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Transcript from January 2, 2001
Brenda Mills-Daniels & Joe Richman: Prison Diaries
npr_host: Welcome to tonight's NPR
Online chat. We had planned to chat
online live with John Mills, the subject of part one of the Radio Diaries
series, Prison Diaries. Unfortunately, the North Caroline Department
of Corrections decided against allowing Mr. Mills to participate in an online
chat. However, they will allow John Mills to answer questions you may post this evening.
We will speak with Mr. Mills on your behalf, and post the answers in a transcript available at www.npr.org/programs/atc/prisondiaries. Tonight, our guests will
be John Mills' mother, Brenda Mills-Daniels. Our second guest will
be Joe Richman, producer of the series
Prison Diaries. Joe Richaman and associate
producer Wendy Dorr run Radio Diaries, a not-for-profit production
company. It's based in New York
city, and it's dedicated to helping people document their own lives. you can find out more
about Radio Diaries at www.radiodiaries.org. Please send in your questions
for Brenda Mills-Daniels, or her son, John Mills now find out more about Prison
Diaries, the online project www.360degrees.org,
and what's coming up on the series at www.npr.org/programs/atc/prisondiaries. Let's welcome Brenda Mills-Daniels
Please welcome Brenda
... send in your questions now to talk with her about
her son, John Mills who is the subject of
part one of NPR's Prison Diaries, airing every Tuesday in January on All Things
Welcome, Brenda ..
npr_brenda_daniels: Thank you.
npr_host: Brenda, what was John
like as a child?
npr_brenda_daniels: He was a bushy-head,
bright-eyed, beautiful baby. He was a sweet boy. He was very
active. When he was 10, he was sort of mischievious, like your typical
10 year old. But he was sweet and loveable. When he turned
14, he would do
little things at school and I would have to go to the school. He wouldn't
pay attention, wouldn't listen,
things like that. He was in the
11th grade when he quit school. He lived at
home and then left and then went and stayed with my eldest son.
roller_skate_skinny asks: mrs.
mills - how difficult is it for you knowing your son is in prison?
npr_brenda_daniels: It worries
knowing what things go on inside a prison. There is a certain
security there. At least I
know he's out on the streets, getting into more trouble.
slimbooter asks: When did you
first find out your son was robbing people?
npr_brenda_daniels: Not until he
was about 16 or 17. My daughter
told me. At first I
couldn't believe it because at
the same time he was telling me that he didn't do these things.
npr_host: send in your questions
npr_brenda_daniels: And like most
mothers, they believe their children.
npr_host: for Brenda Mills Daniels
roller_skate_skinny asks: how
long is he serving in prison?
npr_brenda_daniels: 8 - 10 years.
npr_host: How has he changed since
being in prison?
npr_brenda_daniels: He has positive
thinking. He has gotten his GED since he's been in prison. Next week, he'll start
trade school in automotive training. He says he
wants to prove to me that he has changed and when he gets out, he will
have something he
can turn to. He says he knows he can do better than what he was doing on the
streets. He says he has no time for that now. No. I think the
biggest impact was when he turned into an adult -- now he's in an adult
prison and what it's like. He didn't see
that in the youth camp, but he's seeing it now.
npr_host: how often do you visit?
how do you feel when you see him?
npr_brenda_daniels: I visit him
every other Sunday. When I go to
visit him, I wish he could go home with me. But I know that's not possible. I tell him
that I love him, and will always love him.
npr_host: Do you feel he recieved a fair sentence?
npr_brenda_daniels: No. Because some
murder cases don't get as much time as John did. In a few months, they're out.
npr_host: send in your questions
now. we're chatting live with Brenda Daniels, mother of John Mills, the
subject of part one of Prison Diaries.
Listen to All Things Considered.
What words of encouragement
do you give him?
npr_brenda_daniels: Trust in God,
be strong, and remember that I love him. And I tell
him I'll support him as long as he's doing the right thing.
npr_host: What about your other
children? How are they?
npr_brenda_daniels: They're fine.
