Bourbon 'n BrownTown

Ep. 83 - “We Are More” Pt. 3: Re-entry, Combating the "Law & Order" Narrative, & the SAFE-T Act ft. Melvin Farley

Episode Summary

BrownTown links up with Melvin Farley, formerly incarcerated friend of Illinois Prison Project. In Part Three of the "We Are More" series, BrownTown and Melvin discuss re-entering society after incarceration, combating the "law and order" narrative and resurgent fear-mongering politics tactics, as well as the much talked about Illinois SAFE-T Act that goes into full effect January 1, 2023. Watch the micro-docs, listen to the series, and take action at and

Episode Notes

BrownTown links up with Melvin Farley, formerly incarcerated friend of Illinois Prison Project. In Part Three of the "We Are More" series, BrownTown and Melvin discuss re-entering society after incarceration, combating the "law and order" narrative and resurgent fear-mongering politics tactics, as well as the much talked about Illinois SAFE-T Act that goes into full effect January 1, 2023. Watch the micro-docs, listen to the series, and take action at and

Melvin's initially shares his experience with incarceration and how the Illinois Prison Project supported in his release. The team then details some of the inner workings of the prison system and as well as the adjustments and setbacks when re-entering society. BrownTown unpacks the grassroots work that lead up to the signing of the Illinois SAFE-T Act, particularly the Pretrial Fairness Act provision, and dispels the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up lies about the new law that have been circling this season. While comparing such right-wing and establishment tactics to those of yesteryear (i.e. Willie Hortonism and fake FBI-created Black Panther Party newspapers), the gang embraces the progressive changes to come in the region while situating them within a larger struggle.

Full Transcription Here!

Melvin Farley is an affiliate of the Illinois Prison Project who was released from incarceration 18 months ago due to the organization’s efforts. He is currently establishing structure for his new life and looking forward to new opportunities and relationships.


Mentioned in Episode:


Through advocacy, public education, and direct representation, the Illinois Prison Project brings hope to and fight in community with incarcerated people and their loved ones for a brighter, more humane, more just system for us all. Learn more about the IPP on their site; follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube


CREDITS: Intro soundbite from Renaldo Hudson of the "We Are More" micro-doc series and outro soundbite from Melvin Farley. Audio engineered by Kiera Battles. Episode photo by Kiera Battles. This series is sponsored by the Illinois Prison Project.


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Episode Transcription

Ep. 83 - “We Are More” Pt. 3: Re-entry, Combating the "Law & Order" Narrative, & the SAFE-T Act ft. Melvin Farley

BrownTown links up with Melvin Farley, formerly incarcerated friend of Illinois Prison Project. In Part Three of the "We Are More" series, BrownTown and Melvin discuss re-entering society after incarceration, combating the "law and order" narrative and resurgent fear-mongering politics tactics, as well as the much talked about Illinois SAFE-T Act that goes into full effect January 1, 2023. Watch the micro-docs, listen to the series, and take action at and


From “We Are More: Renaldo’s Story”

[00:00:00] Renaldo Hudson: I love that I can be an inspiration after so much pain, because I'm so much more than that pain. I want people to be safe, I want people to be secured- and there's so many more of my peers doing this work. Can you imagine- those of us that are considered "the worst", as they say, are the front line of the change that we're trying to see.


[00:00:22] David: I wanna welcome everyone to another installment of Bourbon 'n BrownTown. I am your co-host David, coming outta studio...- 

[00:00:28] Caullen: gang. 

[00:00:29] David: I was gonna say 51 but that's a restaurant, I don't know, we haven't given this studio a name. 

[00:00:33] Caullen: They ain't give us any bread, don't give them no love. 

[00:00:35] David: Okay, damn bro, this is- 

[00:00:36] Caullen: Well, we should name the studio.

[00:00:38] David: That's what I'm saying. 

[00:00:39] Caullen: Studio Dustin. 

[00:00:40] David: Studio Dustin, that's it. So I wanna welcome everyone- Studio Dustin. Naw, but you already heard him over here, always with my boy Caullen, man, how you doing today? 

[00:00:48] Caullen: I'm doing okay. I feel really stiff, and I don't like it. I wanna be relaxed and chill, and I feel like I'm overly stiff, but I'm sure that will change very soon. I'm doing okay in the grand scheme of things. How are you? 

[00:01:00] David: We're doing okay. We thought this was- I thought I was gonna be up earlier, type shit- was not the case. Definitely get your sleep, our bodies need to sleep. But regardless, I'm there. I don't know if "tense" is also the right word, cause I don't know if I'm so so tense. But we're back in the studio, so really excited, and wanting to share space with all of y'all. But decent. I'm excited. 

Part three! This is gonna be the "We Are More"- part of the "We Are More" series. For folks who do not know, the "We Are More" campaign centers the experiences of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated peoples, and pushes back against fear-mongering "tough on crime" rhetoric resurging in the 2022 election season. It's been a wonderful experience, shout out to everyone who's been participating. 

In part one of this podcast series, we were joined by Sandra Brown and we examined the root causes and holistic solutions with both gender based-violence, as well as why women's incarceration rates have climbed to double the rates of men in state prisons across the country, specifically Black women. 

And then part two- once again y'all are welcome to pause, go check them out, come back- with part two, we were joined by Dyanna Winchester, where we discussed organizing against and within institutions to disrupt dangerous policy, addressing intracommunal violence with interpersonal relationships, supporting re-entry after being incarcerated, and more. And so definitely go ahead and check those out for those episodes. You wanna talk to folks a little bit about part three, Caullen, for us? 

[00:02:30] Caullen: I wanna say this is the "Return of the King" episode. But then in light of recent events that I don't care about- I feel like that's not what I should call it. No, I think this one we're still talking about re-entry. Our guest will speak to his experience and stuff. And I feel like, this whole project we've been talking about narratives- with this narrative building, narrative destroying, how Soapbox builds narratives with all this, as far as: police and prison abolition, and different movements and stuff. And I feel like over the past several years with COVID, with the uprisings, it's been on the forefront in different ways. And especially as of recent, with the SAFE-T Act in Illinois becoming more in the ether, media, and social media, especially. And a lot of misinformation, a lot of disinformation, a lot of outright lies about it. It's interesting, I've been seeing more of that stuff this week, and so us having this conversation I feel is very, very timely. 

So with all that, with no further ado, we have our guest, Melvin Farley. For you all that don't know, Melvin is an affiliate of the Illinois Prison Project who was released from incarceration 18 months ago due to the organization's efforts. He is currently establishing structure for his new life and looking forward to new opportunities and relationships. Melvin, what's goody? 

