think that it improved public safety, but the research I looked at showed it didn’t. We did a regression analysis. We looked at all 50 states over the last 40 years from 80, from 1980, 1980 to 2019, and controlled for a dozen factors. And it showed that states that increased the number of people on probation and parole actually had more people that went to prison and had no impact on public safety. In fact, the more people that were placed on parole had a positive impact, meaning it increased violent crime. Uh. So, you know, those are the basic two reasons we had probation and parole. And I find them to be failing in both in both ways.
DeRay Mckesson: Now, one of the things that I love about the book is that you also engage in solutions. So this is not just a doom and gloom story. Um. But can you talk about some of the things that had been you have this cool chapter called The Limits of Incrementalism, where you talk about some of the things that have happened that people have attempted to do to make a dent in this. Are there any bright spots in what people have tried to do? You talk about the Justice Reinvestment Act in Arizona. You talk about some stuff in California. People need to buy the book so I don’t want to give away everything. But but have there been things along the way that you thought were even if incremental good? And then take us into the solutions, what do we do about this?
Vincent Schiraldi: Yes. So I mean, the two states that seemed like they did, two locations that seemed like they did the best in my view, were California and New York City. And it’s very and they did so in very different ways. California, prison population was at 200% capacity. It there uh there was a lawsuit, it went all the way up to the Supreme Court, and they were ordered to reduce the population. So they came up with a bunch of approaches that not only reduced incarceration, but reduced probation and parole, because, as I said, they found probation and parole were contributing, not subtracting from the prison problem. Uh. And what they did there, I thought, was very clever. Several laws were passed to reduce the ability of people to get violated and in prison and to encourage counties to work with people locally as they reduced the prison population uh they took the savings or a portion of the savings and gave it to the counties to support drug treatment, mental health services, services for victims. So it wasn’t just go forth and sin no more. It was all right, if this is supposed to help you, we’ll actually provide resources to help a person, not just somebody who’s going to trail them, nail ’em in jail. New York did it a very different way in New York City. So in New York City, the number of people on probation dropped from 82,000 to around 11,000 today. And–
DeRay Mckesson: Whoa.
Vincent Schiraldi: Yeah, it’s a big, big decline. And as I said earlier, almost nobody is getting revoked. And what happened there was just bit by bit um it became apparent, advocates did what advocates do. They were in there arguing for less jail, less prison, less onerous supervision conditions. New York has a really interesting array of nonprofit organizations, the Fortune Society, the Osborne Association, you know, the Center for Court Innovation, some terrific groups that provide alternatives that people can get help instead of just, you know, a correctional supervisor or a jail. Um. The public defenders grew uh there was a bunch of different additional public defenders added beyond Legal Aid and [?] Defenders. The Bronx Defenders. Brooklyn Defenders, Queens Defenders. So the whole system started to gear up to reduce the number of people not only incarcerated but supervised. And while this was happening, crime plummeted. It’s the exact opposite of what people make you believe would happen. Oh, my God. If you took probation and dropped it from 82000 to 11000. At the same time, the Rikers population of jail in New York City declined from 22,000 people to 5000 people, 5400. Oh, there would have to be, you know, crime in the streets would be exploding, the exact opposite happened. Crime plummeted in New York City, the number of homicides, for example, went from 2200 to under 300 and robberies and car thefts, all of this stuff went way down prior to the pandemic, there’s been an uptick since then, although that’s that’s leveled off and it’s going to decline again. But if you just look at the mid-nineties to just prior to the pandemic. Jail, prison, probation, parole, all declined, crime declined anyway and programming increased. Well, it’s kind of for me, a bit of a roadmap. Whether you do it the way New York does it or the way California did it, or make up your own way. Less incarceration, less supervision, more working with communities to provide their own robust safety. That, I think, to me is a is a formula.
DeRay Mckesson: Now I’m interested in and this is a question I can only ask somebody like you is that, you’ve been the counsel to so many elected officials, either on the advocacy side or in your official roles. What would you say are the misconceptions that electeds have about probation and parole?
Vincent Schiraldi: Um. You know, it’s interesting when you sort of play out the Hunter Biden case. People think it’s a slap on the wrist. Right, no big deal.
DeRay Mckesson: Hmm.
Vincent Schiraldi: [?] right? One researcher I quote in the books [?] said it’s not an alternative to incarceration, it’s just the lead form of incarceration. I mean over and over and over again I saw people and I tell their stories in the book, who got probation, only to be snapped up and incarcerated on the most ridiculous stuff. Um. Kerry Lathan is one example I talk about. The guy did 25 years in California prison, was paroled, comes out. His family knew Nipsey Hussle. Right. So he goes to Nipsey Hussle’s store to buy some clothing on his way out. Nipsey Hussle was there. There’s a crowd around him, he goes to say hi to him. He gets shot when Nipsey Hussle gets shot and killed. Right. And his parole officer violates him on parole for associating with a known gang member. This is exactly at the same time when President Obama and Mayor Garcetti are praising Nipsey Hussle’s life, there was a parade that thousands of people attended in Nipsey Hussle’s honor and his parole officer is violating Kerry Lathan only for that. And they released him, but only after protests in Los Angeles. I tell over and over and over stories like that. It’s not just a book full of data which would be stunningly dull, but it really talks about the lives of people who are being uprooted by the level of supervision, that that doesn’t improve public safety and really kind of ruins a lot of people’s lives.
