Proximity to the Problem

Guest: Filmmaker and sociologist Dr. Gilda Sheppard on the need for systemic re-evaluation to address the culture of punishment that confines children who are sentenced without parole.

Deep systemic issues leading to a culture of punishment in our criminal justice system often seal the fates of children who end up incarcerated. The case of Kimonti Carter, a model prisoner who grew up as a “baby gangster” in the redlined, 1990s neighborhoods of Tacoma, Washington, is a prototype for many others like him. Sentenced two months after his eighteenth birthday to a life without parole, Mr. Carter has transformed inmates’ lives through education and his leadership of the Black Prisoners’ Caucus. Though he is a counternarrative to his fate, he was viewed as irredeemable and charged as a “super predator.”

Dr. Gilda Sheppard, an award-winning filmmaker whose documentary “Since I Been Down” highlights the redemption story of Kimonti Carter and our need for deep systemic change, recently screened the film for UW Law’s Public Interest Law Association. Gilda is a member of the faculty at The Evergreen State College’s Tacoma Program. She has taught sociology classes in Washington state prisons for over a decade.

In this episode, Dr. Sheppard tells us how “Since I Been Down” creates much-needed discussion around systemic change for children and a call to revisit state sentencing laws. Dr. Sheppard also appeals to the hope and healing which comes with prison-initiated programs.

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