[00:03:45] Melvin: Well, glad and happy to be out here every day. I find something new. I missed a lot of my life being incarcerated, so it's like being born again being released. And the Illinois Prison Project made that possible. They got me out ahead of my time. I supposed to been getting out in 2024, and they got all of my good time restored to me, and got me released early. So I just been out here, rebuilding my life, getting employment. I'm looking for me a new apartment right now, my first apartment in my whole- in my life ever. And I did most of my adult life in prison. And I'm trying to adjust to society, learn the technology. Something as simple as using a cell phone, I haven't even got the, you know, the full knowledge of how to use a cell phone yet. I could make basic phone calls and stuff like that, but.. I don't know. I'm just glad to be out here, glad that Illinois Prison Project made that possible. 

[00:05:01] Caullen: Yeah, that's a lot there. I'm curious- Illinois Prison Project- was that through clemency or do you know the process of how they got you out?

[00:05:10] Melvin: It was like a restoration of lost good- I lost a lot of my good time while I was in prison and stuff. A lot of it was unconstitutional, they was taking my good time unconstitutionally through these adjustment committees and stuff. And they were taking too much of it for the infractions and stuff that I was involved in. So that buried me in years and years of segregation. I was in segregation 19 years. And so they made possible mental health laws and stuff, and saying too that they couldn't hold us in segregation all those years and stuff. So the long-term seg stuff was dismissed. I don't know a whole lot about law and stuff like that, but I just know that the Illinois Prison Project was instrumental in helping us get our good time back in- not only me, other guys too, that was released from prison or was released from long-term seg. 

[00:06:18] David: Yeah. And I think, once again, the beauty of a project like this "We Are More", we were able to have some of those stories from folks in our videos. So if you haven't, once again, go ahead and just check those out. I have been thinking about a check-in question to kind of bring us all in, but I think one of the things that I've been thinking about, and you're talking about like coming back to- I guess what's one of the things that you didn't know you missed? And that's like, in general. What's something that, as we're going through life, what's something in your particular instance that you didn't think you were gonna miss, but that we missed. 

And I guess I'll start off with me, I think something that I thought that I missed, that I didn't think I was gonna miss is my grandma's cooking. It's interesting, cause we would only- we go to Mexico maybe twice a month type shit- or twice a year, but that's something that they were always doing. They were always in the kitchen, they always wanted to cook a shit, they always wanted to feed us. And it was funny cause growing up I was a really, really skinny kid, so my grandma would be like, "oh you don't feed your son." And so they would over feed us, and me and my brother would get sick cause they would- we would eat too much cause I couldn't tell my grandma no. But that's one of the things that I didn't think I was gonna miss that I missed. And so I'll pitch it up to y'all. What are y'all thinking? 

[00:07:34] Caullen: I kind of wanna pitch to you Melvin. I know it's kind of a bigger question, and really we're asking a lot about what the past couple decades looked like for you. And I know there's a lot there, so as much or as little as you care to share about those experiences. We don't want to make it sound like we're trying to force you to talk about your experience- 

[00:07:51] Melvin: I don't feel that way at all. I mean- some things give me a minute to think about. I should have a million things, a million things should come to mind. I'm gonna say something just as simple as walking down the street or coming out the door and breathing some fresh air. I didn't think I was going to miss that, I mean, like the way I missed it until all those years started to accumulate, and I was like, man, it's simple things, like coming out your house, getting a fresh breath of air, or walking down the block. I didn't think I would miss that so much, until the years start to accumulate. Like, man, I wish I could do something as simple as that. That people take for granted every day. That I took for granted. 

[00:08:46] David: Or we take it for granted until we realize that it's gone. That's kind of where I was coming in that, but appreciate you sharing that, bro. What about you Caullen, anything stewing in there? 

[00:08:54] Caullen: I've been fortunate enough to, lately, do a little more traveling than I usually can. And it's interesting when you go, at least for me, when I go anywhere, it's like, oh, you wanna experience the city you're in, or the different place you're in, in this full capacity and do all the fun things there. And it's like, oh, but I live in Chicago, and I live in a pretty dope area; and it's summertime Chi, so I can walk on the block and look at different cool things, whether it's just seeing art or buildings or just communities and stuff. And I have that at home- and you can appreciate your home as well as when you travel to other places, but I feel like we, and I may be just doing this to myself, put so much pressure and energy on when you go to a place you have to experience it to the fullest all the time. Be a tourist! And this pressure to experience it because you don't live there; but it's like, if you are fortunate enough to live in a place you like, then you sorta have that feeling all the time, at least try to appreciate what's around you, and what's new around you too. So I thought about that as far as coming back home, like, oh, this place is also pretty dope. So I should appreciate home- whether that's your neighborhood, your block, your community, your street, your city, more so, as well. Obviously worlds different than what you're talking about Melvin, but-

[00:10:07] Melvin: oh yeah. 

[00:10:07] Caullen: I've been trying to think about that more often and just appreciate what I have around me, I guess. 

[00:10:13] David: Yeah, and in a way it's like, I don't know, I love these types of conversations. Cause we learn off of each other, that's just how human beings kind of work. But appreciate y'all in indulging me in that type of a check-in. And so with that, I think, Melvin, as we introduce the episode, we've had a lot of different conversations, revolving all of these topics. But I think to help folks who are listening center us a little bit, could you tell us a little bit about the experience- about your experience, either with the carceral system itself, or what life has been like since. I know you and I have had very brief moments about parole officers and shit like that, but you want to give folks a little bit more of a centering of your experience, and then where that brings us to today? 

[00:11:05] Melvin: Oh yes. Well I got locked up at a very young age. I was just turning 19 years old, and I was living on the west side of Chicago. And I was involved in gang activity and that's what led to my crime. So getting locked up at that early age, that young, having to survive on my own in prison without any type of financial support and stuff like that, it was kind of- I mean, not "kind of," but it was extremely hard. I had to fend for myself. From the county jail to prison I had to fight for myself, defend myself. So from that point, 19 all the way to the time I got out, I had to survive segregation, being locked up in segregation for 19 years, I had to- 

[00:12:10] David: and just- could, for folks who may not know what that term means, what is it for them to put you in segregation mean?

[00:12:18] Melvin: Oh, it's like to- if you commit an infraction that like, if you get a charge for doing something against prison rules, they would separate you from the rest of the prisoners. They'll segregate you, and put you off with the rest of the guys that have violated infractions too. And so you may be in the cell with another guy that's- have segregation time, or you may be by yourself. But in my situation, I was by myself in segregation, and we were separated into one man cells. For 19- I did that for 19 years cause I kept getting in trouble while I was in segregation. Piling seg on top of seg time. But it is called "the hole", but it's the same. "Segregation" and "the hole" is the same thing. 

[00:13:19] David: And then- so let's fast forward a little bit- 19 years pass, how did you get involved, or how did IPP, how did that come across your path?

