Making Amends

Making Amends

A podcast series that investigates the heavy use of incarceration as a response to the harms of crime. Season one explores how many incarcerated people seek to atone for their misdeeds, despite the challenging conditions in prison. Season two follows a group of prosecutors as they travel inside the walls to learn what it means to be convicted of a violent crime, and to try to overcome the challenges of incarceration.

Episodes

December 21, 2020 2 mins

How do we atone for the worst thing we’ve ever done? Many prisoners at the Oregon State Penitentiary wrestle with  this question every day. In this 8-part series, they share their stories with Steve Herbert, describing how they strive to make amends in an age of mass incarceration.

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Violence was a constant in the lives of both Anthony and Theron, starting at a very young age. Once in prison, they began to question their allegiance to their gangs and their reliance on violence. What motivated that introspection and change?

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For many prisoners, remorseful thoughts of their victims motivate a drive toward atonement. Terrence and Moustafa describe how their regret propels them to be better people. 

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December 27, 2020 27 mins

Inside of prison, finding and walking the right path is not always easy.  Cameron and Steve wanted to become different people, but had to overcome the culture of prison violence to do so.

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Learning how to understand and control your own emotions is an important step toward atonement.  But that’s not so simple in the hyper-masculine world of prison. 

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To recognize that one has done wrong often motivates a desire to do right.  Prisoners seeking to atone try to do good works in an environment where positivity is not usually celebrated.  

 

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What debts do we owe after committing a crime?  How does one repair the moral fabric after a serious wrong?  The men describe the importance of repentance to them, and how they try to make that real in their everyday actions.  

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December 27, 2020 25 mins

To make amends requires accepting responsibility for the harm you’ve caused.  But in an adversarial legal process, how easy is it to take accountability for criminal wrongs, especially in the age of mass incarceration?    

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How can convicted criminals fully appreciate the impact of their actions?  If that might involve communication with their victims, how can that occur?  Can American prisons embrace the principles of restorative justice, and help create communities where remorse can be expressed and genuine change facilitated?

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March 11, 2023 2 mins

Long prison sentences for violent crimes have made the United States  the most punitive nation in history.  And it is prosecutors who secure the convictions that generate those long prison terms.

But what do prosecutors know about what happens to those they convict?  What might happen if a group of prosecutors went inside the walls, and talked to prisoners about the heavy use of incarceration as a response to violence?  What can th...

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What do prosecutors do? Why do they pursue prison sentences when they charge people with violent offenses?  What do they think incarceration accomplishes?

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March 22, 2023 28 mins

How do people come to commit violent acts?  What can prosecutors learn by listening to stories of how people ended up in prison?

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What is it like to be prosecuted for a violent crime?  On the way toward getting a conviction, do you have any reason to take accountability for your actions?

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In Oregon and elsewhere, many people convicted by prosecutors of a violent crime are given a long and fixed sentence.  What does it mean to go prison on such a sentence?  What can prisoners teach prosecutors about the experience of doing time?

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Despite the difficult conditions of prison, many people inside find a pathway to self-improvement.  How is that possible?  Are there changes in criminal justice policy that even prosecutors could support that would make transformations inside more likely?

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So, what did it mean for the prosecutors to engage in intensive conversations with prisoners?  What lessons did everyone learn?

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