DeRay Mckesson: And what do you say to electeds though when they say, you know, I can hear people say the like, well, you know, it’s bad out here and people want there to be harsh consequences. And this feels like a this feels like a slap on the wrist. What is your response to elected officials when they say that to you?
Vincent Schiraldi: Let’s do what works. Um. If this worked, you know, it might be one of those things you have to hold your nose and live with the fact that, you know, maybe it’s, you know, depriving people of their liberty in ways that we aren’t crazy about. But the evidence does not support probation and parole working. You know, when I was a kid and I talk about this in the book as well, I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood in Brooklyn, Greenpoint. And, you know, there were three factories on my block. Our parents let us go out and play, not because there were a lot of cops around, not because there were a lot of prisons back then. There actually were way fewer prisons back then. But because we had a cohesive community where everybody on the block was my mother, and if they scolded me, I better say, yes ma’am or my mom was going to find out about it before anybody had a cell phone. And most people didn’t even have landlines back then. I’m that old. And so, um you know, I think that where we should be looking as policy makers is to help make those neighborhoods more cohesive, where lots of people on probation and parole live. When my people went into those neighborhoods, we did not make them more cohesive. Right. We were an invading force. But there are elders in those communities. There are formerly incarcerated people, there are ministers. There are people that run the public Safety Committee on in public housing. Those people are ready to be engaged. And when we do, that will build the kind of cohesion that kept me safe when I was ten years old in Brooklyn. But a whole bunch of probation officers and parole officers will not do that.
DeRay Mckesson: And is I’m interested in um was there anything about running Rikers that did running Rikers shift what you thought about probation and parole? Did it, like how did it inform or did it make you even more fervent? You were like, Yeah, I was right.
Vincent Schiraldi: You know, one of the things that happened with Rikers so I ran probation in New York City and the state ran parole, parole is after prison, right? And so one of the things that was very, very upsetting was how many people were being technically violated on parole. New York was the number one violator of people on parole in the country. When I was running Rikers and several of the people who died of COVID, Michael Tyson, for example, was the first person to die Jose Rivera, right. They died of COVID. They were in on technical violations, had missed appointments. Had left the drug treatment program, not new crimes. Um. That was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking for anyone to die of COVID from being in you know Congregate Care Correctional Facility. Where you cannot distance yourself from other sick people, but especially to die because you were, missed an appointment. Um. So yeah, that confirmed my belief that the stakes are very, very high here and that we need to get very serious about that and that most people really don’t pay much attention to.
DeRay Mckesson: And then last question before I ask you some questions that we ask everybody um is, does does this impact kids too or no?
Vincent Schiraldi: Yeah, uh yeah. Kids are on probation and are often returned to incarceration, not because they committed a new crime, but because they didn’t obey the court’s orders. Yup, happens to kids, too.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Okay, so the two questions we ask everybody, the first is what do you, what do you say to people whose hope is challenge, who read the book and they’re like whew this is worse than I even imagined. And they’re like, it doesn’t feel like it’s getting better outside of the liberal hotspots like California and New York. And what do you say to people whose hope is challenge what, what is your response?
Vincent Schiraldi: Um. You know, I’ve been in this 43 years and I’ve always found ways to find hope. The number of people locked up in America, the number of people on probation and parole in America has fallen pretty substantially since the years 2007, 2008, 2009. Um. It’s nowhere near as low as it should be. I think there’s way more awareness of it now than there was when I was younger, when we used to have conferences back in my earlier years in the eighties and early nineties. You could fill a very small room with people who cared about this, you know, and no foundations funding it. I was the weird dad when my kid was a teenager. Now her friends are calling me because they want jobs fighting mass incarceration. It’s like how interesting is that? Um. So there’s a lot more people engaged in this. A lot more people care about it. I think Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow really helped with that. But, but lots of things helped. And um, you know, my generation screwed this all up. And my hope is the next generations help fix it and that we can leave it a little better before we hand over the mantle.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. And the second question is, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s stuck with you?
Vincent Schiraldi: Um. My friend and mentor, Jerry Miller, the guy that closed the facilities in Massachusetts very successfully, said that if I ever got a chance to run systems, I should run them not like I want to keep my job, but like I want to do my job. I find too many people in my my seat looking over their shoulders about how not to do wrong, and they they they forget to do right. So I want to be able to look myself in the mirror when I’m done with each, each and every one of these jobs. And uh that piece of advice has served me well over the years.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Remind people of the title of the book and where they can get it?
Vincent Schiraldi: Mass supervision: Probation, Parole and the Illusion of Safety and Freedom. And it is on the new press’s website. That’s thenewpress.org [link doesn’t work]
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Vinny, we consider you a friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back.
Vincent Schiraldi: Yeah, man, this was great DeRay. Thanks so much.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out and make sure you rate it wherever you get your podcasts. Whether it’s Apple podcasts or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Evan Sutton. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles E. Johnson. [music break]