[00:13:34] Melvin: I guess they were researching, doing research on prisoners that did extensive long periods of seg time, and there were violations there against their rights. A lot of people in seg for long periods, I don't know how to say it, but they were like,

[00:14:00] David: just given long periods, I hear you,

[00:14:04] Melvin: given extensive periods of seg time, longer than they should have been in there.

[00:14:09] David: So they were being illegal. 

[00:14:10] Melvin: Yeah, they were illegally in seg. Say if I had a fight, and they charged me for a fight, they'd put me in segregation. So I was acting up while I was in segregation. I caught another charge while I was in segregation, and they gave me more- sentenced me to more seg time than they were supposed to have given me. So the seg time started to pile up, they started to bury me in seg. So next thing I look around, I'm in seg for 19 years- they just unconstitutionally giving me more seg time than I should have gotten for the charge.

[00:14:50] Caullen: So is there a written, either with prison rules or with anywhere else, like a rule or a law, that you can't be seg for so long? 

[00:15:00] Melvin: yeah, now there is. 

[00:15:01] Caullen: And not that it matters, I think this is horrible in general, and we name that- but I'm just asking as far as, I guess the legality of it, or whatever. Is it now? 

[00:15:11] Melvin: It is. They couldn't- say if they gave you 30 days seg, they couldn't make you do 60 days seg, or 90 days seg, that was against their rules. But once you were in there, they could write you up for stuff, or they could, even if you didn't do it. A lot of that was going on. Even if you didn't do it, they would write you tickets or disciplinary reports for stuff that you didn't even do. The officer may not have liked me- he probably didn't like you or something, and he'd write you a disciplinary report for something you didn't do, and now you're in seg longer than you should have been in seg originally. 

[00:15:50] Caullen: Wow. Cause I feel like more recently, David and I, more so David and our entity Soapbox, has done more work with prison abolitionist groups and stuff. And through the past couple years I've learned a lot more about different things like that, as far as goings on in prison stuff.

But I, personally I never, I don't think I ever heard about seg. I knew about solitary confinement, obviously. And I understand what you're saying as far as how it works now; but it's like, I think part of- we'll get to the mid narratives in a moment- but I feel like so much of it is, even us, David and I, who do this work, to an extent are still learning all about all this stuff without having people or loved ones who are actually inside. And so it's like, if we are still learning and figuring out some of these things that are, that you know to be very, very true, and that are from other prison abolitionists, or organizers we know that are basic things to know about how the prison system works- how much do you think someone who doesn't do this work, or has never had a family member incarcerated or not, know? And then they don't know any of these things, they see something on tv about prisons and jails being just, or right, or getting bad people off the street or what have you, whatever rhetoric is being used- you of course are gonna believe those things and be against IPP or organizations like that. So I was thinking about how things that I don't know, and then if we are in this position to change narratives and stuff, it's like, man I don't even know half this shit, so how are we gonna use this to actually convince these other folks otherwise who are being lied to. So that's on my mind when I have to bring it too macro too quickly.

[00:17:22] David: No, and I think- I mean, I'm just sitting with the way you commented on, "next thing I knew 19 years had passed", cause like- and this is your experience, and so we appreciate you sharing that, but it's like, I don't know, it's like the way in which the system controls information sometimes is part of the problem, and why it continues to manifest. But, okay, so IPP doing research, they find your file and they're like, "yo, him", and then from then on how have things look like for you? 

[00:17:54] Melvin: I mean, they gave me a lot of hope when they stepped in and they came down all the way to Menard Correctional Center to visit me. These two ladies, Jennifer Soble. 

[00:18:07] Caullen: Shout out.

[00:18:07] Melvin: Yeah. And another lady from the Illinois Prison Project, drove all those miles to come see me, and let me know that they were working on my case to get me out of prison. Not only segregation, but out of prison. So, that gave- that was, you know, a bright light in my life. I could see light then. Cause nobody had come before that, to try to reach out to me. And my lawyers had gave up on me cause I had lost my appeal and stuff. So I mean, from that point on my dreams changed, you know what I'm saying? I knew that something was coming. I could feel something was coming. I didn't know it was gonna be as soon as it was- 

[00:19:04] David: That must have been good though! 

[00:19:07] Melvin: Cause I got a immediate release. They came one day and told me to pack my property and stuff and I didn't even know I was getting outta prison on that day.

[00:19:16] Caullen: Wooooohooo!

[00:19:17] David: That's, I mean, was that good? Now I got questions. But okay, so that happens, and then what?

[00:19:25] Melvin: Well-

[00:19:26] David: you're just like, "okay I got my bag now what?" 

[00:19:28] Melvin: I left a lot of my property, I was moving so fast. I left a lot of my photos, and addresses and stuff to people that were on the outside. And other personal property, a lot of my stuff, I was so happy I was getting out I gave my TV away, I gave my fan away, I gave my headphones away- not knowing I was gonna get to the halfway house and need a fan. And it was hot in the summertime in July.

[00:19:56] David: yeah. 

[00:19:56] Melvin: But I left it to a brother that had life. He worked in the B of I. The Bureau of Identification where they take your pictures, get your fingerprints before you leave prison and stuff, and when you're coming into prison. So it was a good- I left it in good hands.

[00:20:15] Caullen: Which what he didn't leave, is these fresh Air Maxes he has on. Y'all can't see it- 

[00:20:20] Melvin: You'll never see none of these in prison. 

[00:20:24] Caullen: Melvin and I got some nice Air Maxes on, David's here with some Adidas bullshit. 

[00:20:27] David: You're so dumb!

[00:20:27] Caullen: I'm just saying, I'm just saying- I just wanna note that.

[00:20:31] Melvin: Something simple as this though, being able to wear the clothes you wanna wear- simple clothes. I mean, no name brand clothes. People would probably die for it in prison, just to be able to wear regular street clothes- what we call street clothes in there. 

[00:20:52] David: And so you've been out for 18 months- and I think, some of the things we've been talking about, I know with Diana, she mentioned a little bit about parole and having somebody come in and check-in on various things, how was that experience been for you regarding parole? Now we don't gotta say shit, so they don't hear it, but just so folks get a little bit of an idea. How's that been for you? 

[00:21:20] Melvin: Oh, I have a parole agent that was assigned to me, so I have to, every three months, I have to talk to him. He has to come out and see me. At first it was just, it was like seeing him once a month. Then I'm on another level, I'm on a minimum level now that I see him every three months. And he's trying to like get me off parole early, cause I have three years of parole. And things have been going well with that cause I haven't been in any trouble. I've had two jobs since I've been out, and haven't had any run-ins with the authorities or anything like that. So I have a cool parole officer right now. Agent Roberts, he's pretty good. Agent Roberts, he's not sweating anything like that. 