My oldest daughter will graduate from college this year. She's majoring
in Early Childhood Development. She works and
is taking care of her children. My oldest son,
he sings in a group which ranked number 6 in a Gospel quartet. And he's
going to school to be
a barber. My other daughter
is married and stays home with her husband and kids and is doing well. My youngest
daughter graduated last year from Cosmotology school and does well.
npr_host: what is their reaction
to John's situation?
npr_brenda_daniels: At first they
were angry They were also
hurt. But they don't
discuss it that much anymore.
npr_host: has it made them more
vigilant about their ownl ives?
npr_brenda_daniels: I can't say.
npr_host: how has John's imprisonment
changed you? as a person, and as a mother?
npr_brenda_daniels: As a mother,
it hasn't. I'm still his mother and I'm going to be there for him and whatever help I can
give him while he's in there, I'll do my best.
npr_host: we had to re-boot for
a second but now we're back with Brenda Daniels please standby ...we're
experiencing technical difficulties. Brenda, you were talking
about how John's incarceration changed you as a person...
npr_brenda_daniels: He had ambitions
to go on and continue his education... so I've gone
back to school, too.
npr_host: Unfortunately we've run
out of time for Brenda Daniels. Thanks very much Brenda
for joining us
npr_brenda_daniels: You're welcome.
npr_host: Let's standby for a second
... and welcome our second guest Joe Richman, producer
of Radio Diaries series, Prison Diaries. Send in your questions
to Joe ... Let's welcome Joe Richman, Hi Joe ...thanks for
npr_joe_richman: Hi. Thank you.
zooey_franny asks: who's idea
was it do this piece?
npr_joe_richman: It was my idea. We've been doing
the diary series seen Teenage Diaries started. It was the same
idea. Giving tape recorders to people so they could document their own lives.
purplehaze_48430 asks: ok Joe,
how are inmates in prison really treated?
npr_joe_richman: It depends on
the different prisons and the inmates. We were working
in two facilities. In North Carolina
it was part of the adult prison system. In Rhode Island,
it was a juvenile facility and the two were night and day. In Rhode Island,
it's sort of somewhere between a prison and a tough school and the classes or counseling
programs or going to the gym.
npr_host: send in your questions
to Joe Richman, producer of the Radio Diaries series, Prison Diaries,
Airing on Tuesdays in January,
on NPR's All Things Considered
npr_joe_richman: the inmates just
have a lot less to do and they end of sitting around for most of the day.
angelgal57 asks: PEOPLE here
all ask why JOHN MILLS is not allowed to speak online..........
npr_joe_richman: Basically, it
was something between ... the prison
system thought it was inappropriate to have an inmate
communicating directly with people on
the outside. I think what really
happened was people did know what an Internet chat was and they
were worried what signal it might send to the public. Some things about
those shows may be realistic, but I think the overall impression
is not. In general, the feeling you get most in
prison isn't danger What we were trying
to do in this series is not to show all the loud and scary things
about prison, but some of the quiet sounds of prison and the intimate moments.
swt_male24 asks: what are some
of the abuses that occur in a prison ??
npr_joe_richman: There are a lot
of abuses that I as an occasional visitor will probably
never know about. I think the most common abuse though is that the prison
system tends to be so dehumanizing
maxzmomz asks: do you think that
the prisons in the south are worse than the prisons in the north
npr_joe_richman: and I think this
can be true for both inmates and correctional officers.
coolbabesangel1 asks: how bad
are inmates treated in prison....i mean even if you know that you are a
changed person, do they still treat you bad???
npr_joe_richman: It's just very
hard them to see eachother as people.
lilguy414 asks: Do you think
that John's statements regarding the fact that he doesn't feel that he
has chnaged nor had he been rehabilitated will affect his chance for parole??
npr_joe_richman: I think one of
the things about prison
nicole_b02871 asks: how can we
hear the tapes
npr_joe_richman: is that the crime
you did to get in there
lilguy414 asks: joe, i enjoyed
the first installment of the diary series. how did you pick the people
npr_joe_richman: matters very little.