So I mean, it is still like a leash- it's still like you're on a leash. You're not completely free, it's just a longer leash. In there it was like a short leash, where they can control you more and better. But out here you can get to run around, and sometimes they may take the leash off and let you run a little further, before they call you back. Yeah. So. You still have ties, with the IDOC as long as- and then I have this registration thing- I have to register every year as a murderer. And I have to pay $10, go to the police station and pay $10. Yeah.

[00:23:03] Caullen: What?

[00:23:03] Melvin: The first meeting registration was $20, then from there on, for life, for your whole life. So when you get off parole, you still have this Chicago police registration thing, which I think is nothing but extortion. 

[00:23:18] Caullen: Let me just restate that for myself: because of what you were charged for, you have to pay the police $10 a year for the rest of your life? 

[00:23:35] Melvin: The rest of my life. 

[00:23:36] David: And you're signing it, too. You're saying like, yo... 

[00:23:39] Caullen: and you've already spent decades and- 

[00:23:44] Melvin: 33 years. 

[00:23:44] Caullen: Okay. I'm just.... again we are learning, all the time. I do not call myself a prison abolitionist organizer and this is why, cause I'm still learning a lot of these things. Wow. Makes me think of a previous guest, Anna. She also spent, I think, two decades locked up and she mentioned- we talked about reentry a little bit with her, and she was talking about just how as you're experiencing now, when she was released, like, "Hey, I 'did my time' or I was accused of his thing, I did what you said I had to do as far as punishment, I'm out now I shouldn't have to have any other-

[00:24:25] David: continuously be punished," 

[00:24:26] Caullen: Yes, there we go. "I shouldn't have to continuously be punished." She mentioned a couple examples of that being very much the case. And you're adding this on top of that, which I was unaware of. How does that make you feel? 

[00:24:41] David: He said "extortion" so, like, I don't think- 

[00:24:44] Melvin: yeah, I feel like I'm being extorted. And I feel like that since, like you said, I did pay my debts to society. I did 33 years in prison, and that was beyond enough. I mean, I don't think anything could really pay for another person's life being taken; and I'm truly regretful and sorry for that. But life goes on, and I think I deserve a shot. Another shot. I think I've rehabilitated myself; the system didn't rehabilitate me. Being in there and all that solitude, and being able to gather my thoughts and read books, and better myself through spirituality. I think I deserve better than what the system has given me now as far as keeping me on this leash, not wanting to let me off parole. They have a new law that they supposedly came out with at the beginning of this year, that they letting guys off parole early, and I think I should be one of the first candidates for that. Because I've gotten out and shown that I'm not the same person I was when I got locked up. I've had two jobs, and some people out here have never had a job in their life. Some people are not willing to work, do the things that I do, the hard work that I do to stay out here. 

[00:26:26] David: And on top of that, as we talked about early on, groups like IPP and other institutions and organizations have continuously tried to fight against this extortion, this fucking, these practices that clearly do not- I think something important you named, man, was like, the system did not rehabilitate you, you did it. So it's like the system doesn't do shi- I don't know, like, these are more reasons for me to believe that this is not the solution. Putting people in a cage, ultimately, is not gonna make people better, just like willy nilly. And they don't have systems in there too- that don't always reach everyone in the way that they think they do. And like, I don't know, it's wild. But we appreciate you sharing everything. I think this is fantastic, simply because I think it's important for some of our listeners to truly understand- and what better way than through a story like your own. Did want to name that before moving forward. 

[00:27:30] Caullen: Yeah, no, thank you, David. And thank you, Melvin. When I back up and kinda look at the big picture of all this, and the way your story and journey has situated itself with IPP as an organization, and the conversation we're talking about now with the SAFE-T Act in Illinois and what have you, which we'll get to in a sec- but a lot of when we talk about the criminal punishment system, and reform, abolition, what have you, it's still a lot about on the back end, like getting off parole early, which is good, of getting released early, which is good. But I think what's missing, and sometimes that conversation is the front end. You mentioned about your life when you were a teenager and stuff. I'm sure there were intentional systemic conditions which kind of facilitated maybe being in certain environments, as a young person. And maybe that's not for you, other people we know, that's the case. 

And so, when I think about what I've known from when you and David were talking about finding housing, staying working, and doing all those things, and just staying healthy as a person, those are things that everyone kind of needs and wants. And it's harder for you to do that now; but it's like we- that should always be the case for everyone all the time. And if that was: jobs are plentiful in communities, we had a jobs guarantee, if health was taken seriously and looked at more holistically, if when harm is done- like you spoke to, what you did, and how you're remorseful, and I think different practices of healing, and how people can develop relationships is super important.

If we have all these things from the front end, the solution of incarceration wouldn't be looked to as much. So yes, we should have a bunch of IPPs. Yes, we should have the SAFE-T Act which I have a lot of feelings and thoughts on. We have all these progressive things to get people- in the words of Ronaldo- first chances at living a full life. Additionally, it shouldn't even be this way in the first place because we should have everything we need in a society, in the richest and most powerful country in the world, and not just give money to Ukraine for no fucking reason. Alright I'm-

[00:29:47] David: Well, they gotta launder our money. I don't know if you keeping up with that, but I try not to. But Lord have mercy.

[00:29:53] Melvin: Nah, I don't keep up too much. 

[00:29:55] Caullen: It's for the best. 

[00:29:56] Melvin: News and politics... I should though. 

[00:29:58] David: Hell no! It just rots your brain, bro. No, I'm just kidding. But it's enough. For folks, to help us center, so the Illinois SAFE-T Act- which stands for safety, accountability, fairness, and equity dash today.

[00:30:13] Caullen: Today! 

[00:30:14] David: Today! Like this is important to have that on there. Okay, so I don't know, not that we're teasing- shout out to all the work. 

[00:30:20] Caullen: No, David, I think I like what you're saying about, it's not a movement, it's a piece of legislation. Which is fair. I think it's important to make that delineation that, I guess like, timeline, so to speak. So I think when, several years ago, when, I guess we started being a little more involved in the movement there was a big push to end cash bail in Illinois; I think that was with a lot of other folks and organizations trying to pass some kind of policy to make the criminal punishment system "better". And so I think there's been lots of work going on for years, and obviously a lot longer before that, before we were involved in anything to push to get here. And so now we have the Illinois SAFE-T Act- Pritzker, Illinois's governor, signed it January 22nd, 2021. 

But that was on the heels of- think about context history- that was on the heels of: COVID was still very apparent, more than it is now, the previous summer of the uprisings, the global uprisings for Black lives and against police brutality and state violence in general. And so those moments were huge in pushing the masses and everyday folks to understand that like, oh, A) the state doesn't care about me because of capitalism, and this pandemic that's running wild, but also Black lives actually do matter, and actually police ain't shit. People realize that now on a bigger level. And so, progressive state senators- shout out Robert Peters, shout out several other folks, I guess in my view, have more leverage to kind of push things like this, though they predate COVID and stuff. So like from 2019, we got some progressive folks in Illinois' House and what have you, and have pushed this since then. So just want to table set that context in this bill being signed.

But I think with anything, and we've mentioned this previously on B'nB, is that, when bills get signed that are progressive, or just better, or like not as shitty as it could be- nothing happens without movement. Nothing happens without the grassroots. So I wanna honor that, and name that- and like, yeah, it's cool Pritzker signed it, but A) the bill's not perfect, and B) it's ####. It doesn't really matter that these officials do certain things, but we should honor that, and it's a big win, we should be happy about it. But I want to table set that none of this would've happened if it wasn't for movement.

But that was this larger act, which has a lot of things in it, with reforming police in certain ways. But I think what has been talked about more recently, and has been for a little bit now, is the pre-trial fairness act, which is a provision of the SAFE-T Act, which goes into effect the 1st of next year. So some provisions already have been in place, but that and others will go into effect 1st of next year, which at this point when we're sitting mid-September has been getting much attention all over the media. David, do you wanna center us on what the pre-trial fairness act is? 

[00:33:20] David: Yeah, yeah. So the PFA is a provision of the SAFE-T Act that ends the money bond and reforms Illinois' pretrial legal system. Which- and just to repeat in other words, it removes money bond, which is a thing that holds people in jail while they are awaiting trial. This ensures that financing will no longer be a determining factor whether or not you get to go to your crib while you're awaiting trial. To me, what this does is this goes back and restores the presumption of innocence- like what the fuck happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? It's like, nah, you don't got bread, you get to stay there! So the whole like, if you don't have money to pay for your bond, it shouldn't be a determining factor, and it no longer will be. And I think that has been misconstrued, as we alluded to earlier, in ways that I think I started seeing some of that talk and conversation about a couple weeks ago, which is why, Melvin, I'm a little surprised you haven't seen shit. So I'm glad you haven't. But it's like, some of the stuff that I started seeing on social media was like, "starting January 1st of 2022, these are all the offenses that you will no longer be jailed for." And I was like, what the fuck are you talking- 

[00:34:37] Melvin: some type of purge? 

[00:34:38] David: Ohhh, so you have heard some of it? 

[00:34:40] Caullen: "Purge law" is what it's being- 

Well, wait, so what have you heard about that? Under the "purge law" or whatever? 

[00:34:48] Melvin: Just what you just said. Some girl I was talking to yesterday told me that beginning of January that you can go out and murder people and do whatever, what you wanna do and you can't get locked up.

[00:34:59] David: Oh my- and what did you say?? You're just like, nah, you're like, okay. 

[00:35:03] Melvin: No, I told her I didn't believe it. I don't believe anything like that. You've been watching too many movies. 

[00:35:09] Caullen: Nor should you. 

[00:35:10] David: I'm dead ass. They've been programming us already- but that's the conversation. 

[00:35:13] Caullen: I just- ohhh, and now my brain's exploding, so.. I thought table setting was necessary. Thank you, David, for talking about that. And I think, for folks listening, this is a good bill, okay. It is research-backed. It is evidence proven. It centers and talks to and has folks who are victims of harm have shaped this. I think that's a miscon- something that folks have misconstrued about-

[00:35:37] David: It's not the Democrats.

[00:35:38] Caullen: -about abolition in general, but also about folks who are on the right side of history wanting to have healing systems, which then like, "oh, you're not looking out for the victim, the victim's family, the victim, victim, the victim." And it's like, the folks I've learned the most as far as police and prison abolition are victims of various harms. And so, and I think when folks have that knee jerk reaction, and when I say "folks", I mean folks who are not left or right but just everyday folks who aren't in this work, just kind of feed -even smart people I know who just kind of take in the information they're given. Kinda like, "oh, I guess that's fact".

[00:36:07] David: But even if they're dumb people, Caullen. 

[00:36:09] Caullen: It's- and dumb people too. It's- like the woman you talked to, "oh, you murder someone, nothing happens." For 1) not true. For 2)- 

[00:36:17] David: if you're a cop, maybe. 

[00:36:20] Caullen: You- it's amazing how it reveals how folks don't understand how the system works now. The clearance rate for CPD is what, in the teens. They get $2 billion a year. NYPD gets $10 billion a year. The military gets three quarters of a trillion dollars a year. There's only more money, more surveillance, more energy, more capacity given to these systems. And not that I want, even if they worked well to exist, but they don't work well. They're ineffective. You mentioned how you had to rehabilitate yourself while you were inside, and you come out a better person and all that. And it's like, you did that. There wasn't systems and stuff in place while you were inside- not that that would make it better to do that. So I just want people to understand that policing and the systems it comes from are in ineffective. It regurgitates and reifies violence, segregation while you're inside- which I can understand, I'd be upset if I was in that, probably act up and then compounds, and compounds, compounds, and it reifies violence. It is ineffective. This idea that we can just go out and do whatever we want isn't true; but also, folks who are struggling, and different circumstances lead folks to do certain things now that aren't being held to an account that people think they are. So this myth that policing works is just fascinating to me, cause just look at the numbers rise and see how this happens. 

[00:37:42] David: But to your point, if they don't even know how the system itself works- and, so once again, Caullen mentioned that we're learning constantly, right? Some of the things that I was looking when I was doing a little bit of research on this, I didn't realize the amount of folks that are actually incarcerated just because they can't pay bail, it doesn't matter if they're guilty or not. There's literally- and from the research done, we are seeing that if you spend at least 72 hours incarcerated because you can't pay bail, you're 2.5x more likely to be unemployed by next year. 

And this is just- that stat is just- I'm hearing you, Melvin, you're talking about like, "Hey, I'm coming in and I'm working"; and we, here in America, the work ethic is a thing, cause it's capitalism. But it's like, even something that you're trying to get somebody to do, you want workers, because you put them in this cage for 72 hours for 3 days, because they can't pay bond, that automatically will affect. And that's- you don't know if that person has kids, you don't know if that person has someone depending on them, etc, etc, etc. So, to your point Caullen, I think it's oftentimes a misunderstanding, or a lack of understanding of how these procedures and systems work; and then not only how they work, but how they affect. Because I use the term "work" in the way in which that's how the wheels turn; it's continued to be oiled that way for a reason. There's a reason why they let you 19 years there without nobody saying shit. If the system had worked, someone would've flagged, "yo, you can't be compounding his years, that's not how this works." If it was following its own rules. And it wasn't. And so to your point, Caullen, I think I definitely agree with you, but I think there's more to it in which the system has been working phenomenally for them. 

I think one thing that I do wanna bring in is the fact that there's fake newspapers going around. So I didn't know this was happening, I don't really look at newspapers. But apparently people have been getting a paper in the mail that, once you look into it a little bit more, you realize that it's 1) not an actual entity, or it's probably like a group of people putting it together, and mailing it to people's cribs with tons and tons of misinformation. And to Caullen's point, lies on what it is you're doing, so that folks, like the person you were talking to- I was talking to one of my guys like, "yeah, well, you didn't hear, cops won't be able to arrest someone if they're trespassing in your crib". That's a whole-

[00:40:16] Caullen: oh my gosh.