What matters most is how you act
mikehonda98 asks: do any of the
prison dramas like OZ depict how life is in prison realistcally
swt_male24 asks: what is the
difference between an adult prison and juvenile...as far as inmate abuses?
npr_joe_richman: inside. So, if
you act up and get in fights, you go to the
candlelady4186 asks: what is
the suicide rate in federal prisons
npr_joe_richman: privileges. Some of the privileges
can be a better job, a cell to yourself
whether than living in one of the
dorm units. A slight more respect from one of the
officers. Our first trip
to both of the prisons we interviewed
25 - 40 different inmates we tried to get
a sense of their story, of their personality, and
their willingness to talk bluntly and honestly about their everyday
acid_burnz_uk asks: have you
found it interesting...or learnt anything that you hadn't been expecting?
npr_joe_richman: Most of the things
I've learned have been little things that the inmates aren't
allowed to watch Jerry Springer, that's the one show they can't
watch. It's a little bizarre. I would say the
thing that surprised me most were the officers and
the people who work in prisons. I think as many
stereotypes we have of inmates, there are even more for correctional
officers. To hear the warden
look around and talk about how all these young, black men
in prison and how sad that was for
npr_host: we're chatting with Joe
Richman, producer of Prison Diaries, airing every Tuesday on NPR's All
npr_joe_richman: him personally
and these men should be out in the community for his daughter
to date and to be talking to the officer
npr_host: It's a series taped by
prisoners and corrections offricials about what it's like in prison
npr_joe_richman: who seems to be
the meanest of all and watch him take a few moments
to give some advice to one of the inmates. The thing
I learned was you can't typecast anyone.
They all have their moments of surprise and
they're all more complicated than you think.
ledfoot999 asks: do you think
anyone will be dissuaded from a life of crime?
npr_joe_richman: That would of
course be a good thing. But I'd say the
biggest thing we can hope for is that the series
helps us all have a little bit better understanding
of what everyday life in prison is like from the
point of view of both the inmates and the officers.
I_Scream_for asks: why did you
choose those places out of all the places?
npr_joe_richman: The simple answer
is, those were the two places that let us in. We had many prisons
across the country that would let us do extensive interviews,
but most were not willing to let inmates carry around tape
recorders inside prisons for security reasons and for
reasons that information inside prisons is a powerful thing. It might
look like a prison spying on other inmates or guards. Prisons understandably
cautious when it comes to dealing with the inmates. The series was
mostly funded through a media fellowship with the Open
Society Institute on Crime, Communities and Culture. We're a non-profit
production company so all our projects are funded through
ledfoot999 asks: Joe what do
you think you will gain by these prison diaries
npr_joe_richman: It's already been
an enlightening and humbling experience for me. Just getting
to know a few inmates and officers inside prison,
people I wouldn't otherwise think of as faceless. On some level
getting close to them over the course of the year has been
a privilege and an education. The story next
week is diaries of correctional officers on Tuesday Jan. 9. It's the
story of 7 correctional officers, 4 had tape recorders. The following
week on Jan 16 is the diary from two different perspectives --
a juvenile judge in Rhode Island and one of the juvenile inmates
that he has sentenced. What's interesting
about this story is that Matthew, the juvenile inmate was released
by the judge while he had his tape recorder. During the time
he had his tape recorder, but two weeks later he was arrested
again and had to go once more before the judge. So this story
tells both of their stories from two different sides of the bench. The fourth story
is Cristel. She was sentenced to six years at
the juvenile facility in Rhode Island, but she did so well, and
really rehabilitated herself so much so that the judge released
her three years early. Her story follows her incarceration
as well as her release and going home She's probably
the best diary I've ever worked with.
npr_host: Thanks Joe for participating with us tonight inthe
NPR Online chat about your series, Prison Diaries.
npr_joe_richman: Thank you all
npr_host: You can find out more
about Prison diaries at www.npr.org/programs/atc/prisondiaries or check out the online
documentary at www.360degrees.org for more information
ahout Joe Richman's Radio Diaries, go to www.radiodiaries.org Hear more ahout Prison
Diaries every Tuesday. in January., on NPR's All Things Considered. goodnight and thanks
for chating with us.