[00:40:17] David: And so I was like, 1) to start with, the person who I was talking to in this example, I'm like, "you're armed at your crib. You've been talking about like, 'if someone comes into my crib, if someone...' now you're worried that cops can't get them, then why you strapped?!"- that's a whole other conversation, but you feel what I'm saying? And then we get to the other point of, that's actually not true, that's not what this is doing. However, the other side- and by the other side, I mean, those who opposed this are so, to me, worried. When something is in term of extinction, it does everything it can to try to survive, even if it's outside of logic, because it wants to survive. Thus, these fake ass newspapers. We all know it's fake and it's things like- 

[00:41:01] Caullen: We don't all know that it's fake. 

[00:41:03] David: Oooh, thank you for catching me. But well, we'll know it's fake, and we can laugh at it. But to other folks, they see this piece of paper, maybe. And I'm thinking of my dad; sorry, dad, I'm putting you in this example. But my dad's the type of human- he'll grab the mail, he'll look through something, he'll be like, "You see that?" and then flip a page, like, "oh, you see this, you see this?!" and then throw it. But what just happened in that one moment, he got three instances of misinformation into his brain about what he now assumes is like, "the purge" in your example. And I'm like, that can just be so harmful, right? A lot of us, for example, like Soapbox, we don't do papers. So we're not- all of our information isn't reaching that type of demographic versus they are. So that's where I'm trying to start leaning towards, is like, looking at the way the systems have been working, and they've been working for themselves, and they've been working properly. And so, what we are looking to do, is with our own personal lives and our work ethic, etc, is to combat these narratives. And how we continuously have to do so, because these systems, as Caullen has mentioned multiple times, are more funded; they got more bread to be pumping shit out. 

[00:42:11] Caullen: I'll put Mariame in- no, we're unresourced, and they're all resourced. 

[00:42:16] Mariame: "No, no, not under-resourced. Unresourced. It is unresourced."

[00:42:20] David: And at the end of the day, they don't understand how it truly affects folks like yourself. And so that's why I think- that's why I love doing this shit, I'm not gonna lie to you. I have hella fun. So thinking about ways things have been misconstrued, we got the paper, we see a lot of social media content being disseminated throughout. I know I've been seeing a lot of folks on Facebook- and at the same time, one of the worries that I had a couple weeks ago was like, I wasn't seeing enough information, either addressing it and/or combating it. And granted it's capacity, and groups are fighting a hundred different fights. And this week, actually, it's funny cause we talked about it earlier in the week, I started seeing more content: Chicago Community Bond Fund put a couple things out, Pre-Trial was also sending information. But that's capacity, and time, and effort that on the other side, it's a little more limited. But yeah. 

[00:43:24] Caullen: I think when it comes to what we see it's like, social media algorithms and all that stuff plays into it; and I think what surprised me about the newspaper is that there's always misinformation, or things about bills, or people, that are kinda like, really fufu- kinda really out there. I feel like every cycle, what have you- but the newspaper thing was new to me. Chicago City Wire is one of them, one of the two, I believe, but also, they always do this. I'm thinking about- this is not quite the same, cause this is a bill passed by the state House versus the Panthers, but the CIA put out coloring books and newspapers about the Panthers that was fake. It was like, "kill whitey" and "kill the cops", and these were fake. And so they get people like, "Hey, see white people in your homes and suburbs, the Panthers want to kill you. They put out this newspaper. That's not right." These weren't real, but they did it as a sort of propaganda. And so we're seeing that again, we're seeing a regurgitation of it. And in this instance it's interesting, at least to me and maybe someone who knows more about this, but this bill was signed over- almost, ehh, a year and a half ago, essentially, and so this is going to happen. There's an election in a couple weeks, and so I think maybe certain folks will get in the house that they will try to repeal it, which I guess is a viable thing- 

[00:44:42] David: or the Republican governor is his- 

[00:44:44] Caullen: or the governor can- yeah, yeah. So there's, I guess- 

[00:44:46] David: let us rephrase: the Republican nominee for governor. 

[00:44:50] Caullen: There's ways in which the election can lean into this, but it's been signed. It's happening January 1st for sure. And so to your point about being desperate and trying everything, it's scary, but also interesting just seeing what they're doing. And I think one of the reasons we were tapped by IPP for this broader project was that the Prison Review Board was something that conservatives in Illinois were coming after, as far as dismantling that in a way so people couldn't get out early in prison. Cause that was one thing they felt they could do in the meantime. So it's been an interesting year, and I've only seen this heightened recently, but I watch an unhealthy amount of corporate news, both on a big level, and a local level. And so I've seen these conversations with down state Republicans being like "they're just letting them out. And they're putting the cuffs on the cops, the cops can't do anything" and "nuhnuhnuh..." And I'm like, what are you talking about? And these are people, elected officials, and there's just a power- many of them are probably smart people, educated people- both those things- 

[00:45:57] David: air quotes there. 

[00:45:58] Caullen: Which hopefully we know. No, I mean, no, I mean those who are really educated people. And I think people put value in people " oh they're educated so they're gonna do the right thing."

[00:46:06] David: Institutionally educated, yes. 

[00:46:07] Caullen: Untrue. So whatever, but no, no quotes- educated. And I think some people are smart, it doesn't mean they're gonna do the right thing. I think Dick Cheney's smart, he's a horrible person, you know what I mean? I think we have these ideas of thinking people who are smart, or intellectual, and educated- you can do all that and be on the right side of history and be for liberation and healing and all that; but you can also do it to jail folks and criminalize folks, and use your systems to get power over to subjugate people. 

So I'll kind of stop there, but I wanna just mention that as far as how all this is happening this year. It's like anything we talk about, it's part of this long history of this always happening, our resistance against it, being prevalent and also looking different. I don't think we would've banked on elected officials making policies like this decades ago. However, we still can't rely on just that happening, because like you said abolishing cash bail kind of rests on this constitutional framework of "innocent until proven guilty", but also, in the constitution slavery is legal if you're locked up. So this idea of, we should look at the constitution as this is beaming light of liberation, and the constitutionalists- no, this is better because of this, but also the constitution is also bullshit. So we have unpack these things, and especially things that are made generations ago by slave owners. So ask bigger questions, back up to all this stuff, and talk about personal journeys like Melvin's. This mezzo level and this macro level, how all these things are connected, how we have to push into all these different prongs in order to get somewhere. 

[00:47:43] David: Yeah. Yeah. And I think it's interesting, so we're talking about all this misinformation being put out- 

[00:47:49] Caullen: Analyze! I do think we should make a distinction here: "misinformation", as far as using certain things that kinda are true and positioning them certain ways. "Disinformation", which is like, I think that to a little further and like, ah, but saying things that are not quite true. Then there's straight out lies- like misinformation and also they're lying to you. 

[00:48:10] David: ####. Because also, granted, for folks listening, the goal of this is to create a committee that will start looking at reforming the ways in which people review early releases, etc,etc.

[00:48:23] Caullen: Oh, the prisoner review board?

[00:48:25] David: Yeah, so it's like, that's the whole thing. And also, so it's actually the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority- all of this information will be available in the episode notes- but to also understand why I feel we're getting the effort of motherfuckers making fake newspapers, it's literally because there are also all these other things that are going into the SAFE-T Act, such as sweeping reform for police, pretrial, and corrections- which refers to jails and prisons. For the police, some of the things are now requiring police officers to provide aid after using force. Which is wild that that's just being a thing that's being put in there. Other things: requires officers now to intervene if other officers use unauthorized or excessive force. (stammering) . Allow me to continue going down: it will also now require the publishing of any purchased, requested, or receipts of equipment through military purchasing programs. It'll also now mandate the use of force reported directly to the FBI. So it's these things that as you continue to go down- and we'll continue to poke at some of these- this continuously not only just strips at folks dealing with bail or not, the focus and the attention is "yo, these people, they do a crime they're not going to jail." That's where all the attention is, when really the SAFE-T Act is doing all of these other things, which is limiting the way in which police officers take advantage of their power and abuse of the people who they survey. And so in these examples of what it's reforming in regards to the areas of force it also goes into areas of complaint and misconduct.

So there's a statewide decertification process that is still being flushed into stricter rules on body cam and regulations, and makes it a felony to clear and obstruct now. Just now though, in 2023, makes it a felony. And so there's, to me, what I'm trying to highlight is, there are all these other points that the SAFE-T Act is doing good on- that's why we got you all body cams, why the fuck y'all turning them off? 

(talking over each other)

[00:50:41] David: But the goal is, why would someone who is "for" and "pro" these systems not want these things to be in effect? And it's because it reduces and limits the amount of power that they've been able to have and get away with. They beat the shit out of Rodney King, they left him in the street, they didn't provide aid to his ass. I don't know, it's just like the fact that now these are the things that are being implemented. Well, I mean, the things that these- yeah, Rodney, what'd I say?? 

[00:51:11] Caullen: Yeah, you said Rodney King, I was just surprised you used that example. 

[00:51:13] David: Well, cause I just think- in 2023 that's what's going into effect- that police have to provide care after they beat the shit out of you. I don't know, I know you were bewildered at the other point, I'm just lost and only more fuel that being able to talk to people like, Melvin, the person you talked to when they're like, "yo, you'll get away with murder." - Let me talk to you for a sec. How much time you got, bro? You got five minutes? Let me talk to you real quick. These are actually all the other things that it's doing, it's not doing this. And I think us being able to have those conversations are incredibly important, but for all of our listeners, please go check it out; Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, it'll be on the episode notes. Then it goes into also the way in which it's- it's changing things in the correctional institutions, such as requiring reporting deaths in custody. They didn't have to, they didn't have to. And ugh. Now I'm just getting into my own head. There are a lot of things going on, educate yourself and educate your communities. That's all I gotta say there. Oh my goodness. 

But to bring us back a little bit, one of the goals that we're looking to do is, you just mentioned, you just got out, this bill is just going into effect. And so this is something, it makes perfect sense that you're not informed on this when it's not affecting. You're, as we talked about, you're in the process right now of resetting yourself, finding a place, working your gigs, and so- it's not an experience or a journey that you necessarily have to worry. What we're hoping that our listeners take from this is that they see the parallels and the connections between the experiences you had; such as the one you're naming of the 19 years in seg that should not have happened, that could have been and should have been addressed at a sooner rate. And so then we're looking at something like the SAFE-T Act that the goal is that it goes into these correctional facilities, it goes into these state institutions that it makes things better. So that, like yourself, people could potentially get out earlier, people don't- you get caught up in something, you don't have to worry that you don't got 50K to pay bail, you can still go to work, still figure that out, and then still get your shit situated. 

Because the other thing is also looking at the amount of factual information, to Caullen's point, just because people can or cannot pay bail actually has no correlation with people showing up or not showing up to their court dates. So one of the worries is like, "well, if you let them out, how do you know if they're gonna come back?". There's actually no connection between people having bail or no bail and them showing up or not showing up to their court dates. So, to me, it's like, what is this other side leaning on as anchors of like, "this is why this is right, and this is why we're fighting it." And to us, being able to hear, Melvin, some of your stories, which is why you were invited. You were the first one who was asked to be part of this podcast. 

[00:54:08] Melvin: really? 

[00:54:09] David: Yeah. It’s just, timing and stuff, we were figuring out. So to us, I think that's important. Because to us, as storytellers, everyone has that story to tell. And so regardless of the information you're at, your experience is the defining factor, which probably folks took into consideration when putting together something like the SAFE-T Act. But I'm hearing you, no worries. 

[00:54:33] Caullen: I'm just, I'm mad. I know we wanna wrap up, too, and everything. I just I think about the SAFE-T Act- I think about pretrial fairness and abolishing bail and everything, and it's just funny when you look- you hear all these things about this act and particularly Pritzker like, "they're socialists left, blahblahblah...." and I'm like, nah, this is actually crumbs. The fact that people shouldn't have to be locked up before even being found guilty actually is super basic; these are crumbs, this bill. But also, at the same time, this was also super progressive. The first state in the country that doesn't have bail. That's amazing! But also I'm like, damn; we should celebrate this win, but it's like, "fuck y'all, this just says you shouldn't be locked up before even being found guilty."

That and other things too, that you've mentioned, but it's like, these are actually not even that big a thing. Shoutout to the work, it's not to discount the work, for years. And I feel like people should feel the same way as far as, "man, we fought so hard for this, and we should be happy about it," but it's like, damn, this is not even a thang.

And with storytelling, I wanna just end on this: at least for me, as far as storytelling and, Melvin, your story and what we're doing with Soapbox and what have you, I think stories and people's journeys are super important, and they get us at an emotional level and that's important. But when we pair that with data and stats, with the wealth of information we know about how these things work; that's what's important, because unfortunately your story is not the only one like that. Whereas when we look at certain ads, it shows someone being harmed and it's caught on camera, and this person got away- it's tragic in the incident, and no one is for that harm being done. 

We look at Willie Horton in the 90's, Republicans used Willie Horton as far as, "this guy got out for this visit, and then he committed a harm. And so that's what's gonna happen to anyone that gets out." And that's when they use this one thing, and say this is how it's gonna happen. That incident is tragic. That's not what the data shows. That's not actually the reality. But they use it in such a skillful way to convince people otherwise. But we have not only the stories like yours and stories- so many other stories- and also we have facts, and also information, and also we have data. And to deny that is- I heard someone say recently, like, you're denying climate change, cause we have so much information that says that if you invest in people's lives, and communities, and jobs, and health, and all these other things, people wouldn't even get caught up in certain situations in the first place. But we're not. And so we have to look at it holistically in that way. 

[00:56:50] David: Yeah. And so on that note, as we start closing this- there's a lot of information out there- once again, everyone go educate yourself. But as we've said multiple times, as we've quoted multiple times, hope is a discipline. And so one of the questions I wanted to pose to y'all was- through this information, or through all that information, to the example that you spoke to Melvin, how do each of y'all stay grounded? Like when there's so much shit- like in this episode, Caullen and I clearly were getting riled up- 


[00:57:20] Caullen: how you not more mad?

[00:57:23] David: But like, how do you know? And so I'm curious to hear from each of y'all, what are- in understanding that hope is a discipline, again, how do we- how do y'all stay grounded through all the misinformation?

[00:57:39] Caullen: I don't. That's the easy answer.. 

[00:57:43] David: Melvin, what about you? 

[00:57:45] Melvin: Well, everything I read in prison, I read a lot of things about the new world order, The Unseen Hand, and all these books and stuff telling about how the future of cashless society and all this stuff was going to take place. The robots and the machines were gonna take over what the humans had built, and they were gonna be building everything. And so I stay grounded just focusing on what I studied in there, and not to listen to a lot of, like you said, misinformation. And things that the government is putting out here for us to grasp upon to accomplish what they're trying to do to us. That keeps me focused and grounded, knowing what's real and what's unreal. What I see around me is real. I know what reality is. I know what I see. 

So I think that as far as us still being incarcerated, and us Black people, us Latino people, in the masses that we are being incarcerated, I think that there's some type of plan to depopulate us. And I know that's some of their plan; to depopulate us. And that's in the raw, that's what I see. That's what keeps me grounded. That's what keeps me from being depopulated myself; focusing on what I survived in prison and stuff. Cause I think that was an act of depopulation that I survived. So I think that we should be aware of these things before we get caught up in this trap that sends us to prison. These laws and everything that's out here, I think they are traps for us to get caught up in, and go to prison in the first place. So I think we can escape that trap, we'll be better off in the end. 

[00:59:46] David: Or remove that trap. 

[00:59:48] Melvin: Yeah. Or remove it the best we can. I think knowledge takes knowledge. So I just advise people- all the books I read in prison, and to start studying and reading, and making themselves aware of what's going on around them. Cause everybody's with the thumbs on these phones, and texting all the time, and not paying attention to what's going on around them. That's all they focus on is the wrong thing. I mean the phone, to me, from what I've learned since I've been out- the phone is a blessing and a curse. The cell phone. 

[01:00:24] Caullen: Mm-hmh. You heard it here first! 

[01:00:26] David: Amen. 

[01:00:27] Melvin: There was no such thing, when I got incarcerated, cell phones and stuff like that. I mean, technology's a good thing, a beautiful thing, but at the same time you're saying it could be an ugly thing if you use it the wrong way. 

[01:00:38] Caullen: You hear that, Zuckerberg? 

[01:00:42] Melvin: Same as law. All these new- we could take the law in the books and stuff, and make the people that are- hold the people responsible that's supposed to be enforcing the law. Or we could just let it remain the way it is, and let them stay center stage.

[01:01:02] David: Yep. Yep. Yep. So Caullen's no, thank you, Melvin, for that answer. For mine, it was gonna be: I do my best to understand, and I think of myself in my earlier days. That everyone will come into this when it's meant for them, type shit. Not that it has to be some spiritual shit, but it's like- and be mindful that when folks come into it, whether that's the understanding of police and prison abolition, whether that's the carceral system, whether that's this piece of media, wherever folks come into it is like, I wanna provide grace and understanding that this may be the first understanding. This may be the first lesson. This may be the first thing they've been able to sink their teeth into. And so the goal is that, be mindful that folks may still be just coming in and allowing that grace for them to be dumb, I guess. And then coming in with the facts, coming in in a way that allows my experience to help them understand; between to your point, what is reality and what is not? Cause unfortunately not everybody got time to be reading all them books, Melvin. 

[01:02:12] Melvin: I mean, they got books that you don't have to... 

[01:02:15] Caullen: Did you just come at him for being incarcerated and reading books? I think that's what you just did. 

[01:02:18] David: No, that's not what I said. I was just saying, 

[01:02:19] Caullen: That's kinda what you said... 

[01:02:21] Melvin: They have things that you could, you don't have to, like, I had to turn actual pages in prison, cause I had time. 

[01:02:28] Caullen: Get out your ebook, David. Bougie ass. 

[01:02:30] David: It's not what I said, Melvin, fuck this guy. 

[01:02:32] Melvin: Like I said: technology, it's a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing right now that you can just get any, on YouTube, anything you want.

[01:02:38] David: Melvin, actually, any shoutouts for any of the homies out there or what? Any shoutouts you wanna give? 

[01:02:42] Melvin: I'm gonna say shoutouts to first and foremost to the Illinois Prison Project. Jan, and Jennifer, Anthony, for making it possible for me to be here today. And all the things that they have done for me since I've been out. Not just gotten me outta prison, but has been with me every step of the way: helping me get a job, helping me get my apartment right, now they're helping me trying to establish that. So to them first and foremost. To the people at IMAN: the Inner-City Muslim Action Network for giving me a place to lay my head, and get involved in their programs. To my job: my boss, John at Beatrix restaurant. Lettuce Entertain You for giving convicts a shot to work at a beautiful establishment, like Lettuce Entertain You, having the backgrounds that we have. 

[01:03:44] Caullen: Discounts for Bourbon 'n BrownTown.. 

[01:03:48] Melvin: You know about the discounts? Giving me my discount card, my value card, 20% off. 

[01:03:54] David: So we're also hearing: housewarming party at Melvin's. Stay tuned with the episode release. But no, Melvin, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it, glad we were able to make this happen. I know your story is incredibly important. We're really glad that you shared it with us, bro. I'm glad, and I hope you felt at home cause we really appreciated you here. So thank you, for reals. And on that note, from Bourbon 'n Browntown, stay Black, stay brown, stay queer, 

[01:04:17] Caullen: stay tuned, stay turnt. 

[01:04:18] David: And we'll see you for the next one.


Melvin: What does "We Are More" mean to you?

[01:04:32] Melvin: I would say "We Are More" than prisoners. We are more than what we say out here in the streets. I was a gang banger- I could speak for myself, I was a gang banger, to the heart, and I learned through my experience that we are more than that, you know? So we are more than what the system tells us